For Chinese New Year of 2020, we decided to head to Siem Reap for a short family getaway, while we may not necessarily enjoyed the local food at the Old Market that much, one thing that did not disappoint was the visit to Angkor Wat.
Monks at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
For those who prefer moving pictures and some of my mumbling, the three minute video below shows our experience at Angkor Wat, though for the other four temples I’ve only taken photos in the interest of not having it overly long winded (that and who’s got time to edit all those clips!).
We pre-booked our tour earlier via many of the online website and asked for a tuktuk driver for a day. The package includes visit to five different temples and lasts some 6-7 hours (or until you give up due to heat).
As scheduled, our guide picked us up at 8 in the morning.
tickets will have your face printed
Our first destination was to the ticket counter building, some 20 minutes away from Siem Reap city center.
Ticket was at a cool USD $37 per pax for a day pass, $2 goes to some education fund apparently. We each had to have our pictures taken and printed on the ticket as their semi high tech way of ensuring tickets are not transferable. Fair enough.
Angkor Wat, since the 12th century
Our tour includes the following temples:
Bayon temple, with lots of smiling stone faces
Angkor Wat was obviously the most famous site, with the huge body of water surrounding it, you’ll need to walk through the temporary floating bridge to get to the temple. For those who wants to have those iconic sunrise/sunset photos, you’d have to book a separate type of tour instead, we obviously did not do that.
Ba phuon with the “sleeping buddha”
Bayon temple was our next destination. It was famous for having a lot of stone faces. Thank goodness that they are all smiling, otherwise this could make for an interesting night time visit on a daring mission (though unfortunately you can’t get there at night..)
yeap, expect some really steep steps at Ba Phuon
Next up was Ba Phuon where we also encountered some monkeys, and a lot of really steep steps if you’re adventurous enough to get all the way up to the top. The view was not overly impressive, but a view nonetheless. What was more impressive though was the “sleeping buddha” made of stone blocks at one side of the temple, barely recognizable due to years of erosion.
Lunch break at Banana Tree (overpriced and lousy)
Our guide then took us to this tourist trap of a lunch place called Banana Tree, where we had our first “amok fish”, a dish I could only described as someone trying to make otak-otak and gives up half way.
Food was again overly sweet, and too pricey for what we got. Didn’t blame the tuktuk driver much.. “cari makan” lor.
Ta Prohm, with trees growing out of the ruins
Next temple was a proper ruins made famous by Lara Croft & Tomb Raider. In fact, the guide just called it the Tomb Raider temple..
Trees growing out of crumbling stone buildings, do expect line of tourists all wanting to take photos at the same first tree spots. My advise is, walk a little deeper and there’ll be less of a wait.
Banteay Kdei – A Citadel of Chambers
Our last spot was Bantaey Kdei, and to be perfectly honest, things start to look a little bit like they’re repeating itself. Also, the afternoon heat on a dry season-day starts to take its toll.
yeap, a hat is good, umbrella is better, and wear your sunscreen
To me, one day is just nice for touring Angkor and its temples unless you’re a hardcore history fan. If you do plan to go there, bring an umbrella, plenty of sunscreen, and water to drink.
For this year’s CNY escape, my brother & I brought mom to Siem Reap for some Angkor Wat sight seeing. So naturally, we got to try some of the local foods.
I always thought it was a little strange that we can find many representations of South East Asian food in Malaysia – Thai being most popular, but you can also find Indonesian, Vietnamese, and to a lesser extend, Filipino food. However, I haven’t seen a single Cambodian hawker stall or restaurants in all of Klang Valley, and now I think I know why..
Old Market at Siem Reap
The short answer is – Cambodian food is just not very good.. or rather, they don’t appeal to the Malaysian taste at all. The biggest problem being that most everything ended up to sweet, even dishes that you never expect to have any sugar at all, they will add some just for kicks in Siem Reap.
So, if you order food there and specifically tell them not to put any sugar, things usually will turn out OK-ish.
Even though it’s the second biggest city in Cambodia, Siem Reap is really quite a small place, with population of only around 200 thousands. You can use local currency, but US dollar is accepted anywhere with a rate of around 1000 Cambodian Riel to 1 USD, I’d suggest using US dollar for your travel here.
Our first meal was at the Old Market at the heart of the city, walking distance from our hotel (there are many around the area at varying price range).
Instinctively, we went for the busiest noodle/rice stall in the market.
brunch for three, rice or noodle for you?
We ended up ordering 3 different dishes – vermicelli with pork, “instant” noodle with beef, and a plate of chicken rice. Ordering wasn’t too difficult since they do have English menu, and each dish cost US $2. Probably cheaper for the locals? Not sure.
Taste wise they were pretty decent, I particularly love the pork blood and vege in the soup. The soup base however, was a tad too sweet, though still quite acceptable, unlike some of the other stalls we tried at later meals.
I’d not shy away from eating at this stall again.
the dessert stall is right next to noodle stall
Right next to the noodle stall is this very popular dessert stall operated by a lady who doesn’t really speak any English.
