After three posts in Bangkok, we’re already leaving Thailand (don’t worry, we’ll be back soon) for neighboring Cambodia. The reason for this: Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is so spectacular that it is a must when visiting Thailand, this despite the destination not even being in Thailand!
The nearest town to Angkor Wat is Siem Reap, a small Cambodian community that thrives on Angkor Wat tourism. Because of this, the city isn’t very authentic, but it was fun.
You know you’re not in authentic Asia when the main street is named Pub Street…
Like most of Southeast Asia, Siem Reap was much more happening at night.
Pub Street was filled with street-vendors selling cocktails for as little as $1.50. At that price, we had to try them. Verdict: bad, but not as bad as you’d expect for the price.
There was also lots of music in Siem Reap at night. And let me tell you, these guys could sing. The three in this photograph were covering Adele, Whitney Houston, and others, and they nailed them!
Just in case you thought Pub Street was the only happening place in Siem Reap, here are some other parts of the city at night.
For most visitors, Siem Reap is all about Angkor Wat. However, because the city was so touristy, and also because we had time, Inna and I elected to spend a day exploring the countryside, so we could see what authentic Cambodia was like.
As you’d probably expect, Cambodia’s countryside was much poorer than Siem Reap. The buildings were old and shanty, and minus Coca-Cola there were almost no western influence anywhere.
The countryside around Siem Reap consisted mainly of farmland, farmland that floods over every year during monsoon season. This makes it very difficult for the locals to support a successful economy.
Notice that this house is on stilts? This is because of the flooding locals deal with.
I was about to take this shot (of the entrance to a temple located outside the flood plains) when a local kid ran out and posed for me. He was awesome.
Our countryside tour ended at Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. During monsoon season, this lake significantly increases in size (56% increase in length, 640% in surface area, and 8000%(!) in volume), so much so that the river that feeds the lake reverses flow.
Tonle Sap marked the end of our Cambodian countryside excursion, which means there’s not much more to cover here other than Angkor Wat. But before we go, it’s feet cleaning time! The fish in these pools eat the dead skin off people’s feet, a sensation that is pretty weird and very ticklish. Even so, doing this was fun!
One last thing before we go. The food in Siem Reap, and all of Cambodia for that matter, wasn’t nearly as good as in Thailand. Except for the mango. They were so fresh and delicious! And the fish was pretty good too.
Alright, enough beating around the bush. Up next, one of the greatest destinations in the world: Angkor Wat!