09 October 2008

Road Trip to Siem Reap

180USD and a Mercedes van took us on a whirlwind, scenic but sometimes bumpy road (what our driver deemed will feel like a massage) to Siem Reap. Prices again were hiked up because of the holidays (eventhough this is the low season). I was told on normal days it would only set you back about 100USD. And if you dont mind travelling with a large group, a bus ride will only cost you 6-12USD pp.
However, you can always opt for a cheaper ride such as below =P
My intention was to stop at a town called Skuon, 55 miles north of Phnom Penh, or famously known as the Spider City. I've read about the delicacies of this town, like Pasta is to the Italians, Sushi to the Japanese, Nasi Katok to the Bruneians, fried tarantulas are caviars to the people of Skuon.

I began taunting everyone, and teasing their guts "You do it, i'll do it", "C'mon... dont be a p*$$y". Boon2 said he would given it's deep fried, Eric admitted that his mind was juggling with eat-or-not the entire 55 miles to Skuon. We knew we've arrived in the spider city when our driver pulled to the side of the road and to our left women were thronging up their seats with their prized mountains of black mass.


























.Aka A-ping
: Fresh out of the woods - tarantulas fried with garlic and salt. These tarantulas were originally used by Cambodians in traditional medicine, which was thought to be good for the heart, throat and lungs - but later served as the basis of survival during the Pol Pot's regime. They survived by feeding on insects, water beetles, and these spiders which they found to be deeelicious!


Taste description by others: Crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside, white meat in body is like a cross between chicken and cod. For real???

The boys immediately shook their head when what they saw did not fit what they had imagined. Thinking it might have been deep fried in nice crispy golden batter, instead it looked soggy and gahhhh... alive despite furless. I can almost feel them crawling up my throat. Gahhhh.. and prickling my skin. Nope, i wasnt gonna eat it, i suck... so does everyone else!

We also did not try the stuffed frogs. Whyyyy??


.Viket, our driver that we mistakenly named Reeechard, says "mmmMMmm''.

And just like all trips, i return wishing i had stretched my limits, perhaps next time with an Angkor beer on standby.

The first few hours into our ride was easy, we were distracted by beautiful paddy fields, and the deterioration of scenery as we drove deeper into the villages. Reeechard became our ad-hoc tour guide, filling us with information of each instrumental monument/architecture we passed. As we bumped our way into Kampong Thom, we passed by a small Muslim village - a village belonging to the Chams - the minority ethnic group. There is a sad story to them that whilst they taught the Vietnamese improved rice-farming and silk-production techniques, they taught the Khmer gold work, designed boats and developed significant ports... while today the Vietnamese are thriving and Khmer have a state, the Chams are said to be losing their history and numbers. When we asked if the Muslims here can drink, Reeechard said No, when we asked if the Muslims here take pork, Reeechard said No, and when we asked if the Muslims here can take 4 wives, Reeechard's eyes sparkled "I want to be a Muslim". Hahaha, although we very much convinced him he will have to work 4 times as hard to afford that.

Uncle Teo said the village reminds him of his younger days, where he too lived in stilt wooden houses. Unlike modern cities, where one is distinguished by the house you live in, the car you drive, the job you have, I think the people in these villages are distinguished by the number of cows they owned; for almost every other house has a cow grazing on gigantic stacks of hay!

Reeechard starting sharing his story. Pointing out to us where he used to live in Kampong Thom, he recalled the days he woke up at 4am to walk 20 kilometers to attend school. He would return home and perform household chores, from washing his father's clothes to cooking, although there are days when he would go to sleep without dinner. "I feel pain in my body, I feel pain in my heart" he said, as he walked us through bits and pieces of his life. Now he is making 80USD a month, and i said "GOOD!" thinking it is indeed good for their standards, but he calculated out loud his expenses which amounted to 180USD a month. He chose to put his children in private school to learn languages so that they get the education he didnt. His only reliance is on tourists such as us for tips. This is an example of how knowing a foreign language is of upmost importance to Cambodians.
.Phnom Penh Mafia.

By the 4th hour, i was going crazy. "ARE WE NEAR?!?!" Boon2 realised that he has been driving at a speed of 50km/hr. GAWD! A sign said we were 98 km away from Siem Reap, at this rate we wont reach in another 2 hours... this got pretty agonising when the sun sets, 'cos there was nothing to distract us anymore. HuuHuu. And especially when someone keep sitting up and saying "OOOhh, i see modern houses, i think we're near" only to pass kampongs and more kampongs.

At the 5th hour, Reeechard played us a Cambodian comedy (there's a tv in the van, Boon said we should have bought a Tomb Raider dvd to get us in the mood)... and eventhough we understood nuts, it kept us from annoying him with "ARE WE ALMOST THERE?" for abit.

After 6 long hours on the road, we finally reached our hotel, atop an Irish Bar. I just wanted to collapse and sleeeeeeeeeep!
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It was the pits to know those who came by bus took only 4 hours, obviously for we were overtaken by countless bus! But i guess better safe than sorry, Reechard did mention he'd rather drive slow because it being the festive season, there are alot of drunk motorbikers, and it doesnt help that there are no street lights and no clear division between a right/left lane! =\
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1 comments:

Zing... on October 12, 2008 at 6:39 PM said...

Interesting! You show us there are more things to see than just the Angkor temples.

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