Since Siem Reap food is already too sweet, it follows the logic that they would be pretty good at dishes that should be sweet, right? And after having been convinced by some instagram friends who urged me to try it out, we did, and it was awesome!
desserts for three
We had no idea what these desserts were called, or what they really were other than knowing grass jelly, coconut milk, sago, banana, condensed milk and the likes were involved. These 3 bowls cost us 5,500 Riel, they were sweet, tasty, and absolutely satisfying.
I need to do a better job at posting on this blog, as this was from a trip to Bangkok last year….
Anyway, if you find yourself at Thong Lo, an upscale area in Bangkok with quirky cafes and plenty of Japanese restaurants, this Khao Jao Thai Restaurant is one modern eatery serving pretty traditional Thai fare worth checking out.
Khao Jao Thai Restaurant, Bangkok
The restaurant is located along Thong Lo 17 Alley, a stone’s throw away from a popular hipster watering hole that is The Commons. It’s air conditioned, tastefully decorated, and offers quite a good selection of traditional dishes to choose from (see menu below).
For the three of us, we had the prawn with petai, bamboo shoots yellow curry, a plate of vege, and stuffed omelet.
The petai came with pretty big and juicy prawns, with a strong, slightly sweetish belacan taste that was also spicy, a perfect combination.
There’s only 3 more days in 2019, time flies, but it’s still not too late to write about the diving trip at Komodo Islands that I went back in September. This is the first part of the trip – a visit to view the famed Komodo Dragons.
Welcome to Rinca Island, here be dragons
Since there’s no direct flight from KL to Labuan Bajo, the Western fishing town of Flores closest to the Komodo National Park, we took the flight from KL to Bali, and then Bali to Labuan Bajo.
A note though, never fly Lion’s Air if your life depends on it. Other than the plane being old (which is acceptable), the service level is downright bad. On our return flight the computer system broke down and the ground crew refused to check us in manual method until the plane landed, which delayed things further on an already delayed flight, almost made us missed the connecting flight back to KL.
After spending a night at Labuan Bajo, we headed on to our liveaboard (more on that boat in next post), and the first destination was Rinca Island – one of the three largest islands included in Komodo National Park.
a bit of forced perspective doesn’t hurt any dragon
All visitors to Rinca island must be accompanied by a local guide, and it was obvious from the get go that it’s for our own good, preventing stupid tourists such as us to get ourselves into trouble with these magnificent creatures. These things looks almost like your usual monitor lizard but just, wayyyyy bigger, like size of a crocodile.
There were some pretty sad looking deer around the park too, and we were told that these were dragon food, which kinda explained how they look the way they did, dohhh.
a guide is definitely mandatory for dragon sightseeing
The guide did his best in explaining to us about Komodo dragons, their behavior, life cycle, and even helped us take some pretty neat photos. Wikipedia does a better job than I ever can, so I’m not going to even attempt, check out the entry here.
The tour lasted some 2-3 hours, we walked around the foot path to the top of one of the hills, where more dragons were loitering around. The view on top was quite neat, worth it.
the pink beach is due to all these coral bits (I think)
As a bonus, we also got to stop by a tiny island comprises entirely our of sand – and they’re pink! Yes, the famous pink beach of Komodo National Park.
pink beach island
The pinkness of the beach is from a sort of red coral bits making up part of the sand. Makes for a good photo if you pump up saturation a bit, otherwise they’re not exactly overwhelming to be honest. One of those things that looks better on instagram than in real life, oh well.
Some diving photos and what we managed to see underwater on this trip to come, it was a very tiring and overly satisfying few days of diving.
There are two types of travelers, the one that plans for everything including transportation, hotel, point of interests, and which restaurants (and sometimes what to eat) to dine in; then there’s the type who likes to have a bit of surprises and a sense of adventure. It’s not surprise which type is me, and luckily, my brother is pretty much the same.
pork offal soup with rice, breakfast of champions
One of those adventures brought us to this pork offal soup with rice place when we went to Bangkok over CNY with mom.
This little stall is located on Soi Sukhumvit 55, the road in which we walk by on the way from our hotel to the Thong Lo BTS Station (Bangkok Mass Transit System, not that Korean boy group thingy..)
What intrigued us was how busy the stall is, and that it is seemingly a slice of time capsule wedged in between two roles of shop houses in this increasingly modern city that is Bangkok. So we did a bit of pointing here and there and had our orders for brunch.
blood, intestine, kidney, liver, and meat
As it turns out, they serve only one dish – pork offal soup with rice, and yep, just like Klang, there are people who has rice and porky goodness as breakfast.
the stall is wedged between two buildings
The soup came with a good mix of coagulated blood, intestine, kidney, liver, and pork slices, the soup is quite flavorful if slightly too salty for my taste, there’s also generous amount of cilantro to provide some balance to those fatty bits. The chili sauce condiment accompanying the dish is rather spicy too, as you’d expect from Thailand.
It was overall a rather yummy dish and one of the best meals we had in Bangkok. For 35-40 baht per bowl, this was also one of the more affordable meals too.
there’s a coffee stall next to it too
Address: Pork Offal Soup (Opposite El Gaucho) Soi Sukhumvit 55, THONGLOR KLONGTON NUA Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110, Thailand GPS: 13.730904, 100.581437