Life, Love, Travel & the Pursuit of Fast Friendships (Siem Reap, Cambodia)

Travel really for me is about who I meet and interact with as much as what I see or do.   At this point, it is probably even more important because it is what makes my memories so great.  I am a people person in general but traveling allows me to connect even more rapidly and deeply with people. 

I originally was supposed to meet a friend in Siem Reap but she changes plans on me while I am en route to Asia and I had already purchased these plane tickets. It’s not too big of a deal since I am obviously used to traveling solo and it works out beautifully as I end up connecting with some amazing people.

WHAT I DID:
I am like many others who travel to Siem Reap with the main aim to see the Angkor temples. Here are some of my favorite shots I took ~ an in-depth post about my visit to the temples to come The Khmer temples are stunning, fascinating, enchanting.  They can be challenging with how crowded the sites get and how hot and humid the weather is but they are definitely worth the effort.   I enjoy cooking as much as I do eating and decide I want to try my hand at some Cambodian dishes.  So my new friend and I head to Le Tigre de Papier (TL) for a lesson.  I am very happy to find out that each person chooses which appetizer and entree from the menu to learn to prepare.  Samann is our informative and competent instructor for the day and we head off to the market to pick up ingredients for the meals (TM). TR: Seafood BL: Rice varieties BR: Spices and curry mixes but we will be preparing ours by hand   TL: Our classmates and the results from our hardwork  TR: E and I had just met hours prior ML: Old fashioned way of creating my Khmer Amok curry with a mortar and pestle and lots of arm strength MR: Tumeric, lemongrass, garlic and galangal chopped and ready to be pulverized into my amok paste BL: My seafood amok with rice (very tasty!) BR: Green mango salad and notice the presentation of both dishes.  It was a fun and delicious way to spend the afternoon!
  TL & TR: The bridges over the river are lit up at night ML & MR: The variety of food vendors BL & BR: Pub street at night – reminded me of Bourbon street in NOLA. I didn’t take any pictures of the night market but worth a visit.  Sometimes traveling as a solo woman especially when you are Asian and look rather young in places of sexual exploitation is just not fun and this night was especially frustrating and I was trying to not attract any more attention to myself.

WHAT I ATE:I don’t just want to travel the world, I want to be a responsible global citizen and I know that one of the most important things that I can do is choose where I spend my money.  I was really excited when R told me about this place so of course, I would go with him to dinner!  From their own website about what they do: “HAVEN is a non-religious social enterprise and a training restaurant for vulnerable young adults from orphanages* and safe shelters, as well as underprivileged young adults from very rural poor areas. By teaching these young people quality work skills as well as important life skills, we support thesm in their transition from institution to real world as well as giving them a chance to step out of the poverty cycle.” BR: Misson perfectly summed up on the placemats  TL: Lovely outdoor dining space TR: Restaurant sign  ML: Fried egg noodles with chicken – one of the best noodles dishes I have ever had  MR: Khmer Amok Fish with Rice and Banana Flower Salad BL: Enjoying a lovely meal with great company that serves a greater cause – only wish that we hadn’t run out of time and could have eaten dessert there.  So if you are in Siem Reap, please go visit this restaurant!    TL: Golden monkey ~ a harbinger of things to come for me in a few ways: Great food and amazing, fresh fruit smoothies and everyone interested in my nationality/ethnicity  TR: One my many smoothies from the street – incredible, ripe fruit and only $1.00!  (Conveniently USD as well as Cambodian Riel are taken)  ML: I love street food and this was my delectable chocolate banana pancake ~ also only $1.00  MR:  E took me to this cute coffee shop with a tasty iced latte but I was blown away by  my Mango+Lychee+Lime smoothie.  I only wish I would have had a chance to have another one!  BL: Our driver took J and me to an overpriced, Western tourist trap for breakfast and we decided to go across the parking lot and have breakfast where the locals were eating and I had this grilled pork and rice plate for breakfast ~ $1.50! BR: For only $2.50 you can have rolled ice cream customized made and prepared right in front on you – it was a rough night and I started eating it right after it was made

HOW I GOT AROUND:  Of course, I walked a lot around the town but to get to the temples and anywhere long distance, I used tuk tuks.  My hostel actually provided free transport from the airport and I ended up using the same driver to see all the temples.  A cheap, fun way to get around and the open construct of the vehicle really immerses you in the surroundings – whether in nature or in traffic

THE ACCOMODATIONS: 

I know that there is a large segment of people who are still curious about the whole hostel thing and also included in this post because I really like this particular hostel.  Remember the whole you can make a difference where you spend your money bit?  The Siem Reap Hostel is another place I feel great about spending my money.  They pay their employees way over average, have paid maternity and paternity leave!, offer educational and vocational training among lots of other things and they are aiming to become more green.  TL: Oh and there’s a pool and it’s refreshing and fun place to hang out while conveniently the hostel bar is nearby  TR: The hostel employs 21 drivers and it’s nice that they have set prices (for all parties involved) and that they don’t charge commissions from the drivers (and they provide free transportation to/from the airport when my fancy hotel doesn’t).  B: And my room has quite the picturesque balcony area.

For me ~ Hostel Pros: amazing place to connect with like minded travelers especially when you are traveling solo and cost effective.  Hostel Cons: sleep quality and quantity really suffer    So sometimes I just want a little luxury and especially when I am traveling for months.  This is where my making my money work for me really pays off ~ love my SPG points I accumulated with my SPG AMEX (another post in the works about this) and I know that the Le Meridien Angkor is one of the best deals in the system for point redemption. And the goodies – it really is such a great experience provided at Le Meridien.  An absolutely perfect way to top off my experience in Siem Reap ~ everything but the eclair was complimentary and the service was quite high
I end up spending just a few minutes or hours in some cases with people but time isn’t what defines our relationship.  We are connected to each other by the experiences shared and the talks had and the laughs/fun experienced.  And because of my German, American, Australian, Belgian, British and Cambodian friends, my over too quickly days in Siem Reap were colored even more vibrantly.  Thank you.

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