So for my first post after my almost two-year long absence on this blog, it seems fitting that I’ll write about my first trip back to Southeast Asia since 2013. I mentioned in my farewell post on the Skeptical Sailor that I was on my way from DC to Cambodia. True story, and I have the ridiculously sweaty pictures to prove it.
But let me start from the beginning. The reason why I’m even here in Asia in the first place is because I’m participating in a consulting abroad program (or CAP, as my school calls it.) A requirement for our MBA, the school sends students to one of five different countries to act as consultants for various companies on projects ranging from venture capital to real estate. I had elected to go to China, since the client is a nanotechnology firm and as a prospective techie, it seemed right up my alley.
Anyway, I had about a week to spare in between finals and the start of CAP, so I decided to fly out to Asia early and hit up Cambodia, one of the few countries in SE Asia I hadn’t yet been to. I couldn’t wait – I had visions of climbing all over temple ruins by day, and relaxing by the pool with a Mai Tai in the evenings. Yes, all of that happened, but I had neglected to factor in the weather. No worries, I thought. I’d spent years in the Asia-Pacific region, I was quite used to the heat.
For the first half of my trip, some of my friends had joined me. They were on the whirlwind SE Asia tour, and since they were only spending two days in Siem Reap before jetting off to Vietnam, we decided to knock out the sightseeing and the touristy stuff.
Angkor Wat was wonderful! I was able to hire an English-speaking tour guide through my hotel concierge, and he had a lot of interesting stories about the world’s largest temple complex.
I’m grateful that they had plenty of cold water on hand, because we visited a total of six temples over eight hours. The advantage of knocking out so much sightseeing in one day was that we didn’t have to go back – my original plan had been to visit Angkor Wat with the group, and then make trips to other temples after they left. After that day, there was no way any of us were willing to brave the extreme heat again!
At night we hit up Pub Street, the main drag for nightlife in Siem Reap. It was a lot of fun and reminded me of a much less shady Walking Street, for those who have been to Pattaya, Thailand. (If you haven’t, please don’t go. There are only two reasons people visit Pattaya: one is because you’re deployed on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and you don’t have a choice. I’ll leave it to you to guess what the other reason is. Let’s just say that some things, once seen, cannot be unseen.)
A few things we were amused to see were the snacks available in the local markets.
After one of the guys bought a bag of fried crickets, I felt obligated to try one and was impressed by the seasoning and the crispy texture, though I tried to ignore the antennas that got stuck in my teeth. I had to draw the line at the tarantulas, though. I’ve eaten some weird things in Asia over the years, but I despise spiders in real life, so eating one was a big fat NO.
As for the rest of my Cambodian vacation, I spent pretty much the whole time getting pampered at the Borei Angkor resort. I’d forgotten how awesome the hotels in SE Asia are; $50/night got me a luxury suite with a complementary massage, free transportation, drinks at the pool, and free breakfast. The best part was that the massage was pretty much what I remember from this region – basically, I got beat up by a 90 pound Cambodian girl for an hour. But boy did my back muscles feel amazing afterward!
Anyway, it’s now off to China – Shanghai, to be specific – for the start of our consulting project!