Some of the most interesting times I had during my trip were the times when I just wandered. I really enjoy walking around when I travel because that’s when you actually see the interesting aspects of a place. You can’t meet people and stop at the interesting things from the passenger seat of a car or inside a tour bus. Of course, since most of the tourists tend to take moto-taxi or tuk-tuk, the drivers looked at me with quizzical expressions when I constantly declined their offers. Really, the only time I rode the tuk-tuks were when I headed into town at night for dinner or when I was heading to the temples.
On one day, I decided to take a complete day off from going to the temples and walked to and from the old part of town. On the mornings of the final two days, I went to the open market just down the road from my hotel before heading out for the day. In all these instances, it was great to see the daily goings-on of the people and to interact with them. Despite the horrors that the Cambodian people have been through in the past and the continued poverty of the country, primarily due to rampant corruption, they seem to be some of the happiest and most accommodating people I’ve met.
The market that I wandered through was so amazing that I went back there two mornings in a row. The energy was frenetic but calm at the same time. No one was getting stressed at the press of people, not even me. A far cry from the way the press of HK people makes me feel. The produce as well is some of the best I’ve seen. Most definitely better than what I’ve seen in the “fresh” markets in HK. As the only foreigner wandering through the market, I got a fair amount of curious looks but it’s amazing what a simple smile can do to relax people. I loved the fact that the kids in particular were so unafraid to communicate. It’s a great feeling when a two or three year old kid waves enthusiastically and belts out a hearty “hello” to you as you’re walking past.
Both traditional and international foods are great in Siem Reap. My guidebook had recommended a particular café called the Blue Pumpkin. I went there three days in a row primarily for two things: the mango yoghurt shake and the ice-cold, mentholated hand towels. Both are extremely welcome in the middle of a really hot day. I also went to the one and only Mexican restaurant for lunch one day. Who would have guessed that the best mojito I’ve ever had would be in Cambodia?