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Unintentionally Partying For Three Straight Nights In Cambodia

It was only meant to be a quiet couple of days, just relaxing poolside, and of course we did the temples again, but that’s not all that happened…

We had been planning for months to get away and relax at a resort for the Easter long weekend with our friends, Amir and Reuth. Even though it is quite expensive, the original destination was intended to be the Maldives while the islands are still above sea level, but that arrangement took a hit when Reuth broke two toes over the course of a couple of weeks and her doctor advised her to stay off the sand for six weeks. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because we figured that we could probably get an even nicer villa in South-East Asia for a fraction of what we would be paying in the Maldives, however, there was another hurdle; Reuth and Amir are Israeli, meaning their passports won’t allow them to enter Muslim countries, ruling out all of the islands and resorts in Malaysia and Indonesia. The couple both used to work as flight attendants, but one place neither of them had traveled to was Cambodia, a country which had recently opened up to vaccinated tourists and had dropped essentially all of their restrictions.

Not your usual honeymoon photo

Anna used to do a lot of volunteer eye-screening in Cambodia, the last time being in 2019, but I on the other hand last set foot in the country back in 2011 when we were there on our honeymoon (right) so it would be interesting to see if much had changed. It was also convenient for Amir and Reuth, because they had recently had a child and due to Cambodia being a cheap country in which to stay, they could also bring their helper to babysit for them, freeing up a lot time for massages and day-drinking by the pool so after some extensive research by Amir, we had a resort in Siem Reap booked for the long weekend, them coming back a day after us.

As I mentioned when we first ventured overseas post-pandemic, many more documents than just a passport and possibly a visa are required to enter a lot of countries now, and Cambodia was no exception. Besides holders of passports from non-ASEAN countries needing to apply for visas, we would also have to provide proof of Covid vaccination, our Covid recovery certificates, and our travel insurance, all of which left Amir and Reuth a little skeptical of this trip coming to fruition, but several days before we were to leave we printed out our documents and we just had to play the waiting game.

Thursday, April 14, 2022
Anna and I were pretty happy that the day of our getaway was here so we made our way to the airport to meet up with our friends, however, they didn’t share our optimism, figuring it best not get too anticipative, just play it cool and save their excitement for when they had passed through Cambodian immigration. Getting through passport control at Changi airport was a breeze and we had about an hour to spare so we went up to the lounge for a bite to eat and a few celebratory drinks, but we probably should have paid more attention to the time and signage. The boarding gates close 10 minutes before departure and Amir was about to make another cocktail when I realised we had 10 minutes until our gates closed and a sign said it could take up to 14 minutes to reach said gate. We managed to get on the Skytrain and as we arrived at the gate we were met with staff asking, “Are you Anna Tan and Timothy Abel?”. It was the last possible minute we could board, but our seats were at the front so we didn’t get the same death stares from the other passengers on this full flight that Reuth and Amir did as they made the walk of shame to the back of the plane. It definitely would’ve been more than a little frustrating for them if the reason this trip didn’t come to fruition had nothing to do with visa or paperwork issues, but them accidentally overstaying their time in the lounge. But no need to worry about that, we were on our way to Siem Reap:

Siem Reap is the second-largest city of Cambodia, as well as the capital and largest city of Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia.

Siem Reap has French colonial and Chinese-style architecture in the Old French Quarter and around the Old Market. In the city, there are museums, traditional Apsara dance performances, a Cambodian cultural village, souvenir and handicraft shops, silk farms, rice paddies in the countryside, fishing villages and a bird sanctuary near Tonlé Sap, and a cosmopolitan drinking and dining scene. Cambodia’s Siem Reap city, home to the famous Angkor temples, was crowned the ASEAN City of Culture for the period 2021–2022 at the 9th Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Culture and Arts (AMCA) organised on Oct 22, 2020.

Siem Reap today—being a popular tourist destination—has many hotels, resorts, and restaurants. This owes much to its proximity to the Angkor Wat temples, Cambodia’s most popular tourist attraction.

