Normally I wouldn’t mind not having a network signal in a remote area; this was not one of those moments. First, I wanted to consult a lawyer or someone from my contacts at the PSG. Second, I wanted to consult Google because I wanna know if DENR has the right to do what they did last weekend. You see, the road leading up to Bangkong Kahoy Valley was blocked off by some people from DENR, barring campers and Banahaw Tugtugan performers from getting in. The people who are on foot have no trouble getting in, but those who came with vehicles, like my friends and I were virtually disallowed to pass through. We watched the commotion, we came there for the 5th Banahaw Tugtugan, the music festival that almost didn’t happen because of this unnecessary dispute.
There are many things to do in Pub Street, the tourist-infested market in Siem Reap, Cambodia. You can go on a food trip, you can shop for some souvenirs, and the most recommended activity, go out at night, hang out at some bars, drink, and flirt with someone. I’ve done everything but the last activity to the dismay of my friends. “No wonder you’re single,” they told me. I’ve lived 30 years hearing the same comment, I don’t get offended anymore. I did frequent the market in my short time there doing what I consider as my idea of fun; hanging out at Cafe Central, a lovely cafe cafe at the heart of Pub Street.
The hostel I stayed in was just a few meters away from the Pub Street. I had two days to kill and I spent it feeling like a local in which I slept, went out, and walked around the neighborhood. [Read: A Nice Hostel in Siem Reap – Luxury Concept Hostel]
The cafe has big windows that lets natural light in. The walls and the pillars are covered in bricks. It looks lovely in the night as it is in the morning and very popular to tourists. It was interesting to watch people come and go and wonder about what they are going to do with the rest of the day.
I usually go there in the afternoon to kill time with a book in hand, accompanied by a cup of flat white. At one time I ordered a vanilla gelato, which taste I can no longer remember. In Cambodia, you can pay in US Dollar. Paying in dollars suspended the reality that I was spending PHP 50 for every 1 dollar. I treated 1 dollar as 1 peso. I went to this cafe not really caring about how much I was spending. That for every coffee that I ordered I wasn’t spending 3 but 150 pesos. [Read: The Good Samaritan and the Temples of Siem Reap]
The weather, the physical attributes of the locals, and the general looks of the streets and infrastructures made it easy to imagine that I wasn’t in another country. Cambodians look a bit look like my people. I realized I could easily blend in. I’d been to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Taiwan and people mistake me for a local. The only exception was Japan, though the fact I was in a blogger fam trip might have something to do with it. We were in a group and how we moved and talked practically screamed we’re tourists.
I remember laughing at myself that I had to go to Cambodia to discover a cafe for myself. Before Cambodia I was in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, where there’s cafe in every corner of the street. But at least I was able to try the famous iced Vietnamese coffee from the street, which to me makes the experience more raw and authentic. [Read: Braving the Streets of Ho Chi Minh]
This happened in 2014, two years ago, when I first traveled abroad. I proved to myself that I don’t need a companion to travel and I sure as hell don’t need to party to have fun. Just being in that cafe, watching people, being alone with my thoughts, were enough for me.