I feel that in all my previous Cambodia posts I have gone on and on about how much I loved it there. Well it’s true, and as much as I was inspired by the Angkor Wat temples, it was so much more than that. So in our down time in Siem Reap, we still got up to plenty and found out what a rich and vibrant place it was.
First off, the food is wonderful. Whether you’re looking for traditional Cambodian cuisine or something completely different, you can find it. One night we had Mexican food with Singapore Slings – in Cambodia. We’re very international. You can’t sit with us. I recommend the Sister Srey Cafe, the food and atmosphere can’t be beat. Indulge a little.
A hot spot for food is an area in downtown Siem Reap called Pub Street. The area is crawling with hostels and the backpackers staying in said hostels, so it’s quite easy to follow the crowds to the action. The night market is a great place to pick up souvenirs or to grab a cheap, street massage. Here you can also buy street food from smoothies to scorpions. It had been a goal of mine for a few years now to eat a fried tarantula if I ever made it to Cambodia. Well, I was on the hunt and finally found one at the night market on Pub Street. Watch the video above for the full effect, but as a whole, it wasn’t horrid. Only when I bit down on the abdomen or butt section and it popped and out gushed spider juice did I have to refocus on the task at hand. Will I ever feel the need to do it again? No. Am I glad I did it and now have an awesome story to tell? Yes. Just go for it. Eat the spider.
Siem Reap also has a thriving art scene. We spent half a day moving from one art installation to another. At the Artisans Angkor you can go inside a workshop where they create the statues and carvings to refurbishthe broken pieces at Angkor Wat. It was quite humbling to see the Cambodian workers continuing this tradition started a thousand years ago. Of course, if you are rolling in the dough, you can purchase some truly beautiful pieces, but looking was enough for us. We also stopped by a fair trade center that was filled with a dozen or so stalls packed with handmade crafts. This was a great place to pick up some more unique gifts.
We had an evening free and had heard about something called the “Phare Circus.” I’m not super keen on circuses if they include animals, but this turned out to be nothing of the sort but still an experience I wouldn’t miss. The “circus” is actually a school for underprivileged students to come and, while learning their studies, also learn acrobatics in order to secure jobs in entertainment. The show itself was a powerful tale inspired by the dark history of Cambodia and combined tricks, dancing, and music. The proceeds go to the students and you learn a bit about the school and what it’s all about at the end of the production. Getting there is simple as all the tuk tuk drivers know it and there were literally about fifty of them waiting outside once the show was over.
If I could change anything about my recent Southeast Asian holiday it would have been to spend more time in Siem Reap. Honestly, the vibe is amazing and I know that there is so much more to do and see.