Tuesday, June 16, 2009

First glance of Cambodia

First, let me say that we are sitting in an internet in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and don't have our picture reader, so no pics until later (pics added obviously).

Just to back track a bit, Dave and I met Yvonne (my friend from work) and her husband Boon Keng for dinner last night. They took us to a really nice restaurant named Jumbo near the stadium. It was a beautiful night out, so we were able to get a table right on the river. That's the life.

Thankfully, Yvonne did the ordering, and she did it right. We started out with crispy squid which was delicious. Had the fried texture, but very different from calamari (had a brown sauce not unlike crispy beef at a chinese restaurant). Then they brought over cereal prawns which are full prawns (head and all) covered in cereal. Of course, they kept having to point out to Dave and I which end was the head and which the tail. Even ate the shell for parts of it. Had some fried rice with salted shrimp pieces, greens (which may have been the best I ever had) and then the finale and the Singaporean delight - Chili Crab. Absolutely divine! Came with buns to dip in the sauce and was just fantastic. Of course we had to wear the bibs and they definitely came in handy.

Yvonne kept telling us not to worry about finishing it all. Of course we did though! Had some great conversation after, went for a beer next door, left our Amex at the restaurant and then headed home. After all, we had to leave The Palace at 4 am then next morning for our 6 am flight to Siem Reap.

Overall we loved Singapore. Great food, nice people, interesting and beautiful country. It did get a little hot, but I'm sure we'll be missing the temperature when we hit Vietnam!

Got to the airport this morning in our speedy gonzalez taxi (as Dave described earlier) for an uneventful flight. As we landed, the sun was rising and was absolutely gorgeous. The land was beautiful. Bright green and lush (Liz, like the word?) with palm trees and rice paddies. Made it through customs (Liz, this is the way to get into Cambodia. Airport Visa application took 5 minutes and no crazy motorcycle guys). The hotel sent a driver for us and little did we know, we started walking towards a tuk tuk which was a cart being pulled by a motorcycle. What a fun ride! Took around 20 minutes and gave us a nice little view of the "suburbs". Things are definitely developing here. You can see lots of poverty and extremely thin cows but there are also massive resorts being built everywhere!

Our hotel, the Two Dragons, is perfect. It's a guesthouse around a 10 minute walk from the city center (or a $1 tuk tuk ride). Our room has air conditioning and its own bathroom, which consists of a toilet and a shower head. Fun Fun. After all this time worrying about wearing shower shoes into the bathroom, they informed us that we have to take our shoes off at the door. So much for our attempts at hygiene!

We headed to the restaurant out front for breakfast. I had scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and coffee for $2.50. Dave had Vietnamese coffee and the best cinnamon chocolate chip pancakes for $2.50. Starting to really like this place. After, we applied lots of bug lotion (already seen a few mosquitos) suntan lotion and headed out for the town. Very interesting items for sale and of course we didn't make it past the first set of stalls without already buying a handcarved candle set and a purse. Then it got interesting. There are kids begging EVERYWHERE! One girl started talking to me and when I said I wasn't buying, she said, ok, if you see me again, then you buy. So I agreed. She was very smart and recited everything about the US to me. Capitals, locations, neighbors... She also gave me a picture she drew with a poem on the back. Very nice. Then we went into a pharmacy and found a boy hobbling on one leg with a crutch who asked us to buy him some formula. We said no, no... then he said to Dave, "C'mon, Look at me" we made the purchase. The books inform us"that if you want to do something to help, buy the kids food. He looked around 10 and after a short discussion about where we were from and a beautiful smile from him, he informed me he was 15. Very heartbreaking, but they all have a smile here.

So, we kept on walking amidst the multiple requests from the tuk tuk drivers, only to meet up with my friend Liz again. Of course, after promising to buy something last time, I walked away with a set of wooden bracelets and a little boy following us saying "you buy from a girl, now from a boy". Then he started talking to another girl in Khmer and all of a sudden, she knew my name, she was Liz too and she had given me the picture before, not the other girl. I'm pretty confident that I bought from the right girl, but just shows you how relentless and desperate they are here. It started raining a bit and so we ducked into a book shop to escape the 3 kids following us. Worked and now we're here. Going to go grab lunch and maybe a massage (1 hour for $4/5). Decided to go see the sunset over the temples tonight and then meeting a guide at 5 am tomorrow to start touring Angkor Wat. We're both really excited, but we'll be back to type more later.

I need to note that I didn't participate much in the writing of the post. I find this place to be draining- I like vacationing at Myrtle Beach and Las Vegas, not one of the poorest countries in the world (seriously- with one of the highest $/min rate for electricity, how will they ever not be poor). The kids are very draining and it sucks to have to say no. I checked the x-ray machine at the airport, and I am not made of money. So, for the next 6 days we will say no to most, and then most likely do this again in Laos. Oh what fun. We will obviously help where we can, but we, like the poor kids, have no jobs!


  1. Hey you two!

    So what can I say, this blog is great, and the trip sounds amazing! I was at the Jersey Shore this weekend, and it sounds very much like your trip to Cambodia, but that is a story for another time.

    David, Happy 30th Birthday, I understand I am a little late, but what goes around comes around ;) And honestly, since I can safely say I've known you half my life, do you really want to be constantly reminded of that?

    Well, it sounds like Carrie and you are having a great time, I look forward to the stories and slide shows when you return. A trip to Boston is definitely in order.

    Take care, Happy Birthday Dave, we will celebrate it and your return soon enough.

    ~ Mike

  2. Another great description of food. You two should write a food guide of South East Asia.
    How will you ever be satisfied with brisket and noodle pudding again.
    It must be heartbreaking to see the children. I like the idea of buying food for them if possible. Have you been handing out the dollars?
    Continue to write down your impressions. It is wonderful for us, and will be a great diary for you.

  3. Hey guys! Sounds like all is well. I love this blog especially because I know you are safe. :)

    Children begging is always difficult. However, you do what you can to help and then try to find some positives out of the situation. I remember the same thing happening to me in Rome (a little less relentless) and one thing it did do was reinforce how blessed we are. And just think of all the culture you guys are taking in. Seeing the socioeconomic and other differences in these parts of the world is a great experience to have. Now you can look at an episode of "MTVs - Super Sweet 16" and be even more disgusted than you previoiusly were. :)

    Oh and after this, you guys should definitely get a show on the Travel Network describing food in varying parts of Asia.

    Keep em' coming! David and I miss you guys!