Saturday, 8 January 2011

Cambodiaaaaaarrghhh!! (Or more specifically, Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor Wat)


So, we arrived in Cambodia after a pretty long journey from Phuket - it took us just under a day to get from one hostel to the next.  Our first stop in Cambodia was Siem Reap - we would be there for New Years and also to go and see the Temples of Angkor Wat.

Arriving at the Kingdom of Cambodia
Arriving in Cambodia
Our first day was pretty chilled - we walked around the town and got to know where the markets were and food places, but also more importantly the famous "Pub Street" where the party at New Year would be.  Unfortunately the food was way more expensive on this street than anywhere else (of course) but the beer is pretty much always either 50cents (US) or 75cents!  That's right, 30p for a glass of draught beer!!  

After we'd had a beer (ahem) we went to get some food and noticed this little restaurant was doing 3 courses for $4 - bargain!  I had a really tasty curry called an Amok, which is a Cambodian national dish, and Tone had a normal Cambodian Curry.  But mine was way better, purely for the fact that it came served IN A COCONUT! 

Also, Cambodians are super-friendly, and everywhere you go they want to get you to buy something!  You constantly here the shouts of "laydeee, siirr, you wanna massage laydeee??" Or something like that...they like their massages in SE Asia...

Amok in a Coconut
Amok Curry in a Coconut!
Also great here are the Tuk Tuks - they are basically just small carriages somehow attached to the back of mopeds.  Some of them are pimped out quite nicely, others are more basic (but obviously still do the job..)  The guy who owns the one below has clearly got a thing for Batman.

Batman Tuk Tuk
A Cambodian Tuk Tuk - basically a carriage attached to a moped!
I did see about 9 people (Cambodians) go past in a TukTuk outside the hostel once, I think a couple of them were kids but still, it's a pretty tight squeeze in there.  I think we managed to get in with 4 other people and it was a bit hairy, especially on the bumpy roads!  Also people drive all over the place here, just like in Thailand, so you can get pretty close to the moped/bike/truck in front of you.

Aside from the normal massage places that are in abundance in the centre of Siem Reap, are the "Fish Massage"places that are everywhere - including in bars and markets!  Basically, it's a tank of fish that you put your feet into, and then they "massage"your feet by nibbling away all the dead skin.  It's less massage and more "tickles" - I couldn't actually keep my feet in for more than 10 seconds at first, and you get a 20 minute go!  It's almost like torture!  Still, you get a free beer with it so all in all it was a pleasant, if odd way to spend 20 minutes of our day.

Fish Massage! Siem Reap
Tony and Me getting our Fish Massage
Fish Massage! Siem Reap
Fish nibbling at my feet
Angkor Wat

On the 30th and 31st December we went to see the temples of Angkor Wat.  The first day we hired a Tuk Tuk, with our driver Niel, to take us to the furthest away temples and on the second day we hired a bike to cycle round the closest and most famous temples.  What both of us didn't realise is just how spread out these temples are - they are in area about 10km x 15km - so there are a lot of temples.  I think we barely scrached the surface of what there was to see.  It was cool getting a tuk tuk on the first day, as you can sit back and enjoy the view in (relative) comfort. 

Me and our Tuk Tuk driver Niel
The temples were built from the 9th to the 15th Century.  They didn't actually take that long to build, but different temples were built during this time.  There are the most amazing engravings in stone and although most of the temples are in a bit of a state of disrepair, it kind of adds to the magic and wonder of the place. 

Engravings on the walls of one of the Temples
One thing that was slightly hard to deal with was the fact that all throughout the temples thee are small children begging for money, or trying to sell you fruit or postcards - they all come up to you and practice there english on you as well and are so cute!  It's really hard though because it's impossible to attempt to give money to them all.  Thee are also loads of other people selling their wares in the temples, which is slightly off-putting, but hey, we're in Cambodia! 

There are trees growing out of many of the walls and into the temples, which look really bizarre but amazing too.  

A girl sitting in one of the Temple "windows"
Trees growing out of the ruins
An Elephant statue at Pre Rup
On the second day we decided to cycle to the temples and have a bit more of a chilled look around the temple of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.  It was really nice being able to just cycle around them, although I feared for my life slightly in the Cambodia traffic with no helmet on...

