Saturday, August 22, 2015

Cambodia - Part 10

After-hours: Siem Reap


We have a night to burn and there's nothing like checking out the Pub Street in Siem Reap on a pub hopping spree! Hahahaha..
Now, if you are a beer-lover, here's an interesting take: some outlets offer happy hours beers at US50cent a mug (RM2).
As a matter of fact, a can of Angkor or Cambodia beer at the supermarket costs US65cents (RM2.60). It's literally cheaper than a bottle of mineral water.
And if you think the exchange rate is going to eat up your balls, well, there is no point traveling abroad.
Okay, we walked across the street towards the Old Market. There, I bought some Cambodian coffee to be brought home. 
We weren't really there to shop, so, after the coffee was rounded-up we went around the pubs, having a mug of beer and hopped around.
There are a lot of entertainment outlets in Siem Reap that are owned by expatriates. So, it's no surprise to me that the place had sprung up to be real happening place. In the years to come, this place will boom. To top it all up, the area in Pub Street is also pretty clean. 

A can of beer at this joint costs US$1
The streets in Siem Reap is surprisingly clean!
The Angkor night market

The drinks and service in this joint is pretty decent..
Good food: Follow your instincts..

When it comes to filling-up, I am not a fuss-pot.
I don't go for high-end makan, burning a hole in my pocket. As long as the price is decent, good quality makan is a bonus!
The only kind of food we haven't tried in Siem Reap, was the street food.
While walking across the Island Bar, we saw a crowd in front of a wooden shop.
There, the dishes were displayed and a woman is seen there roasting meat.
The thing that caught my eye was bittergourd stuffed with meat and smoked fish.
Michelle wanted to give it a try and I jumped right in..

The awesome selection of dishes

The shop's owner at work

The awesome stuffed bittergourd

Deep-fried pacu
Roasted snakeheads

The crowd, eagerly waiting for their meals
We took our seats and waited for the rice and dishes to arrive.
Behind us was a group of foreign backpackers sharing their meals.
I ordered the bittergourd, pork belly and bamboo shoots in soya sauce, minced meat in gravy and a piece of smoked salted catfish.
The food was excellent and our bill came up to US$4 (RM16). It's unbelievably cheap! Back at home, it'll be double that price.
So, that's what the locals eat and we were glad to get a taste of it..

Even better food! 

The barbecue restaurant
The awesome menu
Grilled frogs

This one made my day...
We found a restaurant called: "Damnak Deas" behind the Angkor Art Market.
The smell of barbecued meat and some exotic dishes made us curious.
So, we found a table and ordered some dishes.
Service was prompt and the food was excellent.
Noted were the grilled beef, squid and frogs. I also ordered a plate of steam cow's innards - called "inside stuffs" on the menu.
The smell was overpowering, but since I loved exotic food, this particular dish was saved by the dipping sauce. Supper came to about US$16 including beers.
After the great food, we walked over to Hard Rock Cafe and sat through three sets of music by the performing band.
Then, it was back to the hotel to catch some slumber before the journey home..

Close-calls and near-misses..

Michelle having her "Asian" breakfast..
Bacon & eggs is the way to a man's heart.. 
Proof of existence.. 

Siem Reap's boat noodles

Another interesting find.. 
I booked my passage to the airport from the hotel's front desk staff.
One of the guys said he had confirmed our ride at US$15.
That's the price that we'll have to pay and well, since we are heading home, it's just a matter of splitting the cost.
With that in mind, we went around the Old Market and Angkor Art Market to search for a T-shirt for John, my friend in California, US.
Took me a while to track it down and we finally nailed it.
Then, we walked back to the hotel and enroute, I found a makan place selling boat noodles.
Since we are not going to have lunch, might as well fill up!
Now, here's the best part: I got back to the hotel, rolled out the bikes, and a lady at the front desk asked for the US$15 payment, which I gladly handed over.
"Sorry Sir, we don't have any transport, please wait while I call another car..," she said.
I can see the shit-storm coming and Michelle just lost her cool.
It was almost 12noon and still no sign of the car. So, we switched to plan B. Get on a tuktuk and shoot straight to the airport.
This costs about US$5 each and we were just happy to load up and leave. Spare the ninkampoops who handled our ride, the stay experience at Karavansara retreat was excellent! 

My bike, the tuktuk rider and the road to the airport..
The lead vehicle with the second tuktuk in the background
Arriving on time at the departure hall

There's a large crowd heading to Malaysia and Thailand
At the boarding area
Chilling out at the lounge 
A nice treat!
Good-bye Siem Reap... 
Aurevoir, Cambodia..

We arrived at the airport in time and checked-in our luggage. With Gold membership as a frequent flier, Michelle can check-in at the Business-class counter.
There was a wait and by the time we were done with the formalities, we headed straight to the immigration counters.
I gave an officer my passport and he gestured the "dollar" sign, asking for a handout. 
So, I gave him my official bullshit story: I blew my money on food and souvenirs. He didn't seem happy, I put on my best poker face and went ahead to get my carry-on luggage scanned.
Then, one of the security staff asked if I am the person whose name was written on a piece of paper.
"Sir, you have large luggage? Come with me..," said one of the men.
"Oh fuck! What is it this time?," I thought out aloud.
My heart was thumping, thinking that someone might have slipped in 10kgs of Heroin onto the bike's airporter. And that's it, rather than flying home, I will be spending time at a Cambodian prison.
Well, it was not that at all. The security guys wanted to see what is inside the airporter. So, I gladly opened it, one of them feeled around and pinched the bike's tire. He wanted to make sure that it was not inflated.
After the drama, we were allowed to return to the departure area again. What a relief!
Since Michelle had access to the airport's business lounge, it was a treat to chill out there.
I helped myself to the beers and some snacks while we wait to board.
It wasn't long until the boarding announcement was made and we were on our way home.
On the whole, the Cambodia trip was very affordable and interesting. We get to cycle around and experience this country's history, people and culture unlike any other tour package.
So, that said, we are making plans to bikepack to Phnom Penh in the future.

SOME TIPS FOR THE FIRST-TIMER IN CAMBODIA

  • The country is one-hour behind Malaysia. Sunrise is at 06:30 and Sunset is around 06:45pm.
  • Cambodia's currency is the Riel, but it's not traded in Malaysia.
  • US Dollars are the preferred currency. But be warned that if you carry big notes and purchase goods, you will be given Cambodian Riels in change.
  • The wall plugs are similar to the US sockets.
  • A typical meal costs around US$3. 
  • Beers costs US65cents a can at grocery stores.
  • When buying souvenirs, bargain to the lowest possible.
  • Cars are left-hand drive in Cambodia.
  • When you cycle, its on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Amok (daging masak lemak) is a highly popular traditional Khmer dish. Must try!
  • The fastest way to get around is by tuktuk, typically a ride costs US$1. You can charter the rider for a whole day at US$20.
  • Most Cambodians understand and speak English. 
  • There are a lot of French restaurants in Siem Reap. But the cooking style is modified to suite the locals. You can also find push-cart stalls selling barguet rolls with fillings.
  • There are good roads around Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, but most rural roads are laterite and earth.
  • Cambodian people are proud and polite.
  • There's good mobile data coverage in big towns and cities in Cambodia.


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