About Siem Reap
Since arriving in Siem Reap, Cambodia last September I've been itching to get out and explore. I'm also keen to share what this beautiful country has to offer aside from the Angkor Temples and The Killing Fields. Whilst these are absolute musts, there's a whole lot more to Cambodia, much of it off the beaten track, away from the tourist hoards. With that in mind, this series was born. Andy and I will endeavour to visit and write about one off the beaten track place here every month. The aim being to encourage people to stay longer in Cambodia and see some of it's less touristy offerings. First up is a Kulen Mountain day trip, where a group of us went on a day trip from Siem Reap in January. Siem Reap is as being as flat as a pancake, but 40 km to the North East of Angkor Wat, in Svay Leu District is Phnom Kulen National Park. The small regular shaped plateau of the Phnom Kulen mountain range protrudes from the landscape, nestled amongst thick jungle. Locals consider Kulen Mountain or 'Mountain of Lychees' to b the most sacred mountain in Cambodia. It's frequently visited by Buddhists and Hindus's in pilgrimage. On top of the plateau is a sacred hilltop with about 30 ruined temples. Much of the land is yet to be de-mined, which means currently, the public can't visit many of the temples, and definitely not without an expert guide. What to See and Do
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235 Kms from Siem Reap
Whenever I travel to a new place, I like to steep myself deep in their culture, of which food is an extremely integral part. Cambodia was no different, especially since I had heard great things about the food here. So, it seemed but natural to enrol for a cooking class while I was in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. Khmer food includes a lot of fish, fish sauce (which I fund a bit too strong fro my liking), chicken and pork. They also feast on many insects, which we were not adventurous enough to try.After referring to trip advisor about various cooking schools, we chose Veasna's Cooking class (Veasnainthekitchen.com) as we could customise the menu and have a private class for ourselves. Veasna came at 8:30 am to our Hotel on Sisowath Quay and off we were to shop for our ingredients.Just after a few minutes' walk, we reached the market where every fish, meat and vegetable imaginable were being sold. The sights were very fascinating; women filleting fish with the same skill of a starred chef, milk being extracted from coconuts with specialised equipment, mounds of the famous kampot pepper filling the sir with their aroma, fresh lemongrass and kafir lime leaves made into a ready-to-use paste and new vegetables that I had never encountered amongst others. WE spent a goof 45 minutes walking around and buying produce for our meal. On our way to the cooking class, we picked up a huge tender coconut inside which we were to cook fish amok - Cambodia's most popular dish (and my favourite).
79 Kms from Siem Reap
Continue your Cambodia travel guide from Siem Reap as you head to Battambang, also situated in the northwest. It's a sleepy town with a relaxed attitude and the region is Cambodia's major rice producer. If you want a break from bus journeys, why not take a boat? It will be slow but crowded but will give you a feel of rural Cambodia.