Tired of your usual steak, pizzas and hamburgers? Feeling somewhat adventurous?
Well then its time to visit Siem Reap, the jewel city of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Once a land of heated battles and wars, Siem Reap is now one of the most important towns in Cambodia in terms of heritage and economy, big thanks to the world-famous Angkor Historical Complex which continuously attracts hordes of tourists and travelers from all corners of the world.
From a sleepy and quaint locale, Siem Reap is now becoming a boom town that boasts of modern hotels, bars and restaurants that cater to almost all tastes and preferences.
I visited Siem Reap upon the recommendation of fellow travelers I have met while backpacking in Thailand and Vietnam.
I hopped on the first available van, not knowing what to expect, and without much preparation.
To my credit, I have visited other countries in Southeast Asia and I honestly thought that given its proximity, Siem Reap would be just be a breeze.
I was so so wrong.
While your usual comforts are available in Siem Reap, it’s a boom town after all, dining in Siem Reap was not necessarily an easy task.
Dead-tired from a whole day’s tour of the Angkor Complex, I joined thousands of weary travelers in descending upon Pub Street, a short stretch of road lined with bars and restaurants just a few steps from the Siem Reap night market.
It is true that most restaurants in Pub Street offer the usual steaks, burgers, fish cuisines, but who wants to eat all of those in a foreign country when you can get it straight from your fridge right?
Travelers always say that discovering new flavors is part of your expedition and no matter how exhausted I was, I was determined to get my fill of Khmer delicacies.
Until I received the menu.
Sure, there’s the delightful Amok and Khmer curry but the menu included delicacies that not even in my wildest dreams would I imagine to be served at my dining table…..
Lined up with chicken, beef and pork, are cuisines made out of crocodiles, ostriches and kangaroos….
Though priced at a steep $7 per serving, these unusual gastronomic offerings are quite popular in Siem Reap, at least among the locals.
Whether it is as popular among the tourists, I wasn’t sure because I left the restaurant strip rather hurriedly.
I headed to the nearby street market hoping to get authentic Khmer goodies in the stalls but it seems luck wouldn’t let me have my way.
As it turned out, another beloved delicacy in Siem Reap are tarantulas. They are so popular that at least three vendors carrying baskets of deep-fried arachnids went straight to offer me the goodies.
I must admit, I am on the feint-hearted side and being offered wild animals for dinner wasn’t quite the gastronomic treat I was expecting in my first trip to the town.
As the night deepened, my stomach began growling signaling the need to eat something, anything lest I fall in the streets for starvation.
With not much luck, I settled for the ever-dependable rice and vegetable toppings served at $1.50 a plate.
I know, it’s not the perfect way to feast in a new destination, but then again, as the title suggested, Siem Reap is not for the squeamish and faint-hearted.