24 hours in Siem Reap

The famous Angkor Wat and the surrounding Siem Reap aren’t just places for photos. There’s also plenty of room to make your adventure there the most amnestic trip you’ve ever done.

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It’s 3:00 in the morning. You are sitting on a stool next to a drinks cart somewhere near “Pub Street” in Siem Reap. Somewhere in the reptilian core of your brainstem—the part devoted to maintaining respiration and sphincter function—you have a dim recollection of a date in three hours with Angkor Wat, the 12th-century temple complex that was the reason why you chose Siem Reap over Phuket for your long weekend escape.

Dreams of Angkor Wat have since been washed away by the cheap drinks and table dancing at Angkor What?, the boisterous “Holiday in Cambodia” shot bar you stumbled out of an hour earlier. Now you are reduced to street drinking and trying to convince the proprietor of the drinks cart that what he really wants to do is play AC/DC at a high volume. He disagrees. You stumble back to the hotel.

It is now 6:00 in the morning. You have slept the sleep of the damned for only 90 minutes before your alarm goes off. You ignore the alarm. The phone rings. You ignore that too. Now there is a pounding on the door. It is your guide sent to fetch you.

It’s now 3:00 in the morning. You are sitting on a stool next to a drinks cart somewhere near “Pub Street” in Siem Reap. You have a dim recollection of once having visited Angkor Wat.

Dawn at Angkor Wat is a magical moment. The sun rises slowly over the spires of the ancient temple and the gloaming of the jungle gives way to first light. You raise your camera. A small urchin appears at your side with a menu of coffee options.

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“Perhaps a beer, Mister?” You realize that you are not alone in this tranquil moment. You are in fact surrounded by 800 other people, all jostling along a muddy lake shore for that perfect shot of the temple at dawn. Minor skirmishes break out for high ground. Selfie sticks are wielded like light sabers. You realize that we travel the world looking for the perfect unique moment and we do so as a herd.

Dawn breaks. You dutifully walk with your guide among the ruins. The serene rock visages of Bayon and Angkor Thom. The ruins are magnificent. You are trying very, very hard not to vomit on them.

Back to Siem Reap by tuk tuk. “Do you want to play Angkor golf?” asks the guide.

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The tuk tuk pulls up next to the Angkor Putt mini golf course. There are, apparently, no end to Angkor puns in Siem Reap. You are not sure if Angkor Wat mini golf is a sacrilege or the coolest thing you have ever seen. They offer beer so you decide the latter and play a round.

You return to town, hungry. You need good hangover food. You smell tomato sauce, beer and meatballs. As if you have willed it from primitive forces, you are standing in front of Belmiro’s Pizza and Subs. The owner, Tyler, is from Boston. It is the best sandwich you have had in…you have lost time and space.

You also order a slice of pizza. It has just the right ratio of sauce, cheese, and topping. You are relieved. This is the second time you have had pizza in Siem Reap. The first time—in another restaurant, not Belmiro’s—the pizza had been merely a soggy delivery device for herbal relief. This is real pizza. You are feeling much better.

After an afternoon recuperating by your hotel’s pool and checking out the local handicrafts at the Old Market, you are ready for dinner. You are feeling almost human. In the past 24 hours, food consumption has been pizza, a sandwich, multiple shots and a THC milkshake. You really should try the local food.

You end up early at Genevieve’s. It’s actually a good thing you’re early. Genevieve’s often requires reservations done a day or more in advance. The Beef Lok Lak is tender, well-spiced, and filling not unlike the author. The restaurant is one of those feel-good, do-good in Asia with give-back-to-the-people stories.

The night ends at Picasso Bar & Tapas. You wish you could remember more about this visit, but you stopped back at Belmiro’s on the way there. You remember that Picasso’s has a horseshoe bar and it is conducive to conversation. They also make the best cocktails in Siem Reap.

It’s now 3:00 in the morning. You are sitting on a stool next to a drinks cart somewhere near “Pub Street” in Siem Reap. You have a dim recollection of once having visited Angkor Wat.

Category Travel