Once we had touched down we walked down the steps of the plane into the stifling heat, that day registering at 36°C (97°F), and made our way into the terminal. The first step was the bizarre practice of the staff taking photos of our passports and visas with their phones, seemingly a common practice at immigration there, and then through passport control where it was done again. I made it through the process pretty hassle free, but it seemed like Anna must’ve got stuck with the work experience kid, because he had to ask for assistance three or four times before she was through. However, that wasn’t a big deal for two reasons, the first being that our luggage took ages to come out, but Amir, Reuth, the baby, and their helper, Josephine, took longer still, a combination of them being stuck near the end of an extremely long line waiting at the four counters were open, and both the immigration and passport staff going over their visas and paperwork multiple times with a fine-tooth comb. In fact a guy passed out in the airport due to the heat while we were waiting, but before long our buddies could take a collective sigh of relief as we jumped in our ride and made our way down the newly paved roads to where we would be spending the coming days, the beautiful Shinta Mani Angkor:

From our little upstairs bit we could hear some music getting louder and we had noticed a few people getting around either on foot or in vehicles with enormous water pistols, but we just figured it was a hot day on the eve of a long weekend and thought nothing of it, instead opting for a few beers before going to the hotel restaurant for dinner. The restaurant wasn’t that busy, but the music seemed to be getting louder, giving the impression that there could be fun times ahead. We ordered some great dishes, but Amir was a little paranoid about anything he put in his body, because a mutual American friend of ours had given him some travel advice about Cambodia, sewing more than a few seeds of doubt, such as insisting he not eat any vegetables or anything that contains water or ice. This is a man that is going to India in a week or so and that advice definitely stands there, and holds some truth with street food in many countries, but we were in a really good restaurant so we managed to convince Amir that they would’ve been using purified water to wash vegetable and make soups, plus the ice in our drinks is fine if it has a hole through it, but that advice would still take a little while to be fully accepted.
Once done, Josephine took baby Alex back to her room, and Anna, Amir, Reuth, and myself decided to see what was happening so we walked to where the noise was coming from at the end of our street, which had been roped off and lined with portable toilets. There were a lot more people with water pistols and when we arrived at our riverside destination it was lined with pop-up food stalls, there were huge stages with live performers, many boats being paddled up and down the river, and thousands of people were walking around spraying each other with water and wiping talcum powder on each other’s faces. Several countries in the area celebrate Songkran, most notably Thailand, but it in Cambodia it is a part of Khmer New Year and we had arrived right in the middle of the festivities, the first time the people here had been able to let loose in two years and they were making up for lost time:

Cambodian New Year (or Khmer New Year) or just Sangkranta, is the traditional celebration of the solar new year in Cambodia. A three-day public holiday in the country, the observance begins on New Year’s Day, which usually falls on 13 April or 14 April, which is the end of the harvesting season, when farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor before the rainy season begins. Khmers living abroad may choose to celebrate during a weekend rather than just specifically 13 April through 16 April. The Khmer New Year coincides with the traditional solar new year in several parts of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand.

As for the water pistols, that’s the Songkran tradition:

The Water Festival is the New Year’s celebrations that take place in Southeast Asian nations such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand as well as among the Dai people of China. It is called the ‘Water Festival’ by Westerners because they notice people splashing or pouring water at one another as part of the cleansing ritual (which a lot forgot about) to welcome the New Year. Traditionally people gently sprinkled water on one another as a sign of respect, but as the new year falls during the hottest month in South East Asia, many people end up dousing strangers and passers-by in vehicles in boisterous celebration. The act of pouring water is also a show of blessings and good wishes. It is believed that at this Water Festival, everything old must be thrown away, or it will bring the owner bad luck.

Now, when I say water pistols, that’s using the term loosely, these were more like water automatic machine guns, some even equipped with backpacks full of water, but they weren’t a big deal to begin with. All of the food stalls looked great, especially one selling snails, and on the grass and the pier on both sides of the river people were just kicking back, seeing the world go by, taking in the atmosphere, and watching performances while boats paddled past:

We were pretty full after dinner, plus Amir was still extremely wary about everything he consumed so we didn’t get anything to eat while we were walking around, not even an entire grilled chicken on a stick, but when we passed an enormous boutique massage parlour, the others knew what they were doing for the next hour or so. I’ve made it clear in past posts that I’m not a fan of massages so I opted to instead continue down the river to check out more of the action and that’s when I passed the point of no return. There was a stage with a big crowd across the river so I decided to keep to the side I was on, but things were rapidly getting more chaotic there too, but it was once I crossed a road and under a Tiger beer arch that I knew I wasn’t going to escape dry. As I walked further the streets were lined with people, all far younger than myself, while 4X4s drove down the road and almost all were armed with enormous water guns and cannons, some even just resorted to busting out a hose, and everyone was squirting anyone in sight and wiping them with talcum powder, but at first they seemed a little intimidated by me. That was until a child that was about four years old sprayed me right in the crotch, then people could see that I was a bit wet and I became fair game. When you’re my size and surrounded by South-East Asian kids you tend to stand out a bit so even if they were aiming for someone else, I still copped regular stray shots.
It’s just an observation, but there seemed to be a flirty aspect to it all, especially the guys zeroing in on the better looking girls, the ones in skimpier clothing, and the ones wearing white. The girls just always fired back and wiped talcum powder on the faces of the better-looking guys. Naturally I felt a little flattered when a girl sheepishly approached me and asked if she could rub powder on my face, but to be fair, she was probably the only female who attempted to do so, it was always men after that.

