The 1st of December found us in Siem Reap – home of the legendary temples of Angkor. We had looked on in envy for years as friends visited and filled our Facebook feeds with totally surreal photos of temples captured in the clutches of the forest, so we were ridiculously excited to be there. Unfortunately, Angkor Wat itself didn’t live up to our expectations. It was crowded, the temple was unimpressive, and the sunset sucked. However, we fell in love with many other of the archeological site’s temples, such as Banteay Kdei and Bayon.
We ended up spending our whole two weeks in Cambodia in Siem Reap because we fell in love with the place. When we first got there, we didn’t really think much of it, but the longer we were there the more we started to enjoy the place. It has an incredible dining scene (and eating out is SO cheap), the people are amazing, the weather was glorious, and, well, we were comfortable! We can see why the place has a very strong expat community. We’ll definitely be sharing more stories from our time there over the next month or so.
We were also impressed by the number of organisations that have been set up in town with the intention of bettering the life of the local Cambodians, who, let’s face it, have been through a lot over the years. Ankit put together this post looking at a number of the restaurants that are doing an admirable job of providing training and career opportunities to youngsters in Siem Reap (and which serve AMAZING food!).
By mid-December, it was time for us to stuff our backpacks again and hit the road. This trip would be epic, crossing from one continent to another, and involved no less than five flights. Siem Reap > Bangkok > Doha > Dubai > Doha > Larnaca. We stopped in Dubai for less than 48 hours to run some errands and catch up with friends, and we’re rather surprised to say that despite the fact we were happy to see everyone, we don’t regret our decision to leave and nor do we see ourselves living there again in the future. While in Dubai, Andrea finally got to try out the coffee and salmon bagel at Tom&Serg – an über cool place that’s become the ‘it’ café in the city (note: if you’re ever in town, you have to try this place out. The coffee alone is good enough reason to. Run by Aussies – that’s all you need to know. AA).
So after a whirlwind stop in Dubai, it’s not surprising to say that by the time we finally reached Cyprus for Christmas we were exhausted, but adrenaline set in the minute we saw Andrea’s (loud) family. The last two weeks have been a mix of loads of food, curling up on the sofa by the fire with a book, spending loads of time with everyone, drinking way too much (and eating even more), and doing little else other than soaking everything in. We enjoyed Christmas at home with the family and took the first two weeks of our one month stay in Cyprus easy. We’re now set for some exploring!
The month in numbers
Miles travelled: 4872
Number of modes of transportation: 4 (plane, rickshaw, car, bus)
Number of countries visited: 3
Money spent: $(this is excluding flights)
Number of plates of souvlakia eaten: 6
Number of White Russians consumed: Endless
Number of beds that we slept in: 3
Most popular Instagram picture:
Facebook update of the month:
Meal of the month:
We had many amazing meals while we were in Siem Reap, and we were mightily impressed by the dining scene there, but if we had to choose one specific dish, it would be the fish amok at Genevieve’s. Their take on the traditional Khmer dish melted in our mouths.
Honourable mentions go to every single dish of souvlakia (meat cooked on skewers on the spit, served in pitta bread with salad) that we’ve had, as well as to everything that my mum and grandma have cooked since we’ve been here! Mmm, Cypriot food!
Cocktail of the month:
A family tradition of Andrea’s is to drink White Russians on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day morning. She’s become something of a pro at making these, so this year’s were delicious!
Seeing Andrea’s family again after a year
Meeting up with friends in Dubai during our stopover
Finally getting to see the temples of Angkor
Being in Cyprus during the winter
Getting harassed by the Qatar Airways check-in staff for our flight to Larnaca. They wouldn’t let Ankit board the flight until he had a return flight to anywhere but Dubai!
Waking up at 5am to make it for the sunrise at Angkor Wat, only to realise it was a big fat disappointment.
Saying goodbye to Andrea’s two brothers when they left Cyprus to return to the UK after Christmas.
Limassol. Still our favourite city in Cyprus.
Least favourite place:
Happy to say there weren’t any major disappointments last month!
