Siem Reap ..... Again
This summer when I saw discount tickets from Bangkok to Siem Reap, I knew we had to go back again for just a few days to try and find more about a tasty Khmer dish we had on our last trip. Yeah, that is right, I booked tickets months in advance to fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia for dinner! I was sure we would find enough to do to keep us busy for several days.
We arrived on a Monday afternoon and checked into the Golden Butterfly Villa. This is a sister hotel to the Golden Temple where we stayed earlier in the year. It is only about 1/2 block from the other hotel. This hotel had a great staff and really made us feel at home. I'm sure that because of the staff and the location I will use this hotel if I return to Siem Reap yet again.
I quickly made contact with my old friend Seth. We arranged to meet for dinner that evening at the Hip Hop Disco after another couple arrived to join us. No, we didn't eat in the disco, but rather on the patio in front of the disco. I told Seth we wanted the dish, Lok Lak, just like he had ordered last time. We enjoyed the vegetables on ice with the dipping sauce on our last visit and had tried without success to find the same Lok Lak in Phnom Penh after we left Siem Reap. It turned out that was because Seth had ordered the vegetables and dipping sauce separate (it was not on the printed menu). It took two days and several interpreters to find out that the name of the dipping sauce is Tet Pha Hok. (Now if we can just find the ingredients to try and make it.) This night we ended up consuming four orders of Lok Lak with the veggies and dipping sauce along with 4-5 pitchers of beer. The whole bill came to only $22! For me this is a must stop spot in Siem Reap.
On Tuesday we decided to skip the temples and headed out for a relaxing day around town with Phea, the tuk-tuk driver I had used earlier in the year. First, we went to the war museum. Admission was $5 per person. They offered a English speaking guide for free, but I elected to just walk around the area. After reading trip reports when I returned, if I had it to do again, I would get the guide to hear the first hand experiences of these veterans. The museum consisted of mostly destroyed APC's, tanks, and a few trucks. There is one MI-8 Hip helicopter and an old MIG fighter (both have seen better days). We had pretty much free reign as we walked around the museum and nobody complained about us climbing on the tanks or handling the old rifles that were displayed in one side shed.
After the museum I had Phea take us to a Khmer cafe of his choosing for a late breakfast of rice and noodles. Next, we visited the main Market looking for stuff for our planned outing on Wednesday. Eventually, after exploring the market for a while, we found some watermelons and other fruit. Unfortunately due to a communication error with Seth, the fruits ended up getting left behind for Wednesday picnic.
Tuesday night was dinner at Seth's. We stopped on the way and got several buckets of chicken from KFC and a case of beer. I was sure the KFC was an extravagance that Seth's kids had probably not had often, if ever. And, yes it was a big hit with the kids (and the guests including me). Seth's wife had prepared some Tet Pha Hok dipping sauce and large bowls of frog cooked three different ways. As in past visits, the table was full of guests including one 2-star General, one Colonel, a soccer coach and several others. There was an unending supply of ice cold beer and a thousand toasts.
Wednesday morning we were on the road early headed for Phnom Kulen National Park about 60 Km northeast of Siem Reap. The trip took about 2.5 hours since the last half of the trip was up the mountain on roads with some pretty deep pot holes. Our first stop was to see a reclining Buddha that was carved into a rock on the top of the mountain.
After looking over the falls Seth called to say the lunch was ready. They had ordered some fish Amok from a local restaurant and they brought the leftover frogs from the night before. Yum! (I had lots of bananas).
As we ate lunch and sat around relaxing afterwards we were entertained watching the kids climb a tree by the stream and then leap into the water.
After a bumpy ride down the mountain we stopped at Seth's for a few minutes to see the tuk-tuks under production and then after dark we wandered out for dinner at a local Indian restaurant. Food was good, but the bill was about double the dinner at the Hip Hop.