Siem Reap has a notorious area full of bars appropriately named Pub Street (actually, it is officially Street 08) so I dragged my now sopping wet self down there, but because we had had a few beers earlier, the first thing on the agenda was finding a toilet. The only problem was that Pub Street and all of the major streets in the general area were completely impenetrable due to the sheer amount of people around. The roads were barricaded off to traffic, there were large stages with performances, and the entire area was shoulder to shoulder with soaked, powder-caked people. Instead, I decided on a small bar in a lane behind Pub Street called Ambar. There I made use of their facilities and then ordered a beer, which came in a relatively small glass for US$3.00. It seemed a little strange, because Cambodia is renowned for its extraordinarily cheap beer, in some cases it’s cheaper to have a beer than water, so after quickly finishing that I enquired about a beer tower, the price being US$8.00. Crisis averted.
Anna eventually called to see where I was and joined me for a few US$3.00 mojitos while soaking wet as well. Reuth wanted to make the most of being able to relax so Amir walked her back to the villa and then made his way back down to join us at Ambar. A combination of Amir getting a little hungry when he drinks and the three of us wanting to witness the madness from another perspective led us to strolling around onto Pub Street, finding an upstairs bar, ordering quite a few more beers, and just soaking in what was going on beneath us (no pun intended), me accidentally snapping off an entire tap and drainpipe while trying to turn it on in the bathroom in the process.
When we decided to walk back to the villa, people had now started to put iced water in their guns and I swear there is no greater pick me up after a big night out than a quirt of freezing water to the balls, something that happened multiple times.

Whatever you want to make of it, we definitely weren’t expecting this for our relaxing Easter long weekend getaway:

Actually, why not just take it in for yourself, resplendent with Anna’s goofy dancing at the end:

Friday, April 15, 2022
Friday started a little more how we were expecting it to; noodles for breakfast upstairs at our villa followed by a few beers in Amir and Reuth’s pool and then walking into town in the suffocating humidity to see the place by day, checking out some markets along the way. At the time of day that we most needed it, nobody was spraying us with icy water so we’d just have to soldier on under the sun completely dry. One thing I always love in this part of the world are the incredible chilli sauces and pastes available, usually containing fish sauce and a variety of other spices so when I saw some in the main market alongside some locally made sausages, I was tempted to buy both, but decided to play it safe and just keep looking around at the other amazing looking food, fake yet high quality NBA jerseys, and some bizarre Tintin signs with local significance.
Anna knew of a store that sold a variety of teas, as well as soap, body lotions, and the like, however, she couldn’t find it where it was originally, but she had no cause for alarm, it had just moved across the road from the market. While inside, Anna and Reuth looking through all of the goods, my mind just kept going back to that chilli paste I had found, however it was a bit of a catch-22; although I love it this kind of paste, I’m not equipped with the strongest digestive system and sometimes stuff like this can leave me with a stomachache and explosive diarrhoea for several days that is more liquid than the product itself, yet there is also the chance it won’t have that effect on me and I will have some fantastic chili paste in the fridge that I will eat with absolutely anything. It’s always a gamble, because the containers bear no labels whatsoever so you have absolutely no idea what it contains or when it expires, but I decided to place my bets, go back across the road, and pick up a jar I assume weighs about 500gm (1.1lb). The sausages looked great too, but I opted not to go all in at this point. Also, I made a conscious decision not to eat any of the chili while we still on this trip so I went back to the soap and tea shop, showed Anna, and she agreed it looked delicious. Some scenes on the way to and around the market:

Amir had booked 90-minute massages for 4:00pm, plus he’s a bit of a foodie so he had also organised dinner for 7:30pm, and there was still a bit of time to spare so we went to a crepe bar for a bit of dessert and an afternoon libation. As it got closer to 4:00 the others jumped in a tuk-tuk back to the villa while I hoofed it, deciding to take in more sights on the way home, including what was possibly a palace, maybe a shrine or temple (all the signage is in Khmer and the area just comes up grey on the ever unreliable Google Maps) that I had passed multiple times now, but on this occasion it was open so I went in and took some more photos before making my way through the crowd back to the villa. It was tempting on the walk back to grab something from the seemingly endless array of food stalls and I almost certainly would’ve if it weren’t for the fact that I knew that dinner wasn’t far off

