DSC_0632This would be so illegal in Canada but I wish we had a vibrant street food culture like many places around Asia.

I first spotted this pizza shop on a tuk tuk (motorized taxi) around Siem Reap, Cambodia when I was bicycling. The fire caught my attention and I went closer until I realized it was a woodfire oven right at the back of a scooter.

The pizza chef is originally from Phnom Penh and many people stop for pizza as he goes around town. Once you place your order, they make it fresh on the spot for you.

I always spotted him when I wasn’t looking for him and when I tried to find the tuk tuk pizza, I couldn’t find him. My good friend and I promised that if we passed him on the way back home, we would stop for a pizza. It was pretty good for a fresh, street pizza.

But because he is business savvy, you can take his business card and they do free delivery.

DSC_0635

DSC_0638

Must-go restaurants in Battambang

DSC_0812

I’ve been to Battambang City in the north of Cambodia a few times and for a quiet little town, I’ve been very surprised by how delicious some of their restaurants are. Even the $0.50 iced condensed milk coffee is tastier than any one I’ve had in Siem Reap at the local market.

It’s easy to find the most popular restaurants in Battambang but if you only have a day or two, I strongly recommend saving one or a few meals for Eden Cafe and Flavors of India.

Eden Cafe

Eden Cafe is connected to a local organization that focuses on investing in the futures of Khmer people by empowering them with new skills and creating jobs. The cafe has a modern design where people can enjoy a delicious meal, air-con and fast Wi-Fi while supporting the work of a fantastic organization.

The prices are a bit higher with the average price being US $5.00 per dish, but if you don’t eat a lot the portions are generous and can easily be shared between two people.

I’ve had the fettucini alfredo meal three times during my last two trips in Battambang, that’s how good it was. It’s simple but it is the perfect comfort food.

This is the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had in Cambodia and is probably the best in Cambodia. I’m picky about hot chocolate and they make the perfect creamy, marshmellow texture at the top of the drink.

I thought I would branch out from my fettucini alfredo and try the Huevos Rancheros (Black Bean, Egg, Salsa, Tortilla, Sour Cream, Bacon) for breakfast. A lot of times Mexican food is either a hit or miss in any country, so I’m always a bit skeptical. But this was a great meal and all of the ingredients blended well together to create a great flavour.

The Cobb salad dressing was good and big enough to feed two people.


Flavors of India

Flavors of India is a chain that began in Phnom Penh but has locations in Battambang and Siem Reap. I don’t find the Indian food that great or memorable in Siem Reap. I’ve gone to Flavors of India twice in Battambang and the flavors were always delicious and their chai tea is one of the best I’ve ever tasted of all the countries I’ve visited.

The best deal is their sets, which includes a naan bread, jasmine rice, dhaal, and two curries. One set is definitely enough to share between two people and if you try a naan bread with your curries, order a garlic naan.

DSC_0714

Snacking by the airport for fun

Beautiful sunset drive to the airport from the centre of Siem Reap city.

People often ask me what my favorite country was to visit outside Canada and I am very biased because I’ve spent three years in Siem Reap and had the time to discover all the places tourists never have time to see, develop lifelong friendships with the wonderful people here and always discovering new hidden gems. I’m not sure what my answer would be if I had lived a few years in Bali, Laos or Chiang Mai.

Hanging right outside the airport gates with Konnitha and her daughter Hannah.

The benefit of living in a new place for a long time is there is always something new to discover, especially if you mainly have local friends and every day can be a surprise if you have an open mind and heart during your stay.

After I finished a 5-hour bike ride in the Angkor complex, which seems to have an endless number of routes, my best friend Konnitha asked me if I wanted to drive with her and her 2-year-old daughter Hannah around the Angkor area and hang out by the airport to watch the planes.

The people who have opened up food stalls right outside the airport gates as more people are spending time watching the planes land and fly.

“You can hang out by the airport?” I asked Konnitha.

“Yes, you can buy snacks to eat and watch the planes. More and more food sellers are setting up their business by the airport because people come to watch the planes every day,” Konnitha said.

Me being a touristy passenger.

So we went on a beautiful drive during sunset around the Angkor complex, bought some snacks to munch on and sat on a mat just outside the airport with Hannah. We saw two planes fly by and it was just a beautiful and unique way to pass the evening.

There is no way I would ever find out you can do this if I didn’t have local friends.

The next generation of female footballers

footballI first joined a football team in October 2014 in Siem Reap and I thought it was mainly going to be expats who played. But I was very happy to see many Khmer (Cambodian) players and more women playing than I thought there would be. The reason I was surprised is because there are still many families who don’t encourage or allow girls to play sports and often raised to be housewives.

