At an alley restaurant in Siem Reap, this plate of ginger snake was somewhat uninspiring — tough and chewy, not-so-gingery — and, yes, tasted like chicken. On the bright side, before leaving the restaurant I purchased a plate of fried rice for a dusty, barefoot boy who had been going table to table begging, unsuccessfully, for money. His hunger was tangible, a queasy pang in my gut. When his simple meal arrived, he called over another beleaguered-looking boy and the two of them ate with a diligent intensity reserved only for the truly famished. Strangely, the act left me simultaneously buoyed and weighed down: happy to have a couple dollars to help out, but helpless to do anything more practical than purchase a plate of rice.
Though there were quite a few people wandering Ta Prohm, it was the least crowded of the complexes we visited, and it was easy enough to find some people-free vantage points. I lucked out and suddenly found myself being shown great photo spots by a helpful local — that is until I realized he was expecting a tip at the end of whatever path he was leading me on. He might also have been after my camera: at one point he encouraged me to climb a ways up the trunk of a large tree growing out of the stone and said he would take a picture of me from below. Unfortunately for him, I’d woken up pretty early that morning: I wasn’t going to play the idiot tourist for him. A few minutes and a couple of turns later I gave him $5 and we parted ways, much to his dismay. When I ran into Shay a couple of minutes later, she reported a similar experience. It was a minor thrill to know that we’d both successfully encountered and escaped from what is no doubt a classic Angkorian tourist scam.
Siem Reap is home to the ruins of the seat of the Khmer empire, which once ruled much of Southeast Asia. Angkor Wat is the largest and most popular of the crumbling temple complexes, some of which have undergone intensive restoration. Other smaller complexes have been allowed to exist in their natural states: collapsed and covered in jungle growth.
Between its night market, its lit bridges and waterways, and its glowing street-side bars and restaurants, downtown Siem Reap at night becomes an enchanting reflection of its somewhat dingy, daytime self.
In what seemed like less than a minute, this fried-noodle vendor tossed, flipped, and twisted together this bowl of deliciousness. Topped with a fried egg and a generous drizzle of hot sauce, this bowl of deliciousness was finished in what seemed like less than a minute. #StreetFoodIsAmazing
An aerial view of the suburbs stretching away from Saigon, as seen through the window of what’s known in Vietnam as an “airplane.” It was great to be traveling again after more than a month of being cooped up in the city. Siem Reap and the half-crumbling, half-restored temples of the Khmer empire were less than an hour away.