Khmer food from a local family
At first glance, taking a meal inside Angkor may seem like a bit of a challenge. It’s not like there is a McDonald’s or Starbucks on every corner! (And that’s a good thing.) However, after visiting a few of the larger temples, we soon realized that food is indeed part Angkor’s equation. You see, what we had not anticipated before leaving for Cambodia is that there are actually people living and working inside the park! In complete contrast to the thousands of tourists “just passing through,” these villagers’ daily life exists just steps away from colossal monuments and incredibly historic beauty! And guess what? They all have to eat!
We ventured into an area just beyond Preah Khan and Preah Neak Poan (see “sights”) to use the well appointed restrooms and were soon accosted by four or five different people clambering to get our business at their food stalls. In actuality, the outdoor stalls are much more elaborate than you might expect. Covered in tarps to block out the intense sun, the little makeshift restaurants feature plastic chairs and tables complete with an assortment of condiments.
The food from the extensive menu that we ordered from was made from scratch by a local Khmer family. While mother stirred the soup, grandpa took to the stir fry, and the daughters soon arrived with trinkets in hand!
This is where we encountered Peer, not only the most precocious 12 year-old we had ever met, but quite possibly, the best saleswoman on Earth! While we would soon learn that the kids of Cambodia are actually schooled on all of the world's languages so that they can speak to people from Russia as easily as those from Japan, this was our first real interaction with their clever repartee and we were quite taken aback as we sipped from our Sprite soda cans.
Peer and her younger sister were so funny and bright, lobbing jabs back and forth like a well-polished comedy duo. And they had an answer for everything... or at least for every lame excuse we cooked up in order to avoid buying their cheap souvenirs! When Peer found out that we were from Los Angeles, she started calling Brady "Mr. Hollywood." She was a riot! Eventually we realized that, with her spunky attitude and Southeast Asian heritage, she could be the next M.I.A. We joked with her that she could have a booming singing career elsewhere, and she responded by saying “Sure! Take me to New York. Get me out this place!"
As we left Preah Neak Poan in our remorque-moto, we heard one last "Mr. Hollywood!" from our dear friend Peer. Yeah, she was so crafty that she sold Brady a womens' scarf! After only two temples, he knew he needed something to wipe the sweat pouring from his weary brow. (For more background on the selling tactics of Cambodian children, see “essentials.”)
Ah, almost forgot...
What about the food? Our inexpensive chicken dishes were quite flavorful, and if the gaggle of fowl running afoot nearby were any indication, quite fresh! Ultimately, this encounter was a great way to sample local fare while supporting the Cambodian people at the same time. Though it may feel somewhat like you are being held hostage by the clever children selling you flutes during your meal, they are so entertaining that they actually add ambiance to the dining experience rather than detract from it, so don’t be afraid to check it out!
Peer’s food stand - just off the road that connects Preah Khan’s north gate with Preah Neak Poan
Heading to Angkor Wat to check out its fabled sunrise? Great! Arriving to find out that it is completely overcast and there will be no hope of catching any rays? Not so much. Never fear, the calamity that swirls around the western entrance to the temple offers a secret refuge from the disappointed crowds...
Tucked behind some trees just opposite the tourist madness, lies the appropriately named Angkor Café, a rather cozy little spot that also doubles as one of Artisans d’Angkor’s well-appointed gift shops (see “goodies”). Here, early risers can expect a decent cup of cappuccino, breakfast items of both Western and Khmer tradition, delicious made-to-order fruit shakes and, if its on your diet, several varieties of pastry, including donuts!
We ducked into the Angkor Café for only a quick pit-stop before heading on to Angkor Thom, though we suspect from the quality of our morning snack, that their lunches are equally as pleasing.
Managed by The Blue Pumpkin, a local franchised bakery, Angkor Café is open daily from 8:00 AM until 6:00 PM, though dinners can be arranged by special appointment... sounds intriguing. Set of Drifters tip: Check out The Blue Pumpkin’s homemade ice cream for a quick cool-off!
Angkor Café - just opposite main entrance to Angkor Wat, Angkor, 63-380300