Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Siem Reap Foods

Pictures of some of the food I had in Siem Reap. Angkor Wat will be my next post, promise.

This is the first restaurant I ate at in Siem Reap. I chose it because the name of the place was Khmer Family Restaurant. I figured they would have some traditional Khmer foods to try.

Shrimp, yummy.

This was a collection of Khmer curries. Some were spicy and most of them had coconut flavoring. Of course there is some rice that comes along with it.

Veggie and Curry Soup.... I'm not sure what the veggie is called but in Chinese it's called Kong Xing Tsai.

I know the picture is hard to see, but here's a picture of part of the menu at another restaurant. These are the prices for some Cambodian BBQ. The prices are in US Dollars, remember, in Cambodia US Dollars are used and Cambodian Dollars are used for anything less than $1 USD.

Prices of wood fried Pizza in US Dollars.

Wood fired Pizza, I don't remember the price anymore but as you can see from the menu it was probably under $6 USD.

Tomato and Pork with Rice.

Ready for some Crocodile BBQ?

Here it is! I was apparently so pathetic trying to bbq it myself one of the waitresses came over to do it for me. Crocodile is pretty tough meat and it tastes like pork!

Car Insurance

Getting ready to go can be a big pain. There's a ton you need to take care of before you go. While web surfing I came across a handy tip for how to deal with your car insurance.

If you ask your car insurance to suspend your policy they will tell you that they cannot do so. You need to cancel your policy, but getting back on is no problem, you'll just pay higher rates. Because of this I paid my car insurance in full and took off. What a waste of money. This is what you should do instead:

"Don't ask to suspend the whole policy, ask them to put your car in a non-drivable classification. This would be the same as what you would do if you were going overseas for several months or if you're car was going to need extensive work and was currently un-drivable. My insurance company has done this for me on several occasions including during a multi-month stint in Europe. They only charge something like $5/month when it's in that 'mode'. That way you're policy is still in effect, but you basically have no cars you are driving on it."
This quote is by UncleOxidant, from this link.

I wish I knew about this before I left.

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Hostel and Random Pictures

I stayed at The Siem Reap Hostel. I would highly recommend them. They were clean, affordable, safe, and took care of all my transportation needs, including my tuk tuk to Angkor Wat. They charge fair prices, there is no negotiations so you will not get ripped off. The people working here were all really nice and very honest. I tried to pay in advance for my ride to Angkor and the driver said with a smile he couldn't take it in case he ran off with the money, instead he said pay after the trip. Apparently it's not uncommon for random tuk tuk drivers tourists hire to strand their clients if they receive money before hand. The tuk tuk drivers were all employed by the hostel so there were no worries about that, but they had their policies to follow.
My tuk tuk driver.

My room.

The Temple outside my room.

Lounge and TV.

Pool Table.

The view on the street outside my hostel.

Some pictures along the road:

A Korean Restaurant. Yep, you can get Korean BBQ in Cambodia! Actually much of the money coming into Cambodia for development is from South Korea.

Kids playing along the road.

River by the town sqaure.

Angkor Beer

Danger Mines!!! Cambodia

I watched the 2008 US Elections from Siem Reap

I was in Cambodia just before the US Election. Leading up to the election almost everyone asked me who I was going to vote for. Almost everyone favored Obama.

The first thing my Tuk Tuk driver from the airport asked was who are you voting for? This is of course after the "no I'm not Chinese" conversation I had a thousand times on my trip. Even though Siem Reap is a sleepy little town there were signs of Obamamania. It's probably more from UN workers than the locals. The locals did care, but some are just so poor that the American Presidency makes no difference to them. Others just want America to be less evil again. =) People I ran into still look up to America, they want to believe it is a shining beacon of hope, of liberty, of freedom, but most of all I think they want to believe that if you tried you could make it in America. They also think you'll automatically have a big car and big house. =) That's probably because these people are poor and having a nice car, home, and food is a big luxury. There just seemed like so little opportunity to work, to improve one's situation in Siem Reap.

On the day of the election I woke up early to go to Angkor Wat. As amazing as the temples of Angkor were, in the back of my head I kept wondering how the election was going. Once I was done at Angkor I rushed back to my hostel, hopped on the internet and turned the TV on to cnn. By that point the victor was already declared, it was Obama. I was ecstatic at that moment (I hate Bush/Cheney). It's the happiest I've ever been for a presidential election in my life. It's also the first time I've ever voted for the winning President! While I don't think he will be able or willing to reverse all of the Bush/Cheney policies I don't like, I do think he's the least evil of all the candidates. He has also done a good job in uniting the nation and inspiring every day Americans. I would say that Americans need that out of their president right now, just like many say Gerald Ford's integrity made him he right guy after watergate. I have never seen a president like that in my lifetime, only in the history books. Yeah, so I'm glad he won, but nothing's changed yet. We'll see, I mean we're hopeful right now.

A couple of Obamamania Pictures in Siem Reap:
Look at this sign posted in the Market/Restaurant area: Americans Abroad for Obama.

