We took a sleeper bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Getting a decent nights sleep was out of the question as we drove for hours on what seemed like one straight dirt road with a billion pot holes. As I was nearly thrown through the window everytime the bus jerked, there were times I truely thought, ‘this is it’.
We arrive safely in Phnom Penh (somehow) and checked into a hostel before exploring the city. We went to the local markets and witnessed an elderly man chopping the head off a fish in a horrifying way. He had no fear.
But I did. The markets were full of locals selling different types of seafood; fish, prawns, crabs etc. To my horror they also sold animals; live chickens, cats, puppies etc. I understand that this is the culture over here in Cambodia but I found it quite uncomfortable seeing as I wasn’t used to seeing anything like this. I didn’t fancy staying around this market that we had stumbled upon so we took a nice walk along the Sisowath Quay instead. 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, we walked over and mutually decided to buy two of her finest deep fried spiders. I was hesitant at first but thought it would be an experience none the less. The spiders were sautéed in fresh chilli and garlic which masked the taste, but to me they tasted a little like crackling on Pork. I’m not saying I would choose to have them with my Sunday roast or anything but they weren’t as bad as I expected!
The morning after, we were back to our English roots with a breakfast of bacon and eggs at a local coffee shop. Later, we took our first EVER tuc tuc ride to the Killing Fields, 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 in Phnom Penh 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 were magnificent and it was amazing how they were designed and hand crafted in the first half of the 12th century! Not only was this the scene where one of the Tomb Raider movies was filmed, it was also the place where I split my pants open whilst clambering through some of the walls.
As Angkor Wat is situated a little out of town, we spent the rest of our days in Siem Reap exploring the CBD. I treated myself to a Cambodian foot massage at one of the local businesses in town, and me and James both received a fish pedicure. I LOVE the feeling where you put your feet in the tank and the fish nibble you, James on the other hand squirmed like a child the entire time.
The infamous ‘Pub Street’ was a backpacker hotspot. I imagine like a lot of other backpackers, we met a young Cambodian girl here called Linda. Her English was phenomenal and probably better than mine. She was quite the celebrity in the area and did her best to get all the tourists up dancing and having a good time. She was the life and soul of the street. At just the age of eleven she was selling bracelets her mum made to all the tourists in an attempt to save for her future. She told us she got to keep 40c of every dollar for herself to save for when she was older.
We finished off our time in Siem Reap with a Cambodian cooking class at Le Tigre De Papier. The teachers kindly showed us around the market where they sourced their ingredients, before buying the vegetables we would need for the class. We were given aprons and chefs hats and taught how to prepare, cook, and present some Cambodian specialities. James made some delicious vegetable spring rolls and I cooked a Cambodian chicken curry. Ourselves and the other backpackers in the class all dined together and had a few drinks before going our separate ways.
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