Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Siem Reap with Gusto (Part 2)

While Siem Reap has an abundance of temples, I wanted to devote no more than a day for my temple run. Too much heat and sun gives me enfeebling migraines and I know myself enough as a traveler to not want to court them while I’m on the road.

So I went to Tah Prohm, Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat. Each had a charm of its own. In the echo chambers of Tah Prohm, I beat my chest and made wishes, following the steps of devotees from centuries ago. I lined up for a requisite pose before the imposing roots of the silver cotton tree. I posed nose to nose against one of hundreds of Brahma’s faces at Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom. Then of course I crossed the massive hallways of Angkor Wat, reliving the Ramayana in its intricate bas-reliefs. I climbed to the top of the temple to savor the view. I managed to sneak a peek at and a snapshot of the saffron-robed monks. And just before my limbs melted in the heat, I returned to my hotel room and rested until dinner called.

I hadn’t allowed myself to explore Pub Street yet, or even The Alley, an alleyway that ran parallel to Pub Street but completely shielded from the hubbub of its rambunctious neighbor. I walked the length of Pub and The Alley in search for a restaurant but couldn’t decide where to have dinner. Then I set eyes on Angkor Palm restaurant and went in, pulled by its claim to have won the Restaurant of the Year Award in 2006 and a recommendation from Lonely Planet.

Most restaurants offered versions of Khmer samplers composed of small servings of their specials from appetizers to dessert. It’s a smart option for first-time visitors and a good introduction to the cuisine. At Angkor Palm, a sampler for two is less than $15, a bargain in my book.

Dinner started off with green mango with smoked fish and fried spring rolls. I loved both and couldn’t get enough of the spring roll dip.

Then the sampler arrived. It had pork satay (my favorite), amok fish, beef with vegetables and sautéed morning glory (kangkong).

Dessert was a letdown so I treated myself to a slice of steamed chocolate cake at Aha, a fine dining restaurant at The Alley. By the time I was done, I couldn’t wait to get back to the resort. I made a detour to Pub Street just to check out the scene. It was streaming with partygoers in Halloween costumes. Pretty, long-legged teenagers wearing puff-sleeved tops and nappies. A shirtless tourist pulling a piglet. Two revelers sporting two-feet-tall mohawks. I was lured to sit at Le Tigre to watch the street scene. After one drink, the lola (grandma) in me really wanted to head home.

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