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  • Writer's picturewanderingmiles

Hungry in Siem Reap? No problem.

Updated: May 4, 2020

So when we arrived in Siem Reap it was as if we had left the Cambodia we had gotten used to over the last 2 and a half weeks and gone somewhere completely new. I absolutely loved it but it is not a true representation of Cambodia (I know I’ve only been here 3 weeks but I think I’ve seen enough to make this observation). Very much like going to London does not represent the whole of the UK, a lot of people who have been to Cambodia will think of Siem Reap, and to be honest, I get it. It is amazing how one massive historical attraction, can build up a town to be as thriving as Siem Reap was. It is completely different to anywhere I went to in the Philippines so is my first experience of a property South East Asian tourist hotspot. Our hotel was about an 8 minute walk to the main street which was quite nice as we were within walking distance of everywhere we wanted to go and eat and see in the centre. During our week off we have taken to using lonely planet for eating recommendations and boy did it not fail. In keeping with us not wanting too much Cambodian food before it’s all we eat for 3 months, we fancied an Italian on the night we got there. So we searched google and found one 5 minutes from our hotel called Mamma Shop. Lonely planet also recommended it so off we went. It was incredible. We got some warm focachia bread whilst we waited for our meals which, being the first proper bread (other than brioche) that we’d seen since we arrived, it was gone in minutes. I decided to try my first Gnocci meal because the food looked so good – 3 cheese Gnocci with a tomato sauce. It was delicious. And the meal plus a drink (diet coke of course) came to $9, so I then set a $10 budget and no more for each meal in Siem Reap. The extremely sad thing about this place was that it was then shut for the rest of our time in Siem Reap for Pchum Ben so we only had it that one time, but that’s OK because on our last night we found another place which may even be better. Our second meal was a Khmer restaurant called the Red Dragon, just off of Pub Street. We got amazing fried rice here for $2 which is dirt cheap for Siem Reap. Kate got fish amok which is a traditional Khmer meal that is in her book of the best things to eat from around the world and it was delicious so I would definitely recommend trying that in Siem Reap so that you can get a taste for local cuisine.

The third night was the most disappointing night of food. We just wondered around pub street for a bit before picking somewhere that served everything as we all fancied something different. It was right in the middle of pub street and to be honest, wasn’t worth it. I would not eat on pub street at all in Siem Reap, it is expensive and the food is nowhere near as good as if you went off the main roads a bit and found somewhere less busy where people who can’t be bothered to look won’t find. Our final night was a Saturday night, and the final night of Pchum Ben so it was very hard to actually find a good reccomended place to eat which was actually open. Finally we found a restaurant in Lonely Planet called Burger Gourmond and this meal, no exaggerating, is in my top 5 favourite meals of all times (of course not including all my mums cooking) and that is coming from someone who doesn’t normally like or eat burgers. I had a chicken burger, minus the lettuce, tomato and shallots of course, and it had mayo inside, but not too much, the perfect amount. This was in a hand-made bread bun with perfect handmade chips on the side. Literally the best handcooked chips I’ve had, on par with the ones at home and I’ve never had them that good at a restaurant before. It was a French burger restaurant and you can tell everything was fresh and made with pure love because we were all obsessed with the food. And for the meal, a DC and a large bottle of water we shared between us it was only $8. Would absolutely recommend this place, I wish I could just pick it up and put it in York. Insane.

During our exploring of the main street, we came across called Mekong Quilts. This is a shop filled with made products, from hand sewn quilts to bamboo straws, made by women in local communities who, for whatever reason, can’t leave home to work. The organisation finds these women in communities across Cambodia and Vietnam and trains them to be able to produce products to be sold. Training to make the quilts takes a lot longer than other things so some women, with less time, choose to make products out of bamboo which they can do easier. The products in the sho were beautiful. 50% of the cost of an item goes directly to the woman who makes it, and the rest covers the cost of making it. Any other profit is given to the community that the woman lives in. It’s an amazing organisation, helping women who otherwise probably would not be able to earn money. I bought a hand weaved wreath because it wasn’t very expensive and it means I can put it up in the office in December to give the volunteers who celebrate Christmas, a bit of Christmas spirit, on top of all the Christmas songs I’ll be playing the minute my birthday is over. They have shops in all the main tourist areas of Vietnam, and in Siem Reap and Phnom Pehn, so if you’re ever in Vietnam or Cambodia, please go and have a look.

Other than the temples of Angkor we didn’t really explore much more of Siem Reap, we chose to make the most of the sun and the very nice hotel we had and just relax before we meet all the volunteers next week. On saying that we did have our first cockroach in the room situation which made me wanna cry but between the 3 of us, we managed to get it out the room, so I am small step closer to being able to handle insects (I didn’t really do anything to help to be honest). The cracks between the wooden panels plus a mattress on the floor as my bed mean that I will definitely not be able to avoid bugs! Alice told us a hilarious story about when she visited her community and in on eof the host homes a cockroach crawled out from behind a matress and the host mum just swung her leg and booted the cockroach out hahaha maybe by the end of this experience I’ll be able to just kick away cockroaches and other insects without freaking the hell out…

I've been able to have diet coke every day this week so I have truly spoilt myself - I have actually stocked up on it now that we have moved into the countryside for the week of training with the volunteers. I have a can a week plus an extra one for my birthday because, treat yourself. The UK volunteers have now arrived and we are just waiting for the Khmer volunteers and then we will have our full teams which is exciting!!

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