Siem Reap, Cambodia

We arrived via a very bumpy, six-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh.  Either that or we took the dirt road short cut.  Needing to hit the ground running, we had set up a traditional Khmer cooking class on the famous hot spot, Pub Street.  You guessed it, this place was stacked with bars on top of pubs, squeezed in with restaurants and tuk-tuks wherever there were gaps on the pavement.  Our chef walked us through the food market, which we quickly wished we hadn't seen, but nonetheless we encountered veggies of all kinds, animals of all species and enough spices to satiate Julia Child for a lifetime.  Back in the kitchen, Leah prepped traditional curry and spicy mango salad while Skyler whipped up some freshly fried spring rolls and the signature Khmer dish, Amok.  As we simmered and sliced, we chatted with a few young women that were volunteering their time and teaching skills at the local school.  There is no shortage of remarkable people we have met along this journey and it was great chatting the night away while enjoying the fruits of our labor.  Bon appetite!

It was time for some famous Thai, er Cambodian, massages!  Skyler booked traditional pampering to rest our weary muscles and we soaked up every bit of relaxation they provided.  Remember our Irish friends from Phnom Penh?  We met them at the local acrobatics circus that was traveling through the city.  A small tent that housed about 75 guests around a circular stage filled to the max provided awesome entertainment with great talent!  We watched the six performers act out a skit, filled with laughs, daring acrobatics and a little romance.  All the performers were at-risk youth that used the theatre academy as a safe haven and now their adult profession.  To top off all of the excitement, there was a surprise proposal at the end of the show that had everyone applauding and teary-eyed.

Inspired by the flexible circus performers, we signed up for a limber-inducing yoga class and tried to keep cool hanging in the pool the rest of the afternoon.  Plus we had a big day coming up!  We've learned seeing special monuments/places at sunrise is a 'thing' and Angkor Wat was no exception.  As we rolled out of bed and into our tuk-tuk, where we entered the masses that had also heard sunrise was the time to visit this spiritual sanctuary.  We walked up the long cobblestone bridge as the sun was punching through the dark sky and, even amid the crowd, felt some sort of peace.  Once inside, we sat on the grassy field and witnessed the rest of the emerging colors paint a beautiful backdrop to this ancient temple.  The two of us just sat and stared, maybe hoping for some angelic voice, a sense of newfound clarity or a spiritual moment.  Walking through, our guide educated us on the historical battles between Buddhism and Hinduism and the temple’s conversion.  About the wars Angkor Wat had survived and the crumbled walls the German government was rehabbing.  He spoke of demons and spirits, princes, princesses and the triangle of love between them all.

We hiked and trudged through dirt and sometimes rain to a couple more temples, including the one where Tomb Raider was filmed.  Enormous, winding trees integrated seamlessly through the temple walls and framed the various detailed carvings.  At the top of an endless staircase, we reached a temple with an incredible view of the city.  The rain started to pour and cleanse the spiritual grounds as people scattered looking for cover.  It was a romantic moment of gray hues and reprieve from our sticky sun-soaked skin.