I like old things and places. Whenever I travel, especially to different countries, old temples and buildings as well as national and historical museums are on the list of places that I must visit. So, imagine my leap of joy while biking (yep, pedal bicycle!) around the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap! No, it wasn’t like Angelina Jolie or Indiana Jones kind of exploring but still, Julian (the old Spanish photographer-who lives in Ireland-and works as cargo plane customer service specialist whom I’ve met in Phuket) and I had fun! Sadly, Julian departed the night before and en route to our favorite food stall inside the Angkor Archaeological Park, I passed by this group of towers opposite to the Terrace of the Elephants. Called Prasat Suor Prat, these 12 identical towers are believed to may have been built post-Bayon era, aka around 11th century (it’s a good thing I kept my free Angkor Archaeological Park temple guidebook). Made of laterite and sandstone, the Prasat Suor Prat was said to function as a “lock-up” cell for parties involved in a “legal dispute and matters of criminal justice”. After a few days of being confined in site the Prasat Suor Prat, the one who ends up sick is declared the losing party, “guilty by divine decree”. Hmmmm. Haