MY PASSPORT STAMP: Siem Reap

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I’ve always dreamed of travelling the world and I try to do so as often I can, when my schedule permits of course. However, time and again I’ve mentioned how tough it is for me to properly plan and block dates because my assignments as a broadcaster always pop up at the last minute, and in bulks too. Recently, I saw that I had a weekend off and immediately blocked the dates so I could get myself a flight ticket somewhere. Everything was last minute and very impromptu so my friends and I decided to go somewhere just nearby – something that can be covered within a weekend.

We headed to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Siem Reap, as I expected is the road less glamorous (holler to The Road not Taken from my Literature class in High School!). Of course if we compare it to the likes of Thailand, or Vietnam for that matter, it is nowhere close. It is miles away from the modern streets of Bangkok and far behind the busy sites of Ho Chi Minh. The roads in Siem Reap are mostly earth, and I swear I could count the number of buildings with my two hands. It is just a few stretches of bangunan pasar….and that was basically it!

We did visit the Angkor Wat – which has been a dream of mine since I was seven years old. Did you play Tomb Raider 4: The Last Revelation too? That video game was the bomb dot com. And it made me want to go to Cambodia ever since! Childhood bucket list –  checked!

The moment I stepped into Angkor Wat, I was just speechless. Call me dramatic but my heart literally skipped a beat. They don’t call that temple the eighth wonder of the world for nothing. It was breathtakingly beautiful – it was everything I’ve always imagined and more! There is something about the Angkor Wat that has always fascinated me as a young girl, and when I studied about it in History class. It was the Angkor Wat and ancient Egypt’s pyramids that always grabbed my interest. Those two have always fascinated me most, in the most undescribable and unexplainable way. Maybe I’ll go to Egypt next and accomplish part two of my Lara Croft dreams.

Anyway, apart from temple hopping and historical site visits, there really isn’t much to do in Siem Reap. The hotel that I stayed at was a few minutes walk away from Pub Street, the heart of Angkor as they say. It’s where all the snazzy bars are, but there were only a few to choose from! As I said earlier, it was only a few stretches of bangunan pasar, so there really weren’t that much options. The booze however, were dirt cheap. 25 cents for a can of beer (for the non-Muslims who like their beer of course!), and USD1 for shots that were literally served at stalls. At stalls dammit! Macam jual burger tepi jalan!

The gerai-gerai available at Pub Street literally served cocktails for a dollar, so obviously the Mat Sallehs there went crazy. Bumping into drunk people eating scorpions and spiders (those were snacks, also sold at Pub Street) was so normal, it wasn’t even surprising anymore. Nearby Pub Street is the market. This is where I got my supply of Fruit Shakes, something very popular in Siem Reap! 50 cents for fresh Fruit Shakes, I was in heaven!

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As usual, in every country that I visit, the best souvenir I could get myself is a local beauty product not available elsewhere. I tried searching high and low for makeup or beauty products, but I guess because makeup is too much of a luxury item for a country as poor as Cambodia, I didn’t find anything. At all. Not even eyeliner.

The women in Siem Reap don’t wear makeup. All of them had nothing on their faces, except for very sweet smiles….. I guess the high price + the low demand of cosmetics made it unavailable for makeup hoarding tourists like me. The women there, by the way, almost all of them are slim. But then again so were all the cows and horses that I saw. The country is so poor, nobody has enough to eat. I respect them though, because for a country that has so little, they had so much friendliness and warmth to give. It really touched me and made me feel more thankful with all the blessings that I have. If the country touched me even more I might have just ended up adopting a child and calling him Maddox.

Anyway, back to makeup. The only cosmetic purchase that I made in Siem Reap was when I was at the airport. I love looking through cosmetics at the airport and whoo-pee, my flight back to Kuala Lumpur got delayed for a good two hours so I really had plenty of time to kill.

For a ‘duty free’ airport, the cosmetics sold were still ridiculously overpriced. USD20 for a basic Revlon lipstick? That’s savage! It’s more expensive than a MAC back in KL! I didn’t get anything obviously because that would be a total waste of money and I’m not that stupid.

I did find lip balms though. Adorable ones too! As a place that’s famous for it’s fruit shakes, I guess it was only natural that all their local, organic lip balms were fruity too. They had different flavors to choose from, the mango was my favorite. I got two coconut flavored ones though because duh Glossier’s balm dotcom has one in coconut too. The two lip balms costed me USD 9.50 in total. USD 4.50 for the stick, and USD 5 for the one in the tin. Still on the expensive side but hey they’re organic and so cute. And I wanted a souvenir! These would be the smartest purchase I could make I thought – rather than getting an overpriced L ‘oreal!

As for how the lip balms work? The stick one works like any other. Both of them have very strong coconut scents, which can be a little bit overwhelming. The one in the tub is also a little bit hard to work with– I found it to be rock solid so you really have to work your finger in it to get any out. The balm itself is very thin… it honestly doesn’t feel like a balm at all. It feels like you’re slathering on some very, very light oil. And honestly? I don’t think it moisturised my lips very well! It certainly couldn’t withstand the strong air conditioning I prefer to sleep with. In the end I found myself reaching for my trustee Lucas’ Papaw Ointment. Oh well. At least it still makes a cute souvenir.

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