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Siem Reap 5s!

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Top 5 things about Siem Reap

1. Angkor Famous - Our favourite little spot in Siem Reap. A small bar in the Alley - which is one of the two main touristy roads in Siem Reap centre - which we frequent far more often than is healthy! It's run by a group of women, the one who is in charge is far too pregnant to be spending all day on her feet, and they are all so so sweet and friendly. There is one lady who stands at the entrance all night, every night, and says on repeat in the most deadpan way, with no pauses or punctuation, "Cocktails buy one get one free beer 50 cents free popcorn free rice with every meal free fruit salad". It's funny but a little tragic! But her list tells you some of the other reasons Angkor Famous is our favourite place to chill! Even Susie has got into beer when it's only 50cents for 3/4 of a pint, and it's cheaper than any soft drinks! We also love the popcorn, which is both salted and sweet, really tasty, and you get a new plate every time you finish one. Yum yum yum!!! They even brought us free water after we had quite a few drinks there the other night. We really do love them!!

2. Cycling - We cycle to work everyday as I think I mentioned in a previous blog, and it's such a ridiculous experience that it just had to go into our top 5 things here! There are very few cars, and nearly everything is done by motorbike, including transporting livestock(we've see chickens and a pig in a little cart on the back), taking whole families to school (4 people is common, 5 people on one moto is a rare sight, much sought after by us volunteers!), carrying new purchases (we saw a guy today using one arm to steer and one to precariously hold his new TV on the back!), and taking children to the hospital (it's scary how many kids you see on motos, with their mum behind them holding up the drip they've just been prescribed!). The roads are manic, and there's always lots on them, but because it's Cambodia, and because it's all motorbikes and bikes, everything is quite slow paced. There's a lot of people biking down the wrong side of the road until they can cut across, and people going every direction, but it's surprisingly organised chaos, and once you get used to it, it's great fun! Cycling in England is going to be very dull after this!

3. People - We love Cambodians. Fact. Overall, they are the friendliest, nicest, happiest nation of people either of us has ever met. They are always happy for a chat, or a bit of a joke as you walk past or when you meet them. From the really cute little kids, who run out excitedly whenever you walk/bike past and shout hello, to the tuk-tuk drivers, who always have a good bit of banter for you, to the people who run everything, who are so appreciative and happy about everything you do that helps them. Especially when you think about everything that has happened to them as a nation within living memory (and not even that old living memory - 1970s), it's astonishing and humbling that they are as lovely as they are. nb - if you know as little about Cambodian history as Susie did before we came, just quickly google 'khmer rouge' and look at what happened - it's horrific. We're both going to be so so sad to leave Cambodia - we both feel really at home here, and a massive part of why that is is the people. Anyone who comes to Cambodia and doesn't make any effort with them is really missing out.
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Kids waving hello from the floating village

4. Khmer amok (and food in general really!) - Unlike some countries we're visiting, we weren't expecting a lot out of Cambodian food. Unlike Thailand or Malaysia, it's not really somewhere you think of when you think of tasty food. However, although the flavours are more sssubtle than other Asian food, they're just as tasty! The excessive use of coconut in everything makes Susie very happy, whilst John would be happy with any food that involves lots of steamed rice! Our favourite dish is Khmer Amok - it's like a tasty version of a korma curry, and at the end of cooking you cook two eggs into it. It gives the sauce a lovely texture, and it's so so yummy! We did a cookery course last weekend and learnt how to make it, so if you're all very nice to us we might make it for you when we get back! Our other favourite are these deep fried bananas that we get for 300riels (about 6p) from a market stall near school. They squash the banana till it's flat, dip it in a slightly coconuty rice batter, and deep fry it. A very tasty, but very unhealthy way to get one of your 5 a day!!
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Gorgeous amok made for us by the cook at school because we said we like it - thus illustrating points 3 and 4!

5. Phrases - The Cambodians do have some funny little phrases that really endears us to them. The most prevalent is 'Same same but different', which they all use all the time! Apparently it's a Thai phrase that means two things the same but of different quality, therefore explaining why one is more expensive, but here they just use it for EVERYTHING! The use is so excessive that the kids in my class don't understand if you say two things are the same, but the second you say 'same same', they get your meaning at once. and usually respond 'but different?', which is slightly annoying when you're trying to explain that no, they are actually the same!! There's also a song, that they're all obsessed with, sung partly in English and partly in Khmer, but the only bit we ever hear just goes "I am sorry, I am sorry" (but it sounds more like "I am soaring"). It's very waily and excessive, but everyone loves it, and sings it far too often. They also love Justin Bieber too, but the less said about that the better!

Worst 5 things about Siem Reap

1. Cycling - Whilst it went in our top 5 for the sheer experience of it, it has to go in the bottom five too! Whilst everyone (or almost everyone) on a moto, bike or tuk tuk is nice and considerate, there are too many people in cars/trucks/tourist buses who are complete arses to everyone else. There seems to be an unwritten rule that once you're encased within any form of metal box, you no longer care about anyone else on the road. Tourist buses are the worst - there's a horribly touristy floating village further on on the road from school so there are always loads of them going past, and there's no chance they're moving out of the way of anyone, or slowing down so they don't splash you, or in fact anything that involves consideration for others. Urgh!

