Virtual meanderings

Siem Reap Random Fragments

I decided to call this post on Siem Reap and Cambodia “Fragments”.

Gary Larson's Cartoon Far Side

Courtesy: the Far Side


            A quote attributed to U.S. musician Frank Zappa – “You can’t be a Real Country unless you have a beer and an airline – it helps if you have some kind of a football team or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer”.

Angkor Beer

Angkor Beer

Angkor Beer – check!


            In a similar vein. What do you need to have in order to be a Real Tourist place? A National Museum and an International Hospital for tourists, right? At the very least – Angkor National Museum at Siem Reap.

            Visited it on the last day of my stay and spent a good three hours there. Museum featured seven thematically organized exhibition halls devoted to different aspects of Khmer heritage and history. Hinduist (e.g. Angkor Wat) origins, short flirtation with Mahayana Buddhism (Ankhor Thom), fights with the neighboring empires, hall of the thousand Buddhas to remind of the  Theravada tradition…

           A suspicion: most artifacts ended in the museum after first being hacked off and stolen, then hidden and sold off –eventually ending back in the hands of the government. Might be wrong, though.


 Siem Reap Angkor National Museum Artefact Daemon - Siem Reap Angkor National Museum Artefact

Angkor Thom Main Gate

Angkor Thom Main Gate Passageway

..and tails..

          In the last hall of the museum on a huge screen you can watch a video of the sun rising above Angkor. Every twenty minutes or so. By the way, the International Hospital is just a couple of hundred meters away.


          Next to the hotel was a bike rental. Rent a bike for the afternoon – priceless (ok, $2).  An afternoon of biking in Siem Reap and the surrounding countryside – priceless. Not much motorized transport in Siem Reap – mostly scooters and tuk-tuks.

          Headed out of town following National Route 6 (the highway going to the Thai border). Once out of town traffic disappeared and we did not need to breathe burnt gasoline and listen to noisy scooters. Soon passed by the airport and made a turn to the right. We saw a road sign “Ankgor Wat”, and decided to bike all the way to there.

Look, Ma. No traffic.

Look, Ma. No traffic.


         While biking: a young woman selling melons on the road side; a house nearby – the only one in the vicinity. Four young kids playing around the woman – probably her own. While choosing a melon and chatting with her, three more kinds came out and joined the rest, looking at me with curiosity. So did I – at the sight of all seven at them.

Melons (not water-melons)

Melons (not water-melons)


    While biking: along the road we occasionally passed by new houses made of brick and mortar (the common rural house in Cambodia is very simple and made of bamboo). Kara – “In Thailand such houses are often gifts from the Western husband to the parents of his Thai bride.” Conversation naturally moves towards international marriages.

        Me: Is it better for a ‘Western’ man to give up on finding a match from his own cultural space and rather marry someone who hardly speaks their language and would “love” them just as she would “love” any other Westerner offering a decent standard of living?

        Kara: Is it better for a local woman to marry a local man that would get drunk all the time and not even have a job, yet will make her eight kids or a Westerner, who would take good care of her?

         Me: …and cheat on her with other young Asian women when he gets bored of the routine in the relationship?

         Eternal questions, indeed. But what about love, huh? Here’s about love – in a comment thread from the classic site, which I believe I already linked to in an earlier post.


            In our first evening in Siem Reap we went on foot from the hotel to the so-called Pub Street where the nightlife and the diners were.

            Pub street – restaurants, Khmer food, Indian food, pizza places, bars, pirated DVDs, ice-cream places charging Western prices, Western tourists, tuk-tuk drivers, massage parlors, crowds. Pub Street compared to Bangkok’s Khao San Road – a very young and shy niece next to an old…hm… Seven dishes of Khmer food + beer – $10. Seven dishes might sound a lot but it is seven small cups on a single plate. More like getting a taste for Khmer food rather than feasting on Khmer food. No idea whether “traditional” dishes were adapted to European tastes, but they tasted much more familiar compared to Thailand. Many bars, and all of them likely owned by foreigners (British and Australians). Free Wi-Fi every-single-where. Siem Reap – definitely the place with the greatest number of WI-FI hotspots in all of South-East Asia.


            Mentioned in an earlier post – an International All-You-Can-Eat buffet with Khmer dancing. Huge variety of food (well, not as huge as I’d seen in Thailand, but comparable…) and tasty, too. Half-way through the dinner, Khmer dancers come on the stage and perform under live traditional music. Note: movements in traditional Khmer dance are very slow.

Traditional Khmer Dancers in Siem Reap

Traditional Khmer Dancers

… and all the singer ladies (who deserve half of the credit, but never get even 1% of it)

Khmer singers

The Khmer singers

 Wanna know more? Wikipedia’s Khmer_dancer


A final addition to the post – a note at the  Angkor National Museum at Siem Reap – for true connoisseurs. Quote: “The king Jayavarman V condemned both culprits by the mutilation of their hands and lips. The condemnation did not discourage the desire of the domains of Sahdeva. Some years later, five other people took the land again. Then the king Jayaviravarman compelled them by pressing of the head…” Those were times when men were men…whatever pressing of the head actually means.

Angkor National Museum Text

You just read my last post on Cambodia. Next country: Lao PDR!

Lao PDR Emblem


2 responses to “Siem Reap Random Fragments

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