We do try our best to take the most environmentally friendly routes while we travel and while it often results in long uncomfortable journeys, we reckon it’s worth it.
Our journey from Koh Phangan all the way to Siem Reap in Cambodia looked something like this
Truck – boat – bus – overnight train – hostel – train – rickshaw – bus – minibus – rickshaw BOOM.
We followed this incredibly helpful guide and although it took us a long time, it was definitely worth doing.
First impressions of Cambodia were good. Really good. We came across quite a few other travellers who had merely dipped into Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat, however we had nowhere to be and planned to take it slow. We booked a couple of nights in Siem Reap and decided to see how it went.
Our month in Thailand had been beautiful, but we were well aware that we were following a well trodden path. Although we came to accept the hoards of travellers and the often slightly skewed impression of Buddhism and daily life that are presented to visitors, we hoped that Cambodia would provide a more rugged and authentic experience. As a backpacker, you can hardly complain that other travellers are making a place too touristy when you’re there with your camera snapping away, but what we hoped to get from Cambodia was what we had had a taste of in Thailand, real life just ticking along, with tourists as an afterthought.
We had been following the blog Vegan Food Quest for quite a while. It had come in particularly useful in Sri Lanka and Thailand. Caryl and Paul who run the blog are the king and queen of vegan food in southeast Asia as well as in vegan luxury travel. So, when we discovered they had a “vegan villa” listed on air b’n’b, we booked it up. We knew that by staying we would have access to the best food around. What we didn’t realise is that we would also gain two friends for life.
While a lot of visitors head to Pub Street and the surrounding areas, we stayed about a 10/15 minute walk away amongst the real hubbub of local daily life and we absolutely loved it. Straight away we were in the kind of environment that we had been longing to immerse ourselves in.
Staying at Paul and Caryl’s was a bit like being at home. We felt so comfortable and enjoyed Caryl’s amazing brekkies.
I (Amy) even got to do some cooking with Caryl, which was like a dream after so many months of not having access to a kitchen.
Although we were in Cambodia towards the end of the rainy season, we still saw some pretty spectacular downpours.
The main tourist hub of Siem Reap, where all the restaurants, massage places, shops and bars are found is actually a pretty nice place to be. Unlike its Thai equivalent, Khao San Road there are lots of lovely places to relax, buy stuff and get pampered! For us though, the vibrance and liveliness was in the local markets, the living room hairdressers, the guys playing games on the side of the street and of course the street food sellers!
We had an amazing time wandering through the local markets, marvelling at all the different fruit and veg and pretending not to see all the meat. Spotting this gorgeous little bub in a hammock at Psar Polanka was a particular shopping highlight.
As we expected, we tried a variety of incredible food. Local dishes, Cambodian donuts, home-cooked dinners, even a bloody good Indian curry.
As usual we took an excessive amount of photo’s of the excessive amounts of amazing food we ate, which will be in a separate post, to keep things all nice and organised like.
*Girly moment alert* OMG my HAIR. While gallivanting around Asia, soaking up the culture, enjoying the food, making new friends, I never took a moment to stop and think about how my hair was getting on. Was it on a journey of its own? Yes. Was it having a smooth ride? No. The sun, humidity and varying degrees of cleanish water that I had been washing it in had taken their toll and what was once a smooth and shiny mass of curls had become a dry and broken mess. There was only one thing for it. The local hairdressers. Caryl explained to me that while the owner occasionally dug out a pair of fabric scissors for those in desperate need of a chop, it was more a wash and blow-dry typed affair.
As we approached the little salon, located in the front room of a family home, the only person in sight was a little boy asleep in a hammock. We waited outside the open fronted room for a few minutes until a lovely lady appeared, ready and raring to go. As she was working alone, it was a one in, one out situation. Caryl went first, which was probably just as well as my appointment took something like two hours! Two hours of pure pampering. Totally unexpected, but absolutely amazing! For about 20 minutes, I had shampoo worked into my dry hair. The gradual addition of water from a little lemonade bottle combined with an intense massage went on for a luxuriously long time.
I was then led outside, round the back to a chair shaded with a section of corrugated metal. I lay back, with my hair dangling over a bucket, where I would remain for about half an hour. The hairdresser poured water from another bucket over my hair, washing out all the bubbles, before repeating the whole process with more shampoo and conditioner. Then came the drying bit. It’s entirely likely that I’m the first person with curly hair to have graced the salon and despite the sun going down and the arrival of several local ladies needing help to get ready for a night’s work at the KTV round the corner, the hairdresser remained committed to the cause. Not only did she give me a chic and shiny do, she also gave me her hairband, which like a child with a new toy, I basically didn’t take off for weeks afterwards.
To top off the girliness and in a desperate (and fairly successful) attempt to counteract the oily, blemished skin that was slowly becoming my trademark traveller look, we concocted both a sugar scrub made from coconut oil and brown sugar.
This was followed by an even more delicious face mask made from oats and passionfruit. Considering trying this look out and about.
Meanwhile, Tom went off down the street to get sharpened up. A haircut and shave have become customary in each new country we visit.
We certainly got the experience we had hoped for and way more by spending time in Siem Reap. Staying with Caryl and Paul was definitely one of the best decisions we made on our trip and we can’t recommend their place highly enough!Here are some more lovely photos of things we saw during our stay in Siem Reap. We’ve saved the photos of our visit to Angkor Wat for a separate blog, so we don’t break the internet with all our photos.