After everyone’s massages we had a bit of spare time before we had to be on the bus to the restaurant that Amir had booked so we showered, relaxed for a bit, and soon we were off again. Grace, the girl who we were told was our “butler” (but I still believe that was a mistranslation, more like our “concierge”) said that the restaurant was about 15 minutes out of town, but because of the New Year traffic we were still passing farms and rice fields at least 45 minutes later, arriving substantially late for our booking at Lum Orng, which describes itself as :

Cambodia’s first farm-to-table restaurant, Lum Orng is located in a village on the edge of Siem Reap, departure point for excursions to Angkor Wat. Here, owner-chef Sothea Seng cooks New Mekong Cuisine from Cambodia and beyond, based on seasonal produce from his farms, local markets, and growers across the region.

In Khmer, Lum Orng means ‘pollen’, a grain that fertilises and gives life. For Sothea Seng, whose farm-to-table philosophy is rooted in seasonality and sustainability, it’s a symbol of growth and regeneration, and a metaphor for his journey as a chef as passionate about preserving Cambodia culinary traditions as exploring new directions.

Having redefined traditional fare at Mahob Khmer restaurant, where Sothea Seng serves modern Cambodian food, the chef is exploring new territory at Lum Orng. Inspired by Cambodia’s rich culinary heritage, remnants of which are found in the cuisines of its neighbours, once part of the great Khmer Empire, Sothea Seng presents New Mekong Cuisine.

That sounds pretty damn good to me! We had a tasting menu consisting of dishes such as snakehead fish and ox tail and being late wasn’t too much of an issue, in fact it probably made our food come out faster, because there was only one other table and they were almost done when we arrived. Everything was great, I could post a photo of every dish, but instead just a bit more of the day up until that point including my afternoon walk and a couple of us from dinner:

It was probably a good idea that I hadn’t opted for an entire chicken on a stick earlier, because I would’ve struggled finishing all our dinner, but fortunately that wasn’t too much of an issue. The ride back to the villa was a lot faster than the one to the restaurant, but once back Amir and Reuth opted for an early night, still tired from the early mornings with baby Alex. Anna and myself on the other hand had had such an unexpectedly great time the previous night after having not seeing anything even remotely resembling a party atmosphere in over two years, so we decided to hit the town again. We also had room left for those snails, however, unfortunately we were unable to find the stall, although we did stumble upon one selling those sausages I had been tempted to buy earlier in the day at the market so we picked up a small bag on our way. We stopped off at a few small pop-up bars, but they mostly sold beer and Anna wanted wine or cocktails so we moved on, eventually ending up soaked and thirsty at Ambar again. The crazy partying on Pub Street was still in full swing and although we were expecting the night to be like that, there seemed to be a few less people out, perhaps hungover from the night before. I bought another $8.00 beer tower and Anna got a cocktail or two, but she was starting to fade before I could finish so I gave what was remaining of my tower to a local guy on the next table, him giving me a bag of random dumplings in return. I had been walking around with sausages in an exceptionally durable paper bag while constantly getting sprayed with water and placing it on wet surfaces at every stop, but sadly, just like Anna, the bag wouldn’t be able to last the entire night so I carried the sausages by hand and threw the remains of the bag, and the weird dumplings, in a bin as we passed a bunch of pop-up bars made from old Kombi Vans. Anna was wearing a backless pantsuit and got an ice-cold blast of water to the lower back, her emitting a loud squeal in the process, but it wasn’t enough to keep her up. Probably best that we get a good sleep anyway, tomorrow would be a big day and we could come back out again afterward anyway. A few scenes from the end of the night:

