What used to be a village is now a thriving town, sitting under the chin of Angkor Archeological Park. The huge ancient temples are one of the wonders of the world, but just next to it is a town full of activity and things to do. We spent a few days settling into Cambodia and seeing the town.
The Night Market and Pub Street
Pub street is backpackerville. If you’re craving a pizza and a boozy night, then Pub street is great. The price of western comfort is chunky, and cheaper food is easy to find in the night market down the road, but for a beer after dinner it’s doable. We found a place called Apsara, that has three floors for all its goings on. Ground floor is the restaurant, upstairs is the bar and stage, and the rooftop is an extension of the bar. Because of the rain, upstairs was closed, but that meant we got to see the Apsara dancing. On stage every evening, they do a show of traditional dances, with a little explanation as to what they are or represent. Nice to chill out away from the messy pub crawls below.
The night market is much like other markets in South East Asia, but this one sells silk scarves and all the Angkor Wat memorabilia you could ever need. the stalls start in town, near Pub street, and spread across the river. Lovely for a stroll and something to eat, try the creepy crawlies on sticks if you’re feeling brave, and have a $1 banana egg pancake for pud.
Best thing since sliced bread! When I hear circus in Asia, I think of dancing bears and smoking monkeys. This circus is far from that. It’s part of a larger institute that provides arts as a way of helping disadvantaged children. They do art, theatre, music, circus, crafts, and thankfully no animals. The school provides a hot meal everyday as well as a lifetime skill and a way to get off the streets. Besides the good work the school does, they put on a brilliant show. It includes fire skipping, aerial arts, acrobatics, people launching and so much more I don’t even know what it’s called, all wrapped around a play based on a traditional village story.
The Silk Farm
This is a gorgeous little tour of a silk farm. They take you through everything from the leaves they feed the worms, to harvesting the silk, to weaving patterns. My favourite part was the dying process. The worms naturally produce yellow (Cambodian) or white (Chinese) silk from the mulberry leaves they eat, but the silk can be dyed in loads of colours. All the dyes are natural, made from things found in the surrounding land, including rocks, spice and leaves. I learnt so much about silk, and they way they are trying to revive old methods. The women there work looms that blow my mind to look at, I tried to understand how they worked but it’s too complex. They work them so fast it truly is a skill. Lots of interesting facts to learn at the silk farm and it’s free!
Cambodia isn’t known for its food or its wine, but we discovered a hidden gem with Sraa, local rice wine. You can buy homemade rice wine everywhere on the roadside, but with a murky yellow colour in old plastic bottles, it really didn’t appeal. Sombai is a Sraa company that infuses different flavours into their rice wine and guess what, the tasting is free. Of the 11 flavours, my favourites were banana and cinnamon, mango and green chilli, and galangal and tamarind. It oddly tastes nothing like rice, and is potent but smooth. Sipping is almost too easy. We bought a botttle of the mango and green chili, and then found it was buy one get one free, bonus!. Of course you don’t have to buy one, but it is tasty.