I was reminded this second time in Cambodia of how much i really loved it here. No, the food isn’t as good as Vietnam but it can be! You just have to search harder. Traditional Cambodian food isn’t my fave but i think everyone should try the Khmer Amok dish. Such delicious flavors and can also be a really great vegetarian option.
There is more of a ‘fusion food’ dynamic here that reminded me a lot of our time spent in South Africa. Meaning, the traditional food is harder to find than westernized dishes combined with traditional flavors. Check out my previous blog about two of my favorite restaurants we visited during our time in Siem Reap.
Our last day in Siem Reap was great. We decided to do something that i hadn’t done yet and visit Phnom Kulen (which means Mountain of Lychees) National Park where the Kulen waterfall resides about 55kms outside of the city. This mountain is actually considered a holy place and has special religious significance to Hindu and Buddhism. We love to do things on our own so we did some research and it looked fairly simple to rent a tuk tuk and head there to hike in ourselves. Although, when we started researching costs, the dollars started to add up. A tuk tuk was going to cost us 80$usd just to drive us to the National Park. From there we would have to pay 20$ usd per person to enter. So right off the bat it was going to cost a total of 185$ cnd for all three of us just to step foot in the park. From there we would have to figure out how to hike in and out. It just all seemed so expensive and incredibly difficult.
I ended up finding a great company through TripAdvisor offering day tours to the waterfall that also includes stops at markets, a gorgeous river covered in carvings, a visit to a Pagoda and its world famous reclining Buddha carved into the top of a giant stone. All of this with pickup from your hotel (even our airbnb) for only 35$ cnd per person. So seeing this, we couldn’t pass up on it.
We had a wonderful guide name Cherry who was very informative and answered all of our questions. All the guides share the tours so not only was he knowledgeable about the National Park but i was able to get some answers from him about Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm.
We made a stop at the River of a Thousand Lingas (aka: Kbal Spean) with the entire stone floor of the river carved into. Lingas are symbols of Hindu god Shiva. Although they look like neatly arranged bumps on the river bed floor you will find a carving of the god laying down smiling up at you. Its a very simple walk and a gorgeous one at that. Unfortunately some of the carvings are missing as you know, people generally have to ruin anything good and have completely cut out some of the carvings.
After making a stop at a local market we headed towards a 16th century Buddhist monastery where the famous reclining Buddha lies. You walk 8m high up many sets of stairs and pass locals selling food and other items, bless yourself at the the large Lingas and check out the giant Buddha footprint. The reclining Buddha sits at the top of a very large rock that its entirety was carved out of. With stunning views of the forest surrounding the area its a gorgeous place to witness.
We ended the tour at the waterfall for an incredibly refreshing dip. The water was crisp and a wonderful way to cool down after hiking up those steep steps in the heat and humidity. We got a full hour to enjoy our swim, got to go behind the falling water and hang out in the small caves and try to dodge the sneaky fish nipping at your feet feeding off your dead skin. It was a really wonderful day and all of us were pretty happy with paying for a tour. If you’re a bit more adventurous than us (keep in mind were in our 8th month and probably getting a bit lazy when it comes to sight seeing) it is definitely possible to do a day like this on your own.
Even though being back here for a second time, there is still so much to see in Cambodia. I would love to come back and check out a few more places like Sihanoukville or Battambang as we couldn’t fit those into the small amount of time we had. For those wondering, no we didn’t put Phnom Penh on the list as i have already been there and felt Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek were a bit to hard for me to visit a second time. I did stress to Jesse and Mark that I would go if they absolutely wanted to visit but that id rather not as it was just too incredibly sad to visit more than once in a lifetime. I do encourage anyone to go see these places so that we do not forget about the horrific history that happened in our lifetime which is incredibly heart wrenching to hear and almost surreal. To know that genocide occurred so recently makes me lose a little faith in humanity some days but I know there is a lot of good out there also.
We only spent a couple nights in Bangkok on the famous Khaosan Road. Known mainly for young party goers, bars, pubs, ping pong shows and the best place to get a hand tailored suit made for you for cheap cheap. Unfortunately our first night we ate from a Pad Thai food cart which effected us (one more than the others) pretty bad that night. It left one of us bedridden for the entire day. But that’s the name of the game when you eat from those carts, its like Russian roulette but for food poisoning. So much fun!