Sunday, August 16, 2009

Part II: Siem Reap

Siem Reap had a great feeling to it. It was so different from Phnom Penh, Saigon, Seoul, Tokyo, etc. As I sat in my tuk tuk as he drove me to the hotel from the airport, I noticed that the streets were dusty brown, the smell was crisp, and the sky was as blue as ever.

At this point I was already four days into my trip. I was finally feeling comfortable being alone, and I was enjoying the freedom to do things at my own pace. Siem Reap, as a city, is quite small. There are no large buildings, no hustle and bustle, and barely any cars on the road. What made it unique were the tuk tuk drivers lined up along the road, the river that ran down the center of the city, and the cozy pubs and restaurants where the foreigners spent their time. As small as the city was, I felt like I could get lost for hours and never get bored.

Outside the city limits, scattered over a large area of land, are the temples of Angkor. Having been to many places in Asia, I was not sure how Angkor was going to compare. The temples were amazing, as cliche as it may sound, there really is no other way to describe them. Each temple was so different, and I could imagine what life was like hundreds of years ago. Between the information from my guide book and the stories from the local tour guides, it was hard to not have a sense of what life was like. The stones, most which have holes in them, were pulled from the mountains by elephants. They would put bamboo wood in each hole in order for the elephants to pull the massive stones. From here they were sent down the river to the area where they were used for building. Thousands upon thousands of stones were used for each temple and most of these temples took 10-15+ years to build. Some of the temples were still not completed and the tour guides showed areas around the temple which so incomplete carvings, etc.

It's hard to believe that eventually all of these temples were abandoned and left for years and years until a french explorer discovered them a hundred years ago. It makes me wonder what else is out there to be found. Or have we discovered all that was left for us to discover? After these temples were abandoned, some were destroyed while others were left to rot away. The jungle took over and many starting to fall apart as trees and weeds took over. It is all sad, but it made for some beautiful photography.

By the end of the week I was starting to get tired from all the hiking and climbing. It was a rainy Friday morning and I decided to take a Khmer Cooking class. Khmer is the name of the language and food of the Cambodian people. Cooking is really relaxing and it is something that I do not do enough of. When you live alone in a studio apartment there isn't much room for cooking, and I really do not like cooking for myself. The cooking class was made up of four of us. There was Josanna, an American from San Francisco, Jayne, a Canadian French teacher, Caroline, a Canadian who was teaching South Korea, and myself. We were a great group. The morning started at the restaurant (Le Tigre) where we were given the task of deciding what we were going to make. We could choose to make one main course entree and one starter. I chose to make fresh spring rolls with shrimp, and chicken Amok (a curry like dish, but made inside of a banana plant. For desert we decided to make sticky rice with mango. After choosing our meals, we made a pit stop at the fresh market to pick up the necessary ingredients. Back at the kitchen we each had our own cooking stations where we carefully made our meals. After three hours of cooking, we finally were able to eat our meals. It was quite the feast!

Cambodia, overall, was a just what the doctor ordered.


Amanda said...

A friend of mine also just got back from Cambodia and she hated it! I was startled - it remains one of the best trips I ever took.

Geotacs said...

nice post... informative too

thanks for sharing