I really wanted to buy some cloth to make a dress. Cambodian silk is known to be cheap and I was on a quest to find them.
This led us to Psar Le, a market for local Cambodians in the morning. Chaotic and messy, the shopaholic in me fell in love with the place immediately. There were hidden finds there - I bought an awesome cheap denim jacket which hangs proudly in my closet today. The dresses were pretty and thankfully I was with rational friends who stopped me from opening my wallet too much. Anyway, back to my quest. We found a stall selling stacks and stacks of cloths. Bargained hard (but not enough) as I had to pay a small sum for my purchases.
Mission acccomplished, it was off to Beng Melea.
Located east of Siem Reap, the journey took 2 hours. Half the time was spent getting a glimpse of the villages, the other half - sleeping.
Beng Melea - best non-touristy ruins
Another jungle temple, this place was isolated and we hardly saw any tourists at all. Beng Melea required us to climb up temple steps and broken stone ruins, giving us a good morning workout. This where I truly felt like Lara Croft - as one can really get a good jungle temple feel. We tried hard to shake off a particularly persistent boy who insisted on bringing us around (for a small fee off course). He gave up when we settled down for our picnic brunch at the top of temple, which us a good birds eye view of the surrounding.
In the end, we couldn't shake off another guide, two in fact.
Actually their help proved useful as we were brought to every nook and cranny of the temple, even to places which looked inaccesible as the stones had fallen. Being the clumsiest in the group (and wearing sneakers which provided little friction - thank you Asics), I had to continually watch my step and cling on to the hands of the guide at particularly tricky spots. This gave us the feeling of being some sort of explorer - who knew what lay in store ahead?!
Another shot of Beng Melea - be careful where you walk! The rocks under your feet can give way anytime!
Well as it turned out the most exciting thing that happened there was we made a friend from China. We struck up a conversation at a particularly picturesque tree branch. She ended up following us to our next location - Tonle Sap Lake. Known as a floating village, we were brought on a boat ride down the river. Honestly, its simply a glimpse into how people live on water. Waved to some villagers from our boat, stopped over in a floating shop to have some coconut juice before heading back to shore.
Fishing in Tonle Sap
We badgered our Muslim driver, Hanafy to bring us to his house located in the Muslim village of Steng Thmai. Siem Reap has a small Muslim population, compared to the majority Buddhist. Still they live harmonously together. It was here that I got a better insight into the life of a local. Hanafy shared with us snippets of his life - how his room rental costs US$40 per month - pretty exorbitant if you ask me. We were introduced to his family - his wife and young daughter. He makes a living by driving travellers like us day by day, relying on tips. He is at the whim and fancy of travellers like us who wants to wake up early to visit the temples and stay out till late at night. He eats fruits and drinks water for breakfast and has dinner only after he gets back. He practises his faith at the nearby Neak Mah Mosque (which we were given a personal tour of by the mosque officials).
Hanafy's young daughter in the background! We managed to get him to bring us to his house!
He became a friend to us, not just someone we hired to bring us around.
Hanafy introduced us to the owner of the Muslim Family Restaurant - which is open only by reservation. He offered to cook us dinner - which turned out to be the most delicious meal I had in Siem Reap. Home-cooked style and healthy, it was food at its best. We were also given some more insights into life as a Muslim in Siem Reap and Cambodian politics.
Day 3 in Siem Reap was the most memorable and the epitome of everything i hope to get out of a travel experience - interaction with fellow travellers, the locals and an insignt into their culture.