Rob: This begins our second month-long visit to Cambodia in the last 2 years. It remains a swirling blend of warm smiles, spicy food, cheap cold beer, very dusty dirt roads, loud noises of all kinds at all hours, trash clogged canals, beautiful jungle flora, sunshine, hazy sunsets, Buddhist traditions, friendly people and fellow travelers who can empathize with this country’s past and patiently participate in the growth and resurgence of its future. You do need to be braced for impact when you land here, but know not to be deterred from the experiences and culture that awaits after you acclimate.
On our first day I was able to indulge in my favorite Cambodian delicacy. It’s only a slightly special dish here because of its common everyday ingredients, but to me it is a craving I can’t get in other places of the world. Fish Amok!! It is freshwater fish (and/or freshwater eel sometimes) poached in a rich but light coconut lemongrass curry broth with vegetables, chilis and served in a banana leaf bowl with rice. I did a happy dance in my chair when it arrived and was not disappointed. It was true to my favorite variation of the dish. Amok changes a little from area to area in the country, but the basics are always the same. A few cold Angkor beers washed it down. This one hit the spot. I was almost too full afterwards to enjoy an $8 hour long massage. Almost. 🙂 Lacy had a very tasty and very spicy sauté of Morning Glory Shoots in a garlicky broth with a handful of red chilis. Much, much hotter than my Amok. She had her first “tears of spice and joy” meal and I loved watching her sweat, smile and love every steaming and blistering bite.
Lacy: Fortunately the beginning of our travels passed quickly as we each spread out in our own row and slept during most our 14 hour flight from LA to Shanghai. With the news of coronoavirus and the possible halting of flights between the US and China we are thankful that we were even able to get on our flight. The first leg was followed by a miserable layover in a freezing Shanghai airport. We were both shivering for the majority of the 12 hour interlude and couldn’t wait to board our second plane to Siem Reap. I slept hard, like a corpse, for the five hour flight. Exiting the plane into the warm tropical air was a blessing!!
It’s been a week since we left Taos, New Mexico and made a small road trip of traveling westward to California to ultimately travel East. Having each never seen the Grand Canyon in Arizona we angled our way there first followed by a motorcycle auction in Las Vegas. Nope, no purchases. These bikes were just for the pleasure of our eyes as the price tags were a little steep for our pockets. We both still hold a fondness for Taos in our hearts, a place unlike any other that we have visited here or abroad. Connecting to its high desert and high alpine vistas, Native American culture, hippie vibe and intensely local community we have no doubt we will return. But as we look back we also look forward. Not really sure where the next three months will ultimately take us, we revel in the unknown! One of the best lessons of our last three years of travel and discovery is that we love living in the gray space. Having just a vague idea of where we may travel to after completing my three week yoga course in Siem Reap, Cambodia gives us the the great gift of feeling that the world is completely open to us. It’s true, we both feel a deep connection to Asia, but we certainly aren’t limiting ourselves to just this part of the world….it’s just that we always find it hard to leave.
Our arrival to Cambodia began with a midnight tuk tuk ride to our hotel where we were welcomed with intoxicating smell of night blooming jasmine and the sound chirping geckos. I was pleasantly reminded of my love for starlings when they emerged in flocks darting above the pool at sunset the following evening. The flower and fauna in this part of the world are simply wonderful!
And so are the affordable pedicures, manicures and massages! A week into our travels I am 4 massages and a pedicure in for less than $45. Yes, there will be more. I get a 2 1/2 hour lunch break in my 6:30am – 8:30pm daily schedule of yoga training during which I have, more than once, indulged in a bit of pampering. It also helps that I have become friendly with the owner of the massage place across the street that is open until midnight. Last time I visited he gave me a huge bunch of bananas to take with me. The fruit here is amazing and I am eating so much of it as it is included with all three of the daily meals that are provided with the training. Dragonfruit, papaya, mango, pineapple and other fruits I have never even seen that are all so ripe and sweet. I’m eating 200% more fruit on a daily basis than I normally do, but also no meat as the meals served during the course are vegan. Still eating dairy every once in a while as ice cream on a hot day is sooooo refreshing. Rob is trying out enough of the local barbecued meats and beers for the both of us! I get to live vicariously through him as he details how juicy his pork belly skewers are or how cold and refreshing the beer is that he washed it down with. Who could blame him?! With .50 cent beers endlessly advertised it’s hard to pass up! And yet he still makes it to the gym. Go Rob! During this first week of training we managed to quickly sneak out for 2 meals together and spend a little time together. Otherwise, I bring him a coffee in bed (just like being at home…wherever that is these days) as he is waking up and I am off to my second class of the day at 9am. We occasionally see each other during the day in between my classes and his outings and always have a little time to catch up with one another before I fall asleep nice and early to prepare for another day.
The course itself has been exactly what I was looking for in terms of learning more about the physical and theoretical aspects of yoga. There are seven other students in my class of all ages and backgrounds, from all over the world. It’s a very nice group and I’m so appreciative to share this experience with them. I’m certainly feeling physically stronger each day as we engage in the physical practice of yoga, or asanas, for anywhere from 3.5 -6 hours per day.
It was very nice to have Sunday off and be able to sleep in until 10 and then spend the day with Rob. Feeling like a traveler again, we rented a motorcycle and took off to the countryside where Rob showed me some of the sites he has been exploring on his own. We visited the floating villages of Tonle Sap lake and the ancient temple of Phnom Krom. To cool off from the near 100 degree weather we returned to a series of huts overlooking a lotus pond that Rob had previously visited. For .50 cents each we were able to take delightful nap in a hammock and enjoy the view. This is probably my favorite place so far for this visit to Siem Reap.