Saturday, April 16, 2022
Amir and Reuth would be hanging around for one more day, however, Anna and myself would be flying back to Singapore on Sunday so we had to make the most of this wet weekend away. We were booked in to go on a tour of some temples at 3:00pm and Amir had made reservations at another great restaurant for dinner, but one thing we hadn’t done yet was eat in one of the small local places that only do a handful of dishes really well. When we were returning from Lum Orng the previous night, we had passed a couple that were just a block before our villa so we grabbed a coffee each and walked down to what was essentially a shed for some great noodles. It was one of those places where there’s no English on the menus and only local people were eating there so we knew it had to be good. Despite the place looking clean and having refrigeration, we decided to play it safe due to having a flight in less than 24 hours so we both ordered the beef option, a drink each, and made a conscious effort to avoid any chili that resembled the one I had bought at the market the day before. Eating at these type of establishments is one of our favourite things about traveling around this part of the globe and this shed did not disappoint, our noodles were great, the drinks were enormous, and the older woman whom I assumed owned the place just sat on a chair, looking at us with a satisfied expression on her face, because I don’t think a whole lot of tourists frequent her noodle shop.
Once done we still had about 90 minutes before our driver was to arrive to take us out to the temples and Anna still had snails on her mind so we went back down to the riverside to find them, but to no avail, although there was one stall selling tongues and chicken feet. We also found a stall that was doing free traditional tattooing for that day only until 5:00pm, however, not only did we not have enough time and wouldn’t return until about 6:00pm, Anna put her foot down and flatly denied me getting one. She clearly has no problem with me getting tattoos and sure, tattoos in a an outdoor tent done with a stick may not be the most sterile of options, but they were wearing gloves while they did them so that’s a good sign, but I still wasn’t allowed. Oh, well, here’s lunch and the missed tat opportunity:

We were soon back at the villa and Grace was there with our driver, Rum, ready to take us on our tour of a couple of the temples. Rum was a really nice and funny guy, one of the first things he said to us being, “Despite my name, I’m not an alcoholic” and it also turns out that by night he runs a restaurant outside of Siem Reap that specialises in boat noodles. Anyway, our first stop was to pick up tickets for our tour, amounting to about US$33.00 each and requiring us to go to a counter to have our photos taken, however, on the way back to the van, Anna and Rum opened up the doors and tried to get in the wrong vehicle, scaring the hell out of the American woman sitting inside.

We went to the same temples we visited back in 2011, but I barely remember that so it was great to do it again. Instead of telling you about what we saw, I’ll just include a brief description from Wikipedia and a whole bunch of photos, the first site being Ta Prohm, one of the locations used in the film Tomb Raider:

Ta Prohm is the modern name of the temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia, built in the Bayon style largely in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and originally called Rajavihara (“royal monastery”). Located approximately one kilometre east of Angkor Thom and on the southern edge of the East Baray, it was founded by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm is in much the same condition in which it was found: the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings have made it one of Angkor’s most popular temples with visitors. UNESCO inscribed Ta Prohm on the World Heritage List in 1992. Today, it is one of the most visited complexes in Cambodia’s Angkor region. The conservation and restoration of Ta Prohm is a partnership project of the Archaeological Survey of India and the APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap)

In an act of complete coincidence, I found on my personal Facebook page that I also have some photos shot in the exact same locations and angles from when I was far fatter on our honeymoon back in 2011:

Another thing worth noting is the effort that went into preserving and reconstructing some of the ruined areas:

After the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 15th century, the temple of Ta Prohm was abandoned and neglected for centuries. When the effort to conserve and restore the temples of Angkor began in the early 21st century, the École française d’Extrême-Orient decided that Ta Prohm would be left largely as it had been found, as a “concession to the general taste for the picturesque.” According to pioneering Angkor scholar Maurice Glaize, Ta Prohm was singled out because it was “one of the most imposing [temples] and the one which had best merged with the jungle, but not yet to the point of becoming a part of it”. Nevertheless, much work has been done to stabilize the ruins, to permit access, and to maintain “this condition of apparent neglect.”

As of 2013, Archaeological Survey of India has restored most parts of the temple complex some of which have been constructed from scratch.[3] Wooden walkways, platforms and roped railings have been put in place around the site to protect the monument from further damages due to the large tourist inflow.

Not a bad effort!

This restoration and reconstruction was achieved by laying out in the correct order the original blocks that lay there and individually numbering them as to where they are located in the structure. In cases where pieces were missing, rock was taken from the same area as where the originals were sourced and here is an example (right) of the outcome after being intricately pieced together.

After an hour or two of strolling around Ta Prohm we were onto Cambodia’s most iconic structure, Angkor Wat, however, unlike most tours, we would be approaching and exploring the temple from the rear and working our way to the front of the structure.

Angkor Wat (“City/Capital of Temples”) is a temple complex in Cambodia and is the largest religious monument in the world, on a site measuring 162.6 hectares (1,626,000 m2; 402 acres). Originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, it was gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century as such it is also described as a “Hindu-Buddhist” temple.

