“Cambodia is a small country with a big history.”
When we think of Cambodia we visualize beautiful 11th century temples from the Khmer kingdom, gigantic trees growing through the temples and a touch of saffron worn by monks amidst the greens and browns of the landscape. Well, it was exactly like I had imagined and heard of. The ‘Ta Prohm’ is a mysterious fantasy land, a true wonder of nature. I wish I could stay back at night when all visitors’ doors are closed and talk to these fascinating trees growing on the monuments and the temples and listen to their stories, or just feel their silence.
The Streets of Cambodia are full of colours and smiles. You can enjoy the ‘local street food’ to ‘all day English breakfast cafes.’ Indian Restaurants are also very easy to find for pure vegetarians. We realized that all the Indian restaurants we ate at were owned by people from Dehradun who migrated to Cambodia more than 3-5 years ago.
If you are an adventurous sort, you will enjoy fried crusty crunchy -crickets, baby frogs, water bugs, insects and scorpions with your beer or just like that while taking a casual evening walk on the famous Pub Street.
Pub Street was something that came as a surprise to me. I never knew there was this colourful nightlife side to Siem Reap. Siem Reap is a small town, crowded with tourists from all over the world, with a very hippie, gypsy atmosphere. No you don’t have to dress up to walk into these restaurants and bars. This is where all tourists let their hair down, take a massage from hundreds of options on the street and enjoy dancing with a drink. My favorite was ‘Temple Bar.’ I spent only one night out as shooting the entire day left my feet swollen every night.. So in the evenings I preferred swimming and enjoying massages.
There are some great tattoo artists hidden inside narrow streets in the market. People can be found at all hours of the night till early morning hours. This is just the place to visit if you want to feel like returning to this century after having roamed historical monuments all day long. You can see beautiful paintings of Buddha and Temples being sold on this street. Fresh juices and smoothies of some of the local fruits are must-haves. The coconut water here is sweeter than any I have ever tasted. Another must-try dish is a Coconut Pancake known as ‘Kanom Krok’ in the local language, is a mixture of flour batter and coconut cream cooked in a pan with sweet coconut milk as a topping. It is crispy on the outside yet soft in the middle.
On the street, everything is sold for 1$. Make sure you carry lots of change to try all these street delicacies. Tuktuks are easily available at all hours, so incase you having a sleepless night, head out and you will not feel alone in this city.
Phnom Penh, the capital city, has less of the tourist crowd as compared to Siem Reap. The city is clean and the architecture of the localities ranges from traditional Cambodian to French Colonial. I was stunned by so many well-structured government buildings. I could click only a few photographs from my tourist bus through the windowpane as it was pouring the day we reached this city. The traffic is horrible here especially during office hours. The Royal Palace is a striking classic structure built near the riverfront where the king and his family reside. One can visit Killing fields to pay tribute to all those who were killed and also to understand the history of Cambodia. There are also many fancy nightclubs in the city to enjoy which have a very sophisticated city vibe to them.
The Mekong river cruise is nothing to write home about as it’s a very basic boat ride and the view is just about alright though some groups might enjoy the onboard BBQ with drinks on request.
Various branded showrooms in the Phnom Penh city like Charles & Keith, Mango and Adidas Originals are located close to each other. You will find replicas of almost every designer item at places like Central market. Russian market is my favourite as one can buy amazing artsy stuff here from jewellery to artifacts.
Sharing some of the street visuals from my recent trip to this diverse country.