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Saturday, 18 February 2017

The Bus Journey From Siem Reap To Phnom Penh


Siem Reap is not a place that I'd like to hang around for too long. Having seen its best, it was time to move on. Our next destination was Phnom Penh which is located 320 km south of Siem Reap. There are a few mode of transport to get to Cambodia's capital city. The fastest is of course to take a flight but there are advantages not doing so. Travelling by boat along Tonle Sap River should be quite an adventure but taking an air-conditioned bus like what I did wasn't too bad either. Using the latter two mode of transport, you get to traverse a big part of rural Cambodia and catch glimpses of the people's lifestyle which you don't get to see if you fly.
Our bus passed through a number of small villages. Many of these village houses are built on stilts and some of these stilts are exceptionally high, apparently to ward off snakes that are aplenty in the surrounding paddy fields.
The lifestyle of most villagers centers around paddy cultivation. It is very common to see small lotus ponds around the houses. I wonder whether the villagers purposely grow these plants to collect the seeds which fetch a high price in the market.(I bought 2 kg home)


Prey Pros Rest Area
The journey between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh normally takes a little over 5 hours but with two stops in between ours took 6 hours. After a two hours drive we made our first stop at Prey Pros Rest Area in Kampong Thom. This is an excellent stopover for cars and buses that commute between the two cities as it has clean toilets, a restaurant and a multi-purpose shop that sells souvenirs, snacks and a lot other things.
Prey Pros Rest area overlooks a lake and is quite scenic. Some parts of the restaurant are built on stilts above the lake.
There are also individual huts for patron which can be accessed by a boardwalk. 
Interesting items are sold at Prey Pros shop but the things are generally more expensive compared to the city.
Fancy buying a drums made of snake skin? You can see these at Prey Pros.

Spider Market
An hour and a half after Prey Pros, we reached Skuon, a small village in Kampong Cham Province. Our bus stopped over at Spider Market which is just by the roadside. This market is thus named because spider is the market's specialty. There are about half a dozen stalls selling this exotic food and many more vendors walking around with trays of this 'delicacy' on their heads. 
The market was a hive of activities, the bulk of which centers around food that many would not dare to eat. There is a food court inside the market where the locals flocked to take their breakfast. Surrounding the market building are stalls selling fruits, snacks and other interesting food.
Seen here are trays of different types of insects, 8-legged creatures and worms. All are aromatically spiced and deep fried. 
Skuon has been infested with a specie of spider called tarantulas and the locals have taken to eating them. It started during the cruel regime of Khmer Rouge when food was a scarcity. Spider eating has now become a food culture among the locals even though famine has long gone. Spider is not the only exotic food in this market as there are a variety of other things sold which would 'terrify' many even though they are considered delicacy snacks here.
Taking a closer look at what they sell here......Fried grubs
Fried roaches
Fried crickets
Fried scorpions
Fried water bugs
I would have tried eating one of two of these exotic stuff if not for the swarm of houseflies that have landed all over the place. It is said that the taste of the spider is a cross between chicken and cod but you will have to eat it for yourself to verify the claim.

Another interesting food sold in the market is the fresh water clams which look rather tempting as it is nicely spiced. This clam is a popular Cambodian food as it can be found in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh as well.
This woman moved around selling a local delicacy that is all rolled up. The only thing that is stopping me from buying some of these authentic stuff to try is the fear that the food might not be hygienically prepared  .


A fruit stall where mangoes and pomelos are quite artistically presented.

Phnom Penh 
We reached Phnom Penh after 6 hours on the road.
After seeing Phnom Penh I have this to say. " Coming to Cambodia would be incomplete if you do not visit its capital city". 
I like Phnom Penh a lot more than I do Siem Reap. Compared to Siem Reap which feels like it is still beholden to its past, Phnom Penh is like a breath of fresh air. 

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