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Onto Cambodia

Leaving Bangkok and crossing over to Cambodia, A village in Siem Reap invite us for a traditional Cambodian meal as we relive our childhood with the village children. Dr Fish also pays a visit

sunny 29 °C

We arrive at our next Bangkok hotel and it becomes quickly apparent it’s not as nice as our last hotel, the Chatrium Suites, but then again, there aren’t many that are. We make our way to the foyer where we would meet our Gap Tour group. The noticeboard indicates a group of 9 people including the tour leader. We had used Gap Adventures during part of our South America trip and were impressed by its format. It’s not like your normal tour group where you had a private bus and get led around by a tour ‘guide’. We would be led by a tour ‘leader’ and would use public transport to get around, built more for backpacker than tourist. The difference between a tour leader and guide is that a leader is only there to make sure you get tickets for the bus, a room at a hotel and made suggestions of stuff to do. A tour guide will basically do the same thing but will also wipe your arse. There’s an ongoing debate between travellers on whether the use of tours is ‘real’ travelling but that’s for another blog.

I will try almost anything, except eating brains from a live monkey, apparently a delicacy in some parts of Asia

We meet Rod, our tour leader from Peru and the six others who we’ll be our travel buddies for the next 9 days. Amber and Nick, an English couple from Plymouth are taking 4 months off to travel Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Jenny, another English girl is travelling through Asia and Australia after just completing a month’s internship in China. Tuula is from Switzerland and is taking a 2 week break from the rat race. Last but not least are the German boys, Chris and Fabian, who have not yet arrived from the Airport due to the notorious Bangkok traffic


After introductions, we decide to head to the Suan Lum Night Bazaar to grab some street food. One of the things I love about travelling is eating the local fare. There’s nothing like trying out the local cuisine to immerse your self in the culture. I will try almost anything, except eating brains from a live monkey, apparently a delicacy in some parts of Asia. The temperature is perfect for outdoor dining and we make our way through the food stalls. The seafood looks too good to pass up and some would think us crazy to eat seafood from the street. Sam and I decide on one of our favourite Thai dishes, grilled garlic and pepper snapper. Wash that down with a 60 Baht (USD$2) long neck and you’ve got the start of a great trip.

The van feels like a disco floor on wheels


We get an early start the next morning and are up at 7am. We meet the German boys at the breakfast buffet and I again take on the Fried rice and egg. Sam prepares us lunch by sneaking a few crossiants and slices of bread, one of the tricks you learn when you come across a breakfast buffet, travelling on a budget. We load up the 2 vans that will take us to the Cambodian border, 4 hours away. The van feels like a disco floor on wheels, with coloured roof lights, pimpin’ speakers and you could catch your reflection no matter which way you looked.
We were out of the city limits in less than an hour and into the countryside. I take out my earphones and catch up on some reading. I had picked up George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four back in Australia at Sara and Amo’s. Winston Smith has finally found the fabled brotherhood and things are starting to get interesting.

I start to feel conscious of my Ray Ban sunglasses and large silver headphones

We make it to the Cambodian border where we leave the Disco on wheels and go through customs. The border looks like something out of a movie set. A huge stone arch welcomes us into Cambodia and in the background is a modern style building that turns out to be a casino. As we walk past between the borders of Thailand and Cambodia, you can see the poker machines through the glass windows and sometimes catch the reflection of old men pulling carts with all kinds of goods. The scene would seem ridiculous to the unaccustomed but every border crossings I’d done always seem to be some kind of twilight zone.

DSCN0529.jpgNote the white building in the background that's actually a Casino

We hop onto a local bus and it’s another 3 hours to Siem Reap. Cambodia is the poorest country in South-East Asia and it’s noticeable straight away. The roads are not as developed as Thailand and the poverty is evident, but the children still wave and smile at us as they instantly identify that we are foreign. I start to feel conscious of my Ray Ban sunglasses and large silver headphones but I quickly get over it. Somehow, Asian locals always seem to know I’m a foreigner, no matter how much I try to NOT look like a foreigner. I think it’s my hairstyle, which at times defies gravity.


