So after two days in Ho Chi Minh City, we decided to take a sleeper bus to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The journey was long, tiresome, and very bumpy thanks to the hundreds of potholes.
Many of the locals work at the markets selling masses of seafood; fish, prawns, crabs, etc. But, they also sell live animals like chickens, cats, and puppies. I’m not used to this, so I found it quite uncomfortable. After the market, we went for an evening stroll along the Sisowath Quay. It was here we noticed a small Cambodian woman on the side of the road selling deep fried insects from a street food vendor. Intrigued, James and I walked over and mutually decided to buy two of her finest deep fried spiders. At first, I was hesitant. The spiders are sautéed in fresh chilli and garlic, but at the same time taste a little like pork crackling. I might not choose to have them with my Sunday roast, but they weren’t as bad as I expected!
One of the most iconic places in Phnom Penh is The Killing Fields. This is a historic site where over a million Cambodians were killed in 1975-1979 by the Khmer Rouge Regime. I was amazed and actually a little embarrassed that I had never heard about this genocide until now, especially seeing as it was only around forty years ago. During our stay, we learned so much about the history of the capital, and Cambodia as a whole.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
We stayed just two days in Phnom Penh before we took a sleeper bus to Siem Reap. At the top of our itinerary was a day trip to the world-famous Angkor Wat temples, the largest religious monument in the world. The temples are magnificent, and were designed and handcrafted back in the first half of the 12th century! One of the most iconic temples is Ta Prohm. It has been left as it was found and stands overgrown in masses of tree roots. (Plus, it’s where Tomb Raider was filmed!)
We spent the rest of our days in Siem Reap exploring the CBD, and immersing ourselves in Cambodian culture. There are heaps of shops, markets, and massage places. So, I treated myself to a Cambodian foot massage. (So relaxing, I would highly recommend). We also paid for a fish pedicure. If you haven’t heard of this, it involves putting your feet in the tank so the fish can nibble your skin. James squirmed like a child the entire time.
Pub Street is a backpacker hotspot, and it was here we met a young Cambodian girl called Linda. Her English was phenomenal and probably better than mine. She is quite the celebrity in the area, and she did her best to get all the tourists up dancing and having a good time. She is the life and soul of the street. At just the age of eleven, she spends her days selling bracelets her mum made to save for her future. She told us she gets to keep 40c of every dollar for when she’s older.
A trip to Cambodia wouldn’t be complete without participating in a traditional cooking class. We went with “Le Tigre De Papier”, a wonderful restaurant in the heart of Siem Reap. The teachers kindly take you to source fresh vegetables and cooking ingredients from the local market. They give you an apron and a chef hat, before they teach you how to prepare, cook, and present some Cambodian specialities. James made some delicious vegetable spring rolls, and I cooked a Cambodian chicken curry. Once all the food is cooked, you get to dine outside with other class members to enjoy the wonderful cuisine with a few drinks.
Le Tigre De Papier is a restaurant just a short walk along Pub Street and I would 100% recommend taking part in a cooking class whilst you are out there. It was great fun and gave us an insight into traditional Cambodian cuisine. Interested? Take a look here: Le Tigre De Papier