On election day there were Cambodian bar girls standing outside with Obama shirts.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Siem Reap

After Bangkok it was off to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Siem Reap is a sleepy little town that now pretty much exists due to its proximity to Angkok Wat, the mother of all temples. If you're looking for a place where cows still seem to do the majority of hard farm labor and are herded around the town by farms on the road while a few Lexus SUVs, German luxury cars and tourists on tuk tuks drive by amongst a sea of bikes and scooters then Siem Reap is for you.

Roads in Siem Reap.

A Lexus SUV.

Tons of scooters.

Another Lexus SUV.

Transporting people and supplies.
Cows by the road.

Oh and by the way, pretty much everyone speaks English. The children speak basically perfect English due to all the UN Aid teachers. Many adults speak English too, if they can't their children will help them out.

There's a market place at the town square that sells counterfeit software, clothing, backpacks, etc. There are also peddlers riding around town selling travel books from lonely planet, national geographic, and rough guide. It's actually cheaper to buy it from them than in bookstores and basically all neighboring countries. Another thing, it was really easy for me to gauge how much things were since US Dollars are used in Cambodia! It was really weird to me, but due to the extremely low value of Cambodian Currency US Dollars have been adopted. You get US Dollars from ATM machines! The Cambodia Currency is used in place of cents.

Market Area

Inside Market

Clothes being sold at market, lots of counterfeits

Jewelry being sold at the market... they accept Visa and Mastercard (bottom right corner)

Software for sale ... $2-$4 USD, DVDs - entire seasons of TV shows for $10. DVD Movies like Kung Fu Panda and Ironman for $4 (not out on DVD in the states at this time). You can bargain too.

Pirate Windows 3.1, Windows 9x, Windows NT, Window 2K, Windows XP, and Vista for $4 on 1 CD!

Van Damm UFC??? Huh?

Many of the people peddling wares around on bikes or motor cycles are land mine victims. They ride around the town with a sign informing you that they are land mine victims (but you can usually tell my looking at them, you know, missing limbs give it away) and that they are not begging but doing their best to work. None of these people bothered me or any other tourists as far as I saw. They were indeed trying to work. The conditions in Siem Reap are hard, there is little in the way of opportunity and it would be easy to beg, especially if you're crippled; but these people did not (at least none in town -- Angkor Wat is a different story). I have to say I admire their pride.

There is a small row of restaurants that obviously cater to westerners. The food there isn't the cheapest in town but it's still quite cheap compared to back home. It's good too!

Restaurants. If you click to enlarge you'll see a Mexican food restaurant of all things in Cambodia.

Kamasutra? Fine Indian? I bet. I didn't try their food so I'll just have to assume it is.

Cheaper street vendor restaurants.

You can also get a traditional foot massage for $6. Please note that like thai massages, the traditional Cambodian massage hurts. It's hard and they dig deep into your tissues. I like this though because I feel it's very effective and after many weeks of walking it really recharges your feet right afterwards. I felt ready to walk everywhere again right away. I don't think tips are expected but I gave my masseuse $3 and I think she seemed pretty happy with it... it may not seem like much that was 50% of the massage. I don't think that $1 USD is like 20 to them (as many backpackers seem to think), but a few dollars seem to go a long way for them.

I only stayed in Siem Reap for 3 days since my gf came along with me for this part of my trip and she was on a tight schedule (never mix a scheduled and a no schedule trip). I really loved my time here and wish I could have stayed longer, but it's not all wonderful. The government in Cambodia is one of the most corrupt in the world, there's money coming in but it doesn't reach the masses. There are also still live land mines in the country so you cannot stray off any trails. I booked with a wonderful hostel that took care of my transportation and tuk tuk to Angkor Wat (the reason why people come to Siem Reap). Because of this I never had to deal with negotiations. One backpacker I met in Singapore told me he had the worst time in Cambodia and never wanted to go back. He traveled overland from Thailand to Siem Reap and told me the Cambodians knew he would be stranded if he didn't buy transportation from him so they jacked the price up on him and pretty much ripped him off at every turn to his face without even trying to hide it.

I'll be making a few more short posts on Siem Reap, you know, food, the 2008 Elections (I was in Siem Reap during the elections), and my hostel. Then I'll get to the good stuff, Angkor Wat, the mother of all Temples and the pride of Cambodia. Angkor was one of the top highlights of my entire trip. If you ever get the chance to go I would recommend it without hesitation, the temples are amazing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bangkok Foods

Here are some of the foods I ate while in Bangkok.
Also check out my post on Somboon for more of the food I ate in Bangkok.

Chicken wrapped in Banana Leaves


Spicy Curry

Chicken Fried Rice.... it's a fried drumstick with fried rice

This spicy soup was really cheap. It was in a small eatery where there were no tourists. I think it was $1 USD.
More cheap food, this time fried chicken on rice. Again about $1 USD.

Same deal, cheap yummy food. Fried egg on top of fried chicken and rice. Between $1-$2 USD.

Pineapple Fried Rice, one of my favorite Thai dishes. This seems to only be sold at places with lots of foreigners. Hmmm.....


Ice Cream!

A really yummy crushed ice and condensed milk dessert with raspberries on top.

Crushed ice, condensed milk and kit kats!