Siem Reap, Cambodia

I’ve been wanting to visit Cambodia ever since I was in Thailand in 1987, but could not go on to Cambodia, as it was closed to western travelers at that time. That and the Dead Kennedys song.

Cambodia is by far poorest country we have visited this trip, and in fact the 2nd poorest country I’ve ever been to, even worse than Bangladesh for GDP per capita. That means more trash, more smoke-belching trucks and scooters, more bad roads, and so on. Its also the drier and dustier than other places, at least this time of the year. But the people are super friendly, and the food is great.

Angkor Wat has been on my bucket list for a very long time, and did not disappoint. It was annoyingly crowded, but no where near as bad as Machu Pichu. We learned that the town of Angkor Thom, the center of the Khmer empire in 1200AD, was the largest city in the world at the time, with over 1 million people. Somehow my public school education never got around to teaching about the Khmer. Did yours? We spent our evenings watching YouTube documentaries on the Khmer and Cambodia to fill in the gaps in our history studies.

We recommend a scooter tour as a great way to see the temples, as there are some great scooter trails that keep you away from the tour buses. Our tour route was great, but the guide could have been better.

We did a great cooking class, and a fun street food tour that included really delicious stuffed grilled frog (see photo below) and yummy fried bugs. In the photos you’ll also find shots from a silk factory, a crocodile farm, a water blessing, and more.

One of the highlights of our time in Siem Reap was 2 nights in a homestay a few miles outside of town. The family was super nice, and the food fantastic. A friend who is a chef in a 5-star hotel in town came by to cook one night! Our favorite dish was topped with raw duck blood. Based on the reviews online, we expected to be roughing it at this guesthouse, but it turned out they got electricity and western toilets just a couple months before we arrived. Highly recommended!

All the locals we’ve talked to seem worried about the future of Cambodia. Several said the country is going the wrong direction, and feel there is no hope to correct it. Many said the current government is selling out to the Chinese or Vietnamese, who keep all the money for themselves. Not like the optimistic vibe we got in Vietnam at all.

I did a 2 night trip to Battambang while Christine stayed back in Siem Reap for a ‘water blessing’ (see photo). Battambang was much less touristy, and really cheap (3-star hotel room for $12), but skipable. I also saw a couple of very depressing killing fields memorials, and I suspect that the one we’ll see in Phenom Penh next week will be even more intense.

I had a hard time picking the best photos to share, there were so many.

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