It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yaśodharapura (present-day Angkor), the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. Breaking from the Shaiva tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation. The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country’s prime attraction for visitors.

Angkor Wat combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple-mountain and the later galleried temple. It is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology: within a moat more than 5 kilometres (3 mi) long and an outer wall 3.6 kilometres (2.2 mi) long are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of towers. Unlike most Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west; scholars are divided as to the significance of this. The temple is admired for the grandeur and harmony of the architecture, its extensive bas-reliefs, and for the numerous devatas adorning its walls.

When we were driving to Angkor Wat I saw a couple of monkeys wandering around in the jungle, nothing particularly special, we just though it was cool, but as we were leaving out the front of Angkor Wat there were monkeys everywhere. There were adults and baby ones and they weren’t scared either, they were actually quite approachable. In fact, some people were reaching out to pat them, but not me, I remember how the film Outbreak begins and we’re only just starting to emerge from a global pandemic, no point setting off another one. It was rather amusing, however, when we saw an angry one steal a bag of fruit from a woman and just eat it all in front of her. The monkeys were pretty cute so naturally I had to get some pictures:

Visitors need to be out of Angkor Wat by sunset so naturally the traffic back into Siem Reap was horrendous, but we eventually made it back in time for dinner. Amir told us he had found a microbrewery for us to join him at, but there simply wasn’t time, it was just straight to the restaurant for our final meal in Cambodia, another tasting menu at Embassy. Amir had chosen this place because the night before we flew out we watched the Cambodia episode of Anthony Borudain: No Reservations and that had made him want to try the crab while in town, leading him to find this place and Amir had chosen exceptionally well again.

Amir and Reuth were doing the sunrise temple tour so they didn’t want to have a late night, plus they were spending an extra day anyway, but Anna and I decided to make the most of our last night of water-soaked madness in Siem Reap and hit the town once more, scouring the stalls for the snail lady again with no luck. We stopped off at a couple of bars on our way to Pub Street, including inexplicably the Hard Rock Cafe, and we eventually found ourselves upstairs at another bar, making a few new local friends in the process. Maybe it was just because it was a Saturday night or perhaps due to Songkran winding down, but it was the craziest night of the entire celebration, there were people everywhere and it was loud too!:

Having been at a massive street party three nights in a row got us thinking; if this kind of celebration were in a lot of western counties, it would be an entire different atmosphere. There would be drunken fights, people off to the side puking in the bushes, and police everywhere, but we didn’t see any of that in Siem Reap. Hardly anybody was really drunk, everybody just having a great time, but I did see one guy in the bar on the final night throw up in a toilet and then take a nap on a couch.

We stuck around until the wee hours of the morning, but we also had to get up early for a flight, however, we had a brilliant last night in town, and things only got better on the walk home; almost as if out of nowhere, the snail lady’s stall shone bright in the darkness, providing us with the perfect snack to accompany a couple of final drinks back at the villa and cap off a great weekend with friends. A look back at our final night in Siem Reap:

At the beginning of this for some reason ridiculously long post, I mentioned that I hadn’t been back to Siem Reap since 2011 and 2019 for Anna, but we both noticed so many differences and changes since either of us were last here, all of them positive, and I’m not just referring to our waistlines:

  • All of the roads in and around Siem Reap are now paved, something that had only been completed in the past couple of months.
  • There are very few beggars now, we only encountered two over the course of our trip, both landmine victims. There also weren’t children constantly trying to sell us stuff, we did see a couple selling talcum powder in a pub, but they were wearing school uniforms so they more than likely weren’t being exploited.
  • There aren’t dogs roaming around the streets anymore, however, rum told us that may be because some people had to resort to eating them during the lockdowns.
  • Tuk-tuk drivers now have iPhones and use Google Maps to navigate.
  • Maybe it was just the festivities, but everyone just seemed really, really happy.

Anyway, it was awesome going away on a holiday with Amir and Reuth, an extra big thanks to Amir for finding the villa and some incredible restaurants, to Grace for her hospitality at Shinta Mani, to Rum for taking us around the temples, and sorry I missed your birthday in Phnom Penh, Mia. Also, if you’ve made it this far and you’re wondering how my no-label chili paste from the market went, we had it with the sausages the night we arrived home and we both had stomach problems only an hour or two afterwards that continued for bit of the next day. I tried it again on something else the following night and was completely fine and have been eating the paste on everything since with no repercussions (except for horrendous breath and toxic farts). Must’ve been those sausages that went straight through us.

Until next time, Cambodia.

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