We didn't realise quite how big it was, and it took us about 3 hours to get round most of it, and we were trying to hurry a bit as well because Angkor Thom was even bigger!

There are loads of statues throughout the corridors of Angkor Wat, that are taken care of today by Buddhist monk who live and work in the temples, maintaining it and keeping the grounds clean.  Most of the statues are adorned with flowers, or a bright orange sash and you can make an offering to them by lighting incense. 
Tone on his bike

Man pumping water from a well

Buddha statue in one of the Temples
Some of the carvings and engravings in Angkor Wat are really well kept, and it's unbelievable to think that they've been around since the 12th Century!  Angkor Wat is also unusual as it''s the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation — first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist. It is the world's largest religious building!  

Engravings of Apsaras
Probably the most famous features of Angkor Wat is the huge bas-reliefs found running along the 4 walls of the outer wall of the temple.  They are hugely detailed wall carvings that depict various religious symbols - mostly Hindu.  

Bas Relief on the side of Angkor Wat
We went on to Angkor Thom to see some of the temples there, but decided we'd go back to Angkor Wat for the sunset (us and about a million other people!) .  You're "meant to"see sunrise and sunset at Angkor Wat to see it's true beauty, but we were quite happy with just seeing the sunset, which was really beautiful.

Angkor Wat at sunset
So after our jaunt around the temples we got back and got ready for New Years Eve.  We heard that there was a street party going on in Pub St, but we wern't sure whether there would be many people wrong we were!  We got there at around 10pm and it was rammed!  There was the same music playing in all the bars and on the street, and everyone seemed to be drinking some kind of bucket drink.  The drink of choice I think was a "whiskey bucket" which had in it half a bottle of Mekong whiskey, coke, red bull and lime!  Potent and cheap ($5!).  As you can imagine we didn't do much the next day, other then nurse our sore heads...

The Cooking Course

One thing that I was really keen to do whilst in Cambodia or Thailand was learn to cook some native food.  It was pretty cheap to do it in Siem Reap, only $10, and we got to cook 3 courses and then eat them all!  I learnt how to cook an Amok (one of my favourite dishes here) and fresh Spring Rolls, plus a banana/coconut/tapioca pudding.  Tone cooked a Cambodian curry, freid Spring Rolls and a similar pudding to mine but with pumpkin instead of banana.

Us before the cooking began
We got to make the spice paste from scratch, which took ages!  And learnt that Cambodians put a lot of sugar into their dishes!  Both of ours had about 3 spoons of palm sugar and 2 of white sugar.  They were a bit sweet at the end actually, but I guess that's how they're meant to be.  

Tony chopping his onions
When we finally started cooking, it was about 50 degrees in the room.  There was no aircon as it was an open air sort of place.  One thing which was a slight pity was the fact that there were too many of us for the cooking stations, so you had to share a pan with someone else.  Actually, for some reason or another I didn't actually have to share mine once, but Tone did and was slightly disappointed.  
Cooking the Amok
Eating the Amok
Curry and Spring Roll induced food coma
It was really satisfying eating at the end, although we were so full by the end of it we could hardly move!  Definitely hope we can recreate these back home, and hopefully we can find most of the ingredients in the Vietnamese/Asian supermarkets.  There were only a couple of spices which I thought we'd have a hard time finding.

So, we're in Sihanoukville at the moment - on Cambodia's coast.  We're trying to spend the rest of our time out here on a beach, before going back to the cold on the 24th.  This is our penultimate stop - the last one will be Koh Phangan in Thailand for the Full Moon party and then it's home time!  Crazy!


PS there is a man in front of me who is coughing his guts up every 2 minutes, and when he does he sounds like he's about to puke and it's making me feel a little more than's proper minging.  So sorry if this post seems a little short on words/descriptions...

1 comment:

  1. Hey guys, you again have some awesome photos! Glad to see you are still having fun. The food you made looks delicious.

    Sofia, Manuela says you must be so happy to finally get the real curry! ;)

    Cambodia looks awesome, we'd love to see it for ourselves.

    Have fun and make the last remaining days count!

    Best wishes from South Africa
    JC and Manuela

    p.s We miss your company!