I thought this was only a Thailand expression, but it seems to really be a SE Asian expression. Well, the first part, that is. It gets used all the time by locals and the expression is well known and funny enough to find it’s way onto T-Shirts and all other sorts of souvenirs. We saw them everywhere in Thailand, and in Cambodia it’s no different. It’s perfect for today though…. more of Same Same…. But Different.
We wrapped up our final day of temples a little further afield from Siem Reap, with some long tuk-tuk rides in between sites. We saw Banteay Srei, Kbal Spean, Bakong, and Preah Ko. We also visited the landmine museum in between. Briefly, Banteay Srei is known for having the best preserved figures and bas reliefs, and while it wasn’t a huge structure, the carvings were very intricate and worth the visit. Kbal Spean is an interesting site that probably has just as many locals visiting as tourists. It’s at the end of a 1.4 kilometer hike and has carvings into a creekbed as well as on a few rock walls that have water flowing over them (at least, after the rainy season). There’s a large waterfall near the top of the hike, and a lot of locals were having picnics and children were swimming there during our visit. The hike was definitely tougher than it needed to be with the sweltering jungle heat, but it was still a pretty cool place to visit. Next time we’ll bring bathing suits and a picnic lunch! Bakong and Preah Ko were a couple large and pretty temples…. cool to visit and would’ve been downright amazing on day one. After you see enough temples though, it really takes a lot to be impressed. I think I’ve seen enough ancient Khmer temples that I could probably draw up the floor plan for one myself at this point. We also visited the landmine museum that displays thousands of defused landmines and unexploded ordinance that has been cleared around Cambodia. They have displays detailing everything you maybe never wanted to know about landmines: different types and how they kill and injure people, how they’ve been used in Cambodia and elsewhere, how to clear them, and lots of stories of victims (many children). That’s pretty much it for today, and that kind of wraps up our time in Siem Reap as well. Tomorrow we catch an early bus to the capital, Phnom Penh.
We’ve really enjoyed the time in Cambodia so far. It might very well end up being our favorite. We’ll see though, we still haven’t really experienced “big city” Cambodia, we’ll have to reassess in a few days. The people have been just wonderfully nice though, and the countryside is absolutely beautiful. And of course, they have “probably the best temples in the world.” Another thing we’ve really enjoyed, and moreso than we expected, is Cambodian food. The menu at many restaurants here really tells a story of geography and history. There will usually be a Thai section, with all the usual Thai selections and the more “in your face” contrasting flavors of sweet/spicy/salty/sour/bitter. There’s also usually a Vietnamese section, full of more muted and delicately flavored broths and such. You’ll also find a number of French dishes sprinkled into menus, which is interesting and incredibly delicious. Yesterday morning I had a croque-monsieur (fancy pants ham and grilled cheese sandwich) that was easily better than ones I’ve had in NYC, and that was just at a street cafe here for a dollar or two. Oh and coffee…. my god. They really appreciate coffee in Cambodia. We have actually not routinely had real quality brewed coffee anywhere on this trip until Cambodia. Mexico, Russia, India, and Thailand…. all crap instant coffee. The morning coffee here has been a slice of heaven, and probably played a significant role in making our little 4-day temple trekking marathon possible, or at least more pleasant. Now with all this talk about Thai and Vietnamese and French food, I’m leaving out the important part: Khmer (Cambodian) food! Even at restaurants with “Khmer” in their business name, the actual Khmer dishes are often buried behind the other stuff in the menu. They really don’t bombard you with their food…. you almost need to seek it out. And the dishes themselves…. not so easy to just sum up. The word rustic comes to mind. Also, understated. There are many spices and a lot of shared flavors with Thai food, but in general the Khmer dishes don’t seem to be served as spicy as Thai dishes and the contrasts just aren’t there to the same extent. With the number of spices and variety of ingredients of some dishes, I can see some parallels with Indian food, but that’s about the extent of that comparison. Hearty broth’s and stews, stir-fry type dishes, and barbecue are some of the popular Khmer offerings. We had Khmer barbecue a couple times. Today we had it with crocodile and snake as the meat choices. Pretty good and definitely a little different. Our favorites though after several times are Amok with fish for me and beef Lok Lak for Martha.
Here’s a few pics from today. Tomorrow is kind of a “transit day,” so not sure how extensive any update might be.