Food adventures in Siem Reap, Cambodia

After a short stop in Phnom Penh, we have now swiftly moved onto the Siem Reap portion of our Cambodia trip. Mr. Chuckles and I flew with Cambodia Angkor Air on an early morning 50 minute flight into Siem Reap, opting to save the time that would otherwise be spent sitting in a car or bus on what I’ve been told is a fairly non-scenic route.

We hadn’t planned much for the day other than our evening street food tour, so we took it pretty easy. After checking into our hotel, we dealt with Mr. Chuckles’ hangry-ness and then relaxed for a couple hours in our room before heading out to explore the town.

Strolling through Old Market area

The Old Market area of Siem Reap is located in the city centre, encompassing the area west of the Siem Reap River until Sivutha Boulevard. It includes the Old Market (Psar Chas) itself, where you can find local food and assorted goods, and the well known, tourist heavy Pub Street.

We started our walk along the east side of the riverbank, which is lined by shops that make up a small night market that we would visit later that evening.

There were also several bird cages along the river, housing an assortment of species. I’m not sure what the story is behind this, but we noticed that they were removed later in the day, presumably back with their owners.

Finally, we ventured over to Pub Street and stopped at one of the numerous restaurants for a couple drinks and a snack.

Evening street food tour

In the evening, we attended our prebooked food tour with Urban Adventures. We were joined by 6 other Australian tourists who were part of a reunion of their golfing club. They were a funny bunch and we had a great time with our guide, a local guy named Two.

Over the course of three hours, we travelled by tuk tuk around town, visiting various local vendors and markets for traditional Khmer eats. Highlights included meat skewers and fried noodles at a local market; barbecued beef and pounded chicken at a roadside stand; roasted duck with herbs and duck blood at a restaurant on the city outskirts; and Khmer style vermicelli at a night market.

Oh, and we ate more insects! These came from a stand at the night market, including little frogs, crickets, silk worms, and beetles. My sister is going to be so proud of me.

The tour wrapped up with a final stop at a restaurant in the city centre, where we had the chance to order our own dishes. I went with the fresh spring rolls with minced pork and vegetables, which were nice and light. For dessert, Two brought us an assortment of local fruits and cakes. I am quite familiar with the fruits, having grown up with a mom from Vietnam who had us eat them all the time, so it was more amusing for me to witness our group trying delicacies like durian for the first time. Some extreme reactions (i.e. repulsion) ensued. My top tip for enjoying durian: try it frozen or in a dessert like ice cream or candy. The smell will be less intense and you avoid that gooey texture, which is the part that gets to me. 🤢

After bidding adieu to our tour mates, we headed back toward our hotel. We had a quick walk through the night market and then settled into bed.

As a side note, we got to chatting with our guide on the tuk tuk ride, and he told us that Siem Reap is starting to suffer from the downturn in tourism over these last couple months with the coronavirus scare. Several hotels have shut down and effectively all of the big tour groups have cancelled due to flight restrictions, as well as general anxiety. This may be good for us in terms of smaller crowds while we are here, but it’s actually quite sad to realize the profound impact that this outbreak is going to have on the lives of people in areas that are so dependent on tourism for their economic well-being. I guess we can do our part to help out by being here and continuing to support local businesses.

More adventures to come.

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