As you travel through Southeast Asia, everything starts to blend together into one big stir-fry. On our way to the hotel as we weaved in and out of traffic in the tuk-tuk trying to avoid collisions at the intersections where nobody stops, we got a feel for the place right away. The people seem extremely nice, warm-hearted and like our other stops in Southeast Asia, have good family values and a good sense of community. The children have big smiles on their faces and love to run around with the “clothing optional” mindset that you might find on South Beach in Miami. Just like Bali, Malaysia and Thailand there aren’t grocery stores, but instead food stalls or little outdoor markets selling fruits and vegetables, or women selling homemade rice dishes, and I love it. Our first experience with food actually came in the form of Indian at a wonderful restaurant called Dakshin’s in downtown Siem Reap. The owner was an Indian man born in Singapore who has lived in Cambodia for a long time and his restaurant puts out some good food. We even enjoyed our first glasses of red wine since leaving Australia and the Chilean wine did not disappoint. I don’t know if it was really as good as I thought or if it had been so long since I had wine that anything would have tasted good. We were in heaven. I can’t wait to taste the local Cambodian food, get to know more of these people, learn about their culture and what sets it apart from the other countries that we’ve visited. So far so good, except for the HEAT!
When we got off the plane in Siem Reap I immediately noticed a big difference, the air. It smelled different from the other countries we had visited in South East Asia. It had a clean, almost tropical smell to it. We were picked up from the airport by our friendly hotel Tuk-Tuk driver and whisked through the city to our small hotel, The Areca Angkor. The drive was great and we spotted lots of smiling faces and children waving to us as we drove by. We were welcomed to our hotel with some juice and much appreciated cold towels. The town of Siem Reap reminded me a little of Bali with people wanting you to buy a scarf, massage or tuk-tuk ride! The people weren’t pushy or rude though and mostly happy. The level of English here seems to be higher than in Thailand, which surprised me, but was a welcome change. There seems to be so much to do and see here, not just the temples of Angkor Wat, but much more. That mixed with some great food choices may make our stop here longer than we first thought! I am excited to see what this wonderful country has to offer.