Finally, my big work season is drawing to a close so hoping to catch up on some of my travel stories… today we are going back to Cambodia!
Since I wasn’t sure the state of my health my first full day in Cambodia – and I was really weary from dragging all my bags around while I was sick – I postponed my first Angkor Wat day to Monday and spent Sunday exploring the town.
There are streetlights in Bangkok these days so the chance of getting hit by a bus, tuk-tuk, motorbike, etc have reduced substantially. But if you want that thrill every time you cross the street, you will love Siem Reap J
The real challenge is that there are various forms of traffic going at different speeds all operating in the same theatre with no street lights… the positive part is that the streets are a lot smaller than the ones I crossed in Bangkok in 1991 in the same scenario.
When you grow up as a spoiled first world child of the universe, crossing six lanes of traffic going at totally different speeds feels like you have been airlifted into an action film or a video game – except that the traffic is real! And you WILL be at least maimed if you screw up! But at some point you have to take your toes off the sidewalk or you will never get anywhere… after many minutes of immobilization in Thailand, I finally decided the safest strategy was to wait for the locals to make a move and then tuck in behind them as close as possible…
I DO think traffic lights, stop signs and driver training IS a wonderful thing and really does reduce fatalities, but you can’t change the world order as a tourist so you just need to learn how to survive 😉
What is the most challenging for those of us with red lights and traffic rules is that the best approach is often to be bold. You walk into the traffic like you mean it and you are not planning to stop. Traffic in many countries is something between a symphony and a jazz riff… there is a flow and a rhythm and, if you follow it, the traffic will flow around you – but if you panic and break the flow you might just get plowed down so panic and second-guessing are your best chance to end up in hospital… of course, I normally just try to find a gap and gallop across as fast as I can… as long as you don’t trip, it works too 😉
In between my galloping I did also manage to see some stuff that only required me to take off my shoes or open my wallet.
I think normal tourists just hire a tuk-tuk to take them from the hotel to the attractions or the entertainment district but I always like to walk. It gives you a feel for the place and you really get to know your way around so the chance of getting lost in the dark on some evening adventure is greatly reduced.
Siem Reap is pretty tiny so I just headed to the main street next to the river and followed the signs to the Old Market. The first thing that caught my attention was Preah Prohm Rath Monastery, the oldest in Siem Reap I learned (over 500 years old).
Asians are not minimalists so it was decorated in a riot of colours and textures with lots of allegory. I don’t know what all the panels mean but very interesting to check out. Will have to learn the symbolism at some point…
I then kept walking – and dodging traffic – until I got to the Old Market. It’s a mix of traditional market, souvenir shops, bars and restaurants, including the famous Pub Street.
I began buying for my new scarf shop 😉 Cambodian silk is wonderful and there are lots of different styles and textures to choose from. And tons of colour! So it is very hard to resist, especially when the prices are so low. Just helping to support the Cambodian economy 🙂 Definitely had to sit on my suitcase to fit in all my purchases. There are lots of hand-made crafts to tempt the tourists.
Before I went back to the sanctuary of Shinta Mani, I had some lunch on Pub Street. Fish amok, a Cambodian specialty. All the food I had was uniformly good. It’s definitely a great place if you like fish.
It’s also a dream destination if you love local crafts… just remember to bring a really big suitcase 😉