Other than Andrea’s grandparents’ house and a friend’s place in Dubai, we only stayed in one guesthouse during December, which was the White Villa in Siem Reap. This was a cute place on Sok San Road and just a 10 minute walk from Pub Street. Sok San Road also has a number of fab restaurants, such as Genevieve’s, which serves the aforementioned fish amok that we raved about.
As the guesthouse itself is relatively new, the rooms were lovely, and had a mini fridge, dressing table, hairdryer, TV, free WiFi, wardrobe, and safe (let’s ignore the fact we couldn’t get it to work). Breakfast was included and was pretty decent (good coffee, sizeable omelete!). The staff were also lovely – the manager gave us a really good deal when we said we wanted to stay an extra week, so we ended up only paying $21 a night! There was also a bit of a mishap with our laundry (one of our t-shirts went missing), so they gave us a night free – that’s what we call good management. We’d definitely recommend this place to anyone who’s in town. The only downside is that it doesn’t have a pool.
General travel observations:
Travel bloggers and journalists can be guilty of always writing about the ‘nice’ people of any given destination. You’ll rarely read a travel piece that doesn’t bear some reference to the ‘friendliness’ and ‘hospitality’ of the locals, and while that’s all well and good, the truth is there are always plenty of not-so-nice people wherever you go, and it’s good to hear about them too! That’s when you truly get a real sense of the place you’re reading about.
But the truth is, Cambodians are RIDICULOUSLY nice. They’re the nicest people we’ve encountered so far. Every exchange we had with them was warm and meaningful. Even when interacting with people who are working in the tourism industry, we couldn’t help but notice how well-meaning they all are, unlike in a lot of other places where locals cannot wait to sell you things you don’t bloody need (we’re looking at you, Vietnam).
Maybe it’s because of everything they’ve been through. Or maybe they’ve just always been this nice. But trust us, the people are who really make Cambodia special, and they’re definitely the reason why we’d return.
Other blog-related news:
We were ridiculously excited to find out we were winners for the month of November of the blog competition that PNG Tourism UK was running. We’ve only been running Scribble, Snap, Travel for five months, so to get that kind of recognition for the work we’re doing was a massive morale booster! As a result, we were gifted a GoPro, which should hopefully be in transit to us here in Cyprus as we speak. Looking forward to playing around with it and adding videos to the blog!
Books that we read:
Andrea finished Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami and The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh. Ankit was too busy eating to read.
Most popular blog post:
Funnily enough, our blog post on Vietnamese coffee has become ridiculously popular over the last few weeks! And I say funnily enough because it felt like no one batted an eyelid when we first posted it three months ago…
What’s coming up in January?
We’re in Cyprus for two more weeks, so we have a list of places that we want to see and write about before we leave! One of them is the UNESCO World Heritage painted churches of Troodos; it recently snowed up high in the mountains, which has left us somewhat worried that we won’t be able to access the area, but we’re determined to hire a 4×4 if we have to in order to get there. It’s the one thing we definitely want to see while we’re here! We’re also planning a trip to the capital of Nicosia, where we’ll be meeting up with a friend of ours who’s a bit of a man around town, so we’re sure he’ll have plenty of hidden gems to share with us!
We’re also going to be paying a trip to Zygi, which is a fishing village that is renowned for its fish mezethes. For those of you who don’t know, mezethes is a very typically Cypriot way of eating, and involves plenty of dishes being brought out for you to sample, from salads to dips, to main courses and the odd sweet dish. It’s similar to Arabic meze or Spanish tapas. Zygi has the BEST fish mezethes, and it’s making my mouth water just to think about them!
On the 17th we’re due to leave Cyprus and we’ll be heading back to Saigon in order to catch up with our work for the remainder of the month. We’ve shared the details of our travel plans for the rest of the year in this month’s newsletter (which you can sign up for below), but the gist of it is we’re going to knuckle down and work for the first three months of the year, and then we intend to visit 12 countries by November!
We have to say, we have a VERY good feeling about this year.
How was your December? And what are you looking forward to this year travel wise?