I always admire the strong women on my old football team because several of them went against their families’ wishes for them to stop playing football or go to school. They found their own jobs and funded their own education to enhance their knowledge and skill while continuing to find ways to play the sport that they love so much. We recently had a friendly game with a team of teenage Cambodian girls who were trained by a professional coach. I was ecstatic to see how fast, coordinated and well these young women played. They beat us but we were lucky to even get a few goals in for that game because they were so good. Football

One of my teammates coaches young Cambodians to play and I hope to see an increasing number of young women playing football to increase their confidence and so they continue to have the belief that they can play as well or do anything that the boys are allowed to do.

Mega catchup on posts

This has been my very bad habit with my travel blog. I was taking my parents around for two weeks and then began catching up with friends and work in Siem Reap.

I have so much to share and write about including how to find food for less than $3.00 a meal in Singapore, how the food in Bangkok makes non-shoppers like me enjoy the malls, and VIP treatment from the heart in Cambodia.

More to come next week after I catch up on some other writing assignments.

Thank you for your patience and for people who have recently subscribed to my blog.

Our 5-hour biking adventure in the Angkor jungles

2I’m incredibly lucky to not only be living in Siem Reap, just 8 km away from the Angkor Wat complex, but having amazing Khmer (Cambodian) friends who often lead us through beautiful bike rides in the jungle.

I haven’t paid the US $20 entry fee to get into the Angkor complex most of the times I’ve gone because most people can get in the area, not the temples, if you come in through the jungle, often by bike.

6

We planned to meet at 7 a.m. at our friend Dara’s restaurant for breakfast and he got his staff to prepare rice soup for us. When I asked how much the bill was he said, “No problem, we just enjoy together.” Such typical Cambodian hospitality.

I recruited two Western people I met to join the ride. The day before I warned them, “I’ll be honest with you, for the ride tomorrow, I don’t know if we’ll ride 20 km or 60 km in the day. All I know is we’re meeting at 7 a.m. and I’m just going to follow them.”

7

We were about 10 people in our group and no one really knew the way through the jungle routes, but Dara seemed to know where he was going. The weather was perfect and we went on beautiful routes around the complex and had a wonderful lunch at one of Dara’s friends’ restaurants. He was nice to give us 50% off of the menu items.

The Cambodian food was delicious and was well-deserved after riding for so long. All of our Cambodian friends have much more stamina than us and could keep riding for a long time. This kind of guided bike ride would cost someone at least US $60 a day to join a tour.

The whole day was beautiful, adventured and filled with fantastic company. One thing I noticed after spending 2.5 years in Cambodia is Khmer people are very patient and flexible when there is someone in the group who is a bit delayed or need to stop for something, many Western people, including myself, would get easily annoyed and impatient. But they are so even tempered and easygoing.

10
4

812

My friends’ visit to Siem Reap

My friend Eunice (white shirt) came to visit with her husband Nate (red shirt). The newlyweds loved the food of my favourite street restaurant Phai San BBQ.

My great friend Eunice from Vancouver came with her husband Nate to Siem Reap in July to visit me.

I have been friends with Eunice for a few years now and I felt horrible for missing their wedding in May because I was leading a group trip that month. So I was very happy that they took the time during their holiday to come to Cambodia for the first time.

They joined me at my favourite weekly hangout watching the ladyboys at Station Wine Bar in Siem Reap.

To be honest, I didn’t know how our connection would be after I’ve been away from Vancouver for 2.5 years and I saw her just one time in September when I went back to visit friends and family.

Every traveler I’ve spoken with has had a hard time adjusting back to their home country and I felt the strong connection I once had with some friends was lost when I went back to visit.

We saw a traditional dance show on their first night in town.

I was a bit nervous because Eunice had never been to a developing country before and they had just spent time in Singapore with their family, a completely different environment and place from Cambodia. I thought they may be uncomfortable in Siem Reap and have to adjust to so many differences from Vancouver and Singapore.

But it ended up being an amazing time with them and I’m so happy they enjoyed it. They were extremely easygoing, very polite with my friends and just went with the flow. We went to see a traditional dance show, eat at my favourite street food restaurants, see a ladyboy show, and traveled to Phnom Penh together.

At my favourite pool in Siem Reap exclusively for hotel guests. They got full VIP treatment. Thanks to my wonderful Cambodian friend for giving us access.

The day before we went to Phnom Penh, my friend was so kind to let us use the four-star hotel pool that is normally reserved for their guests who pay US $85 to US $220 a night. But because it was about to rain, not many people were swimming and we enjoyed a poolside cocktail, tea and enjoyed swimming in the rain.

They met my friends in Phnom Penh at night and we ended our second night in Phnom Penh with a beautiful view of the river.

I’ve appreciated and loved everyone who has made time to visit me and experience my world in Siem Reap.

 

Taking full advantage of a drink at the poolside bar.

Feeling fresh after our US $2 Cambodian hair wash, head massage and straightening.

Eunice and Nate met my friend and number 1 tuk tuk driver Somroeun and his family the day they returned back in Singapore.

Nate and Eunice looking glamorous again at a post-wedding dinner celebration in Singapore with their family.