The roads start to improve as we approach Siem Reap, the second largest city in Cambodia, named after control was regained from the Siamese and translates to Siam Defeated. We know we are close when the number of luxury hotels increase and the signs for Angkor Wat appears, which is just outside of Siem Reap. Before we know it, we are at the hotel and meeting back at the foyer to have a quick walk around the area. ATMs here, main street there, Night markets down that way and Pub Street to your left...Pub Street?

we share around the local brew which taste likes a mix of dessert wine, port and vodka and probably more lethal


Tonight we are invited to a dinner at a local home just outside the city limits. We jump in Tuk Tuks (motorcycle powered rickshaws) and make our way to the village. We head off the main road and onto dirt tracks, going past small villages, children waving and smiling. Reaching our destination, we are greeted by the family hosting the dinner. Small children surround us as we are taken through the village and to a local shop, which is really a table out the front of the house selling bits and pieces. We buy a few of the sweets and homemade biscuits and we share around the local brew which taste likes a mix of dessert wine, port and vodka and probably more lethal. I take the opportunity to take a few snaps of the children, one little girl was just gorgeous. Big brown eyes and hair any teen would kill for.

The kids grow in confidence and start approaching us again seeing that we are near the end of our meal


We head back to the house and prepare for dinner. We are taken to an outside porch, separate from the house which serves as kind of multi-purpose area. The night was perfect for al fresco dining and this porch would serve that purpose, sans table and chairs. We grab a few cans of beers and settle down on the floor. The food slowly comes out, curries, fresh vegetables, stir fry and a delicious Tom Yum Soup I keep going back for. I eat till I can’t eat no more, knowing that such fresh, homemade food like this will be few and far between. The kids grow in confidence and start approaching us again seeing that we are near the end of our meal. They bring with them pencils, paper and large blades of grass which the girls start to make bracelets and head bands to give to us. The boys make paper airplanes and we start to break off into little groups as the kids show off their drawings and practice their English on us. “How old are you?” I ask one kid. He holds up 8 with his two hands and then proceeds to start shadow boxing me. I quickly oblige and hold up my palms for punching mitts. I feel like a kid again, looking around and seeing all these small smiling faces. The kids may be lucky in that they are able to interact and practice their English with visitors like us but I feel much luckier for the experience. I start to think what kids of the same age are doing back in Australia or the US. This is what a childhood should be without all the distractions of modern day life.


Sticking my feet in, I can’t stop giggling as it feels like a dozen midgets tickling my feet


After a few group snapshots, we say our goodbyes and head off back into town. We get off on Pub Street where there are, you guessed it, pubs, bars and restaurants. We wander through the street, eyeing out possible hangouts for tomorrow night. We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow with Angkor Wat and decide to forgo any bars and head for the Night Markets for a quick look. Sam and I decide to check out this Dr Fish shennanigans. There are quite a few Dr Fish set ups in town but we decide to go with the one in the Market, which comes with a free beer for only $2. It is basically a tub full of small fish that nibble on your feet to eat and remove dead skin. It sounds kind of gross and it basically is, but when in Rome...Sticking my feet in, I can’t stop giggling as it feels like a dozen midgets tickling my feet. I can only stand it for 10 seconds before I quickly remove my feet to get some relief. After a few more go’s, I manage to keep my feet in for good and I let Dr Fish(s) do their magic. Ten minutes and a beer later, I’m done but I feel like I’m walking on air. Not sure if it worked but it’s good to know I fed some fish.


We walk back to the hotel for an early night as it would be an absolute tragedy to sleep in and miss the famed sunrise at Angkor Wat.

Dr Fish does it's stuff

Posted by Al Jam 20:05 Archived in Cambodia Tagged fish cambodia thailand bangkok reap siem dr

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