Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Siem Reap, Cambodia: Snacking, Dining, and Drinking!

For a comparatively small town, Siem Reap offers an amazing range of cuisines and dining venues. The emphasis is on Khmer food, which can be found at restaurants across town, but European and other Asian cuisines are also well represented, including Italian, Thai, German, Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and, of course, French.

Given Cambodia's long relationship with France and France's gastronomic traditions, it is no surprise some of the town’s finest venues offer French cuisine. So explore and enjoy!

Feeling a little crazy, try Estatic Pizza and get the happiest pizza you'll ever eat! They are located Opposite Province Hospital, Near Old Market, Phone: (855 11) 928 531.

The proprietor takes the orders and bakes the pies. A great casual place to relax and enjoy a special little treat... The pizza is made with the finest green leafy substance around and will certainly leave you hungry for more ;)

My tip... order one pizza, extra happy, and then one regular for the road. Otherwise it's just a downward spiral, baby!

Happy Pizza

... and that's certainly not an abundance of oregano!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Mui Ne, Vietnam: Hot Rock Restaurant

So looking at this little make-shift hut, I have to say, my expectations weren't set to high. On the good side, there were several scooters parked out front, which generally indicates that I've found a local hangout (since most of the tourists were far too scared to venture onto a moped). I thought I'd give it a try. What did I have to lose. It was called Hot Rock. But frankly, as long as it's not a franchise restaurant, I am down to try anything...

The Hot Rock Restaurant

Much to my surprise the Hot Rock was a fun little place. Owned by ex-pats who were eager to show you just how the place got the name Hot Rock... they welcome you by laying down some hot rocks (bricks) and a little grill, and then serve you a variety of the freshest seafood, topped with a tiny slab of butter, half wrapped in foil. They do have a menu, but when hitting a place like this I find it much better to just have the waiter/proprietor (which is generally the case in Vietnam) send out their picks.

On this occasion, they served up a ridiculous amount of seafood, and a dipping sauce for each. I had shrimp, scallops, squid, white fish and a variety of unidentified tidbits that made my mouth dance with excitement. I loved the crackling sound as the butter melted and dripped over the sides of the fish and onto the charcoal, which then sent up a puff of smoke and gently flavored my fantastic little treats.

You cook your meal at your pace, and to your liking. Which is always fantastic, I think. A little hands on never hurt anyone. I left the shrimp on long enough to allow it to get blackened, giving it a hearty and smokey flavor that can't be rivaled. The scallops were grilled just long enough to see the grill markings, but not as to not loose the moisture. The squid curled as it cooked, blackening just the tips, giving it an amazing flavor. Try that with a sweet chili sauce, and you're money!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Siem Reap, Cambodia: A Game Plan for Angkor Wat

With such an amazing history and story, it would seems a waste to only "drop by" Angkor Wat. You really need to have a game plan in effect for visiting this site. I explored the temples for two days, and felt like there was still so much that I could have seen and done.

In preparation of the big adventure, I would highly suggest that you contract with a tuk tuk driver for your entire stay in Siem Reap. Not only is it the easiest way to get around, but the drivers are reliable and affordable, and can definitely use the funds to help support their family.


I have set out a two-day schedule for exploring Angkor Wat. However, if you have more time, that is fantastic!

For your first day, get up bright and early and visit Angkor Thom, Bayon, Elephant and Leper King Terrace. Be sure to get there for sunrise, as it is simply gorgeous at Bayon temple. You can either break for lunch at the many tiny restaurants dotting the nearby roads, or better yet, pack a lunch and picnic right there!

In the afternoon, take your time exploring and visiting Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat. Wear those walking shoes and be prepared for a full day!

If you aren't too scared of heights, be sure to climb (very carefully) to the top of Angkor Wat for an outstanding view. There is one hand rail for the 25 foot wide stairs, and since only one person is lucky enough to use it, most just pile up the stairs with reckless abandon. Me? Not so much. I waited it out til all those crazy kids got up there, then proceeded to take the handrail! Much better!

On day two, check out Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Mebon and Pre Rup. Don't miss Angkor Wat's reflection on the lake as the sun begins to set. It makes for a breathtaking view and awe-inspiring photos.

After seeing this amazing site, do your best to give back to the community, be it through making a few purchases at the local shops and restaurants, or simply by tipping your tour guide or driver. They appreciate it more than you will ever know!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Siem Reap, Cambodia: Visiting Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is not one temple, but a complex of many temples at Angkor, Cambodia, built for the King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city.

Unlike most Khmer temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west rather than the east. This has led many to conclude that Suryavarman intended it to serve as his funerary temple.

Afternoon reflections

The outer wall, 1024 by 802 m and 4.5 m high, is surrounded by a 30 m apron of open ground and a moat 190 m wide. Access to the temple is by an earth bank to the east and a sandstone causeway to the west; the latter, the main entrance, is a later addition, possibly replacing a wooden bridge.

A view from the top of the main temple

Bayon Temple

The Bayon Temple was the last state temple to be built at Angkor, and the only Angkorian state temple to be built primarily as a Mahayana Buddhist shrine dedicated to the Buddha, though a great number of minor and local deities were also encompassed as representatives of the various districts and cities of the realm.

The Faces of Bayon Temple

The similarity of the 216 gigantic faces on the temple's towers to other statues of the king has led many scholars to the conclusion that the faces are representations of Jayavarman VII himself. Look for the smiling face at sunrise. It a truly amazing view that will make you smile for years after your visit.

All smiles...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Siem Reap, Cambodia: The History

Siem Reap is a small colonial town just north of Southeast Asia’s largest lake, Tonle Sap. The town itself is charming and delightful to explore, and offers some lovely examples of French colonial architecture though modern developments, mostly in the form of hotels.

It has been a relatively slow demise of the Khmer Rouge, but now that the town is safe again, visitors have used it as a base for visits to Angkor Wat.

Ruins of Angkor

A Bit of History...

From the 9th to the 14th centuries, as Europe was still struggling out of the Dark Ages, the Cambodian Empire of Angkor encompassed most of present-day Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

Reliefs in Angkor

The heart of this empire during its peak in the 12th century was the ancient capital of Angkor Thom (near present day Siem Reap), the site of the world’s largest temple complexes that was only rediscovered in 1861, overgrown by jungle.

Overgrown trees of Angkor

This spectacular city was built over 30 years under the reign of Suryavarman II (1113-1150). The whole area covers 400 sqare kilometers and is brimming with the finest examples of Khmer art and architecture. Within the Angkor Wat compound alone, are over 100 stone monuments and temple edifices, each of which contains countless statues, sculptures and bas reliefs that have weathered extremely well over the last 800 years.

Stone lion statue

To see the whole thing can take several days, as you get delightfully lost in its labyrinthine corridors. The most important temples to visit in the area are Angkor Wat – especially at sunrise and sunset; Angkor Thom, the remains of the capital; Ta Prohm, a palace overgrown by jungle; and Preah Khan, which is also overgrown and in the process of restoration.


I spent much time exploring and lost, walking along winding paths, confused by aware. All the while I was lost, I was not scared, but was enveloped in the moment and appreciating my surroundings. I allowed myself to see things that not every traveler would, and to venture off the beaten path.

Relief in Angkor

Take your time. Explore. Get lost. And find yourself. A visit to this city would never be regretted. Enjoy!

A little lost...

and loving life!