Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Siem Reap with Gusto (Part 4)

Having covered most of the must-sees, I decided to slow down. I got up late and had just about enough time to tour the National Museum before closing time. I would recommend a visit here prior to a trip to the temples for a thorough explanation of what you’ll be seeing at the sites.

Charged with nothing but brunch (chocolatine and coffee), I was ready for dinner by the time I got out of the museum. I wanted to treat myself to what is considered one of the best restaurants in Siem Reap, Abacus.

The restaurant is about a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride from the museum but all the drivers seemed to know the place. The place was simply and tastefully decorated, nothing flamboyant. It was somewhat small, with perhaps a dozen or so tables. The menu was extensive but not overwhelming. I opted for the seafood, which was delectable. Since I arrived early, only one other table was occupied. By the time I was enjoying my dessert, five groups had arrived, plus another that opted to stay at the al fresco area. I am always amazed to find haute cuisine in relatively remote destinations, but then again, Siem Reap was a French colony and the French take their food seriously. Apparently, so do the Khmers. 


There was only one other thing to do on my final day – shopping. I had already bought a couple of fisherman’s pants for pasalubong, a pair of silver apsaras and a bronze sculpture of the four-headed Brahma.

I headed towards Artisans d’Angkor, a Cambodian company dedicated to the preservation of traditional Khmer skills in silk-making, stone and wood carving, lacquering and painting. It was on offshoot of a project that provided vocational training for the less privileged and disabled. In some of the workshops, deaf-mute workers were doing the painting and lacquering. It was a rewarding visit because I got to see the amount of skill and attention that went into producing Khmer crafts.

After buying a pink, buttery-soft silk scarf at the Artisans d’Angkor shop, I rode a tuk-tuk to the Old Market to buy some spices for Badette. I was tempted to buy the ones in pretty little woven baskets at Artisans d’Angkor at $3. I would have regretted it. At the Old Market, I was able to buy 12 packs for only $6. No pretty packaging but I was sure she’ll want to transfer them to a spice jar anyway. With that, it was time for lunch! I gave the Khmer sampler another go at Champey, another delightful restaurant just across the Old Market. And because I had a late-night flight, I had just enough time for a massage at the hotel spa before heading to the airport.

Tip: I did all of my transactions in US dollars, no need for money exchange. But make sure to bring smaller bills for tipping. And inspect the dollars they give you because the establishments don’t accept torn or taped bills. 

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