Siem Reap is Cambodia’s second city and base camp for touring Angkor. I’m sure this will come as no surprise, but it’s a bit touristy. Central Siem Reap is crawling with tourists of every stripe, from backpackers to Korean package tourists. Of course, I don’t begrudge Siem Reap for this, as Angkor is one of the great sights in the world. Given the hordes visitors, Siem Reap wears it well and manages to remain pretty cool.
For whatever reason, Siem Reap sort of specializes in weird foods that aren’t really all that popular with Cambodians. Many restaurants downtown boast kangaroo, ostrich, crocodile, and snake. On our first night in town, we hit up one of these barbecue places. Reptile tastes better than you would think it does. Other restaurants sell “happy pizza,” which costs the same as regular pizza only it comes with a bunch of weed baked in.
Like most tourists in town, Angkor dominated most of our time, so we really never saw the city by day, nor anywhere that wasn’t a restaurant, bar, market, or our hotel. We did hit up one of the many, many cheap massage parlors once. I opted for a $2 foot massage, which was awesome. My buddies went for a $3 body massage, and of course got offered, um, extras from their haggard 40-something masseuses. They declined.
On our last night in town, we took our driver out to dinner. He had taken us to a couple of massively overpriced lunch joints (that he almost certainly got a kickback from) near the temples, so we wanted him to take us to a real Cambodian joint. He took us to an even more expensive place where he knew everyone, and the entertainment was a group of homely Khmer women singing. He told us one of the singers was his ex-girlfriend, but she only liked money. Perhaps coincidentally, she called him later on when we went to another bar, and thanks to us he just so happened to have money.
The driver was kind of a hoot, even though he was a bit shady. He arranged our bus back to Phnom Penh for us. The bus cost $10, the same amount we paid at the bus station to get to Siem Reap, and he assured us it was a VIP bus. He said the bus wouldn’t have local people on it, and that we definitely don’t want to take a bus with a lot of local people because they smell bad. Of course, the bus he set us up with was just a regular bus, a lower level one than the one we took into town, and we were the only foreigners on it. I’m happy to take a regular bus, it’s usually what I do on this trip, but there’s no way this bus cost more than $7, which meant more cash for the driver to spend on his ex-girlfriend. And for the record, I’ve been on a lot of buses of a lot of classes in Southeast Asia at this point, and a bus full of farang backpackers always smells a lot worse than a bus of locals.
I didn’t take too many pictures of Siem Reap proper, but here’s what I have.
Saved the best pic for last here. At the rest stop between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, they sold fried spiders, cockroaches, and other bugs. We all planned to eat some, but it looked worse in real life than we could have envisioned.