2. Weather - Whilst those of you reading this in England, heading into dreary, cold, grey, miserable November will definitely be rolling your eyes at this, the weather has to go on our least favourite things. It is so hot and humid all the time, especially in the afternoon, and although our classrooms are semi open, they're still boiling. We have fans but it annoys the kids too much cos they blow their papers around, so they turn them off, and then we all die of heat! And the heat makes the roads so dusty, and then you get covered in grimy grit every time you go anywhere. Plus, the rain is really unpredictable (see next point!) and that causes it's whole host of own problems! Having just said all this though, we were discussing it today, when we were biking to school in beautiful sunshine, and we're both so so grateful we're not suffering English weather, so perhaps we shouldn't moan too much!!

3. Floods - Whilst most days have been hot hot hot, there has been some ridiculous rain, as you'll see if you look back at our previous posts. We had one night where it rained harder than I've ever seen rain before for 12 hours straight. All the flooding was a result of that one night. Completely ridiculous! Not only do we feel so sorry for all the kids and their families who have to put up with their houses being swimming pools, but it causes a lot of problems for everyone. Firstly there was all the issues with getting to school that we wrote about before, but even now when the floods have subsided the road is completely torn up because it wasn't very well made anyway, and it was wet for so long, so now it's full of pot holes, which make the journey to school rather interesting!

4. Tuk tuk sir, madam?...Obviously not, I'm on my bike - We do love the Cambodian people, and as mentioned above, we do love the tuk-tuk drivers (especially Mr Tomb Raider - thus named because his tuk-tuk says tomb raider on it - who is our favourite), but sometimes them, and the other people selling you things really do need to use their brains a little more! When you're unlocking/on a bike, chances are you don't want a tuk-tuk! John had someone the other day trying very hard, and when John said we were here for 6 weeks and it was too expensive to always get a tuk-tuk all the time, the response was "My tuk-tuk very fast, you can do it in 3 weeks". It did make us laugh, but I think he missed the point! Similarly, there are people everywhere who try to sell you fish massages, like we had in Kuala Lumpur, and they are very annoyingly persistent. If I've just walked past 2 minutes ago and said no, and then walk back past, without looking at the fish tank, it's highly unlikely that within those 2 minutes I've suddenly gone, "Actually you know what, I need a fish massage right now!". 6 weeks of it drives you a little mad!

5. Dogs - Our final worst thing, and quite possibly the worst of all, are the horrible dogs that wander around the streets. We got very scared of one that was following us down the road after dinner the other night and wouldn't go away, until a local noticed us being scared and threw a bottle at it which made it run away (see, we told you the locals were lovely!). There are lots of them, and they wander all over the place, and if they smell the littlest bit of meat on you (eg if you've eaten some finger food, or been in a restaurant that smells of meat at all) then they follow you a little too closely. There's loads at school too, which walk round, fight and mate outside your classroom. Lovely. However, someone did bring the cutest little puppy into school yesterday, that barely had its eyes open, and couldn't walk yet, and so that enamored us back to dogs a little!!
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Top 5 Siem Reap Eateries

1. Khmer House in the alley - Our favourite place for Khmer Amok (which as we said above is our favourite dish). It's only $2.50, which is much cheaper than the place a bit further down that claims to have the best amok in Siem Reap. We tried it, but we can verify that its sign is lying, save yourself $4 and eat at Khmer House instead! It's so coconutty and tasty and beautiful. Yum yum yum!! There's lots of Khmer House's in Siem Reap though, so make sure you head to the one in the Alley (which is parallel to Pub Street!)

2. Our little lunchtime place - This is our little bit of locals Cambodia! It's about a 10 minute walk away from school, and we've been going there for lunch a couple of days a week. They're so sweet and lovely, and always really friendly to us when we come in, and they sell grilled pork, warmed bread and amazingly tasty salad (that's made even John like cucumber!) for just 3000riel (75cents, 50p).

3. The Night Market stalls - From about 4pm, a lot of stalls spring up on the far side of pub street, which sell various dishes for $1. As you walk up to them, they all run out at you manically shaking menus at you, but it makes no difference where you eat, because the phrase 'same same but different has never been more true since they're all the same. We especially like the fried noodles - John is a yellow noodle fan, whereas Susie prefers the rice noodles. They are really good, and for 66p you can't really go wrong anyway! Then, if you fancy treating yourself afterwards, you can head across to a little pancake van that does banana, cocoa and condensed milk pancakes for 50 cents which are amazing bad for you, but so so tasty!

4. Angkor Famous - It just has to go on this list too! Although we mostly use it for beer and popcorn, we do really enjoy the food too, and have eaten there quite a few times. The coconut soup and burgers are very tasty, but never EVER try the Khmer sausages, which aren't sausages by any definition!

5. Various curry houses - We weren't expecting much when we first went out for curry in Cambodia, but both the Bengal Tiger in Pub Street, and the Maharajah in street 7 (parallel to pub street in the other direction to the alley) do very very tasty curry. We always go for the vegetarian thali, which is delicious, and the most ridiculously huge portions ever! Every time we've eaten at either of them, Susie's stomach has hurt excessively for the rest of the evening, as it's been far too full of food, and both of us have felt very happy at getting our good curry fix! At about $3.75 they're not the cheapest meals ever, but they are so worth it!!

Posted by Susiep539 02:34 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia siem_reap tuk_tuk cambodian angkor_famous khmer_house night_market pub_street the_alley bengal_tiger

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