One of things I have (unintentionally) neglected to write about thus far is Khmer massage. It’s hard to walk down a street in the towns of Cambodia without seeing a huge number of massage establishments. In some places massages are even available in the public squares or in the doorways of buildings. I’m not talking about the seedy image of massage parlours, but regular places where both tourists and locals can relieve the stress in their joints and muscles. (That being said, the seedy places are present everywhere too and sometimes the distinction between the two is maybe less obvious than appears from the surface)
On this trip to Cambodia I indulged in a massage on an almost daily basis. It seemed like a very pleasant way to spend an evening, and at an average of $5 for an hour it was a cheap night out; and I was helping local businesses too! Its interesting experience, similar to Thai massages where the massage gets the muscles (and myself) relaxed through all the pressure applied to any muscle the masseuse can find. The massage involved lots of rubbing rather than pushing muscles. They always managed to find the spots that needed attention. Don’t be alarmed if your masseuse climbs on top of you or throws you around! If you are headed to Cambodia- DO IT! (But not before bedtime… it leaves you wide-awake).
To end off my trip to Cambodia I returned to Siem Reap. Oh how I love Siem Reap.
Since I left South Africa, my life has pretty much been about change and movement. Constantly.
So, sometimes I like pulling into a town like Siem Reap and seeing a half dozen cheesy expat bars that I know will have reasonable Western food and sports on television that remind me of home. Sometimes I want the voices I hear around me to be in a language I recognize and can eavesdrop on. Occasionally, I like to be able to ask for the bill at the end of dinner without doing the hand pantomime for it, so they understand what I want.
Siem Reap stands out among the cities of Southeast Asia first and foremost because it seems almost empty: Compared to Bangkok’s 10 million and Saigon’s nine million, Siem Reap seems like a university town with its lowly 200,000 residents.
Between the beautiful landscapes and people, incredible culinary and cultural delights and uniformly low prices, there is absolutely nowhere else you get as much value for your money and your time. From the sleepy river that approximately bisects the city to the sugar cane juice vendors that sling super-sweet nectar for quarters on the dollar to the friendly local children and monks you encounter as you stroll through on foot… there is little to dislike about Siem Reap.
On my last day in Siem Reap, I relaxed completely. I met a lovely group of American girls and we went for a ‘ luxury’ spa treatment together. Well we had to strip, have salt rubbed all over us, followed by curry powder and then a raw orange rubbed on our skins but it was all fun and enjoyable. (Despite the plastic sheets we had to lay on that reminded me of the stuff they use in morgues). We left the place looking bright yellow (jaundiced) and enjoyed a leisurely lunch at The Blue Pumpkin. The Blue Pumpkin is one of the few Cambodian founded café chains in Phnom Penh, the founders is a couple from France and Thailand. They started as a small bakery in Siem Reap and have later turned in to a chain that is both a bakery and a restaurant. The menu is small but the food is exquisite.
We ended our meal off with this:
To end off my last evening in Cambodia, we headed to Pub Street.
This aptly-named street is home not only to a plethora of drinking establishments, such as the kitschy “Angkor What?” and Cambodia’s only gay bars, but also to a wide range of restaurants, shops and massage parlours. There’s the “Fish Massage” which involves little fish with sharp teeth eating all the dead skin off your feet while you sip on a complimentary Coke or beer.
We headed to the Temple Club. We were drawn in by the nightly Apsara dance show.
We were all impressed with the quality of this free show. Apsara dancing is Khmer classical dance, the indigenous ballet-like performance art of Cambodia. Apsara can be translated to mean a ‘celestial maiden’. They are depicted as beautiful, supernatural female beings that are youthful, elegant and gifted at dancing. The costumes worn by the Apsara dancers are based on the carvings of Apsara dancers found at Angkor Wat. Traditionally the women are sewn into tight fitting dresses with elaborate headdresses and accessories. The dances are set movements based on the story being told. The movements used to narrate the classical myths are graceful and flowing and are intended to entrance the viewer. The fingers of Apsara dancers are limber to the point of arching backwards. An ensemble of xylophones, woodwinds, drums and gong chimes played live music.
And that was my trip to Cambodia.
I have just put up a travel page on our home page; starting with Cambodia, I hope to add more countries as we travel more. Check it out here if you are heading to Cambodia or know of anyone who needs some tips/advice.