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Published: August 13th 2007
Well well well in the end despite having no guidebook I made it to Cambodia. Oh. My. Gosh. This place is civilised. The roads are all good and all the buildings are super modern (except the ruins, hahaha). On the road from the airport there were tons of tacky mock-palace hotels (Royal Angkor Palace, Give Us Your Money Angkor Super Resort, etc etc).
Siem Reap is super rich, and gets visitors from all budgets and levels (lots of super posh people fly in for a day or two, so there are lots of people on packaged tours, pffffff not even roughing it properly, ha!).
All the prices everywhere are in USD. I went to the ATM and could only get USD out, which I thought was a funny quirk. ("Don't be silly ATM machine I want some Cambodian riel, none of this tourist USD rubbish"). But then the next ATM also only gave USD, and the next. And then I walked into a shop and realised the prices were in USD. D'oh! Turns out USD is the unofficial currency, you only pay or receive riels fo amounts under 1 USD, aaaaaaaah I get it now.
But everything seems incredible expensive compared to Laos, where you rarely had to pay more than 1 USD for anything (slight exageration).
So anyway, I arrived at like 9 am so then had the whole day to chill out. First things first. Must. Buy. Guidebook. Fortunately the shop next to the guest house sells lots. It's amusing yet sad but everywhere in Asia there seems to be a market for black market copies of guidebooks like Lonely Planet or the Guide du Routard.. Bad news for the industry.. (I heard in China there is even a blackmarket for fake Harry Potter books where they change the story and everything).
So after feeling equipped with my new guidebook (Halleluiah, I am back in the safe hands of the gods of Lonely Planet) I did nothing much, except stroll around town repeating the mantra " No thank you, don't need a tuktuk, no thank you, don't need a tuktuk" as I got a loooooot of offers. (This mantra throughout the course of the next day also had alternative versions of "No thank you do not need a t-shirt/can of coke/silk handkerchief/coconut/postcard/buddha statue/chocolate miniature of Angkor Wat" etc.
In the evening I cycled all the way to the ruins as after 5 pm you can buy your ticket for the next day and access the ruins for free at sunset that same day. So I climbed to the top of the temple which has a nice view and which every signle other tourist in town likes to climb for sunset too, and joined in the mass crowding. I think there were more tourists on the temple than years have passed since it was built.
But here I was, having climbed the big mountain, standing on top of one of the most amazing temples of Angkor Wat, One of the Seven Wonders of the World, with an amazing sunset. And I thought, I simply had to capture this on camera. And then I thought GOD DAMMIT, I FORGOT THE BLOOMING CAMERA!! I can't believe I am so useless. So bad news for you, but not so bad for me, actually it was really nice as I was fully taking in the whole spectacle, where as all the tourists were snapping away like mad and not really appreciating the change of colours etc.
The next day, this morning, woke up not too early so took it slow, rented a bike, and went to see a few of the ruins. More detail on those tomorrow when I get some pictures, I will give you a lowdown of what Angkor Wat is about.
And in the meantime, I give you a recipe, given to me by a French restaurant owner called Mathieu at whose place I stopped for lunch today. That guy was a real character, he wanted to move to Cambodia 18 years ago but the government does not allow foreign people to own a house, so he set up a restaurant (foreign people can own a restaurant) and simply sleeps in the restaurant. On the tables. No kidding. It's really good for the back apparently.
Creme au Chocolat de Mr Mathieu
* Take some dark chocolate (85%)
* Take the same weight in coconut milk
* a bit of sugar
* some cinnamon
* a vanilla pod
* a dash of grand marnier
* a bit of coffee (either a bit of very strong coffee or some coffee liqueur)
Mix it all for 20 mins in a bain marie (instead of putting the pan directly into the hob, you put it into a larger pan full of boiling water). Then beat it up (eg with an egg beater machine). Add a drop of Angusura bitter.
Then put in tiny little pots and chill. I had a tiny little spoon to eat it and somehow it made the taste very refined. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. (one option is to pour a mini dash of Calvados, but a good kind, which I got to taste, hmmm).
* complaints regarding my puns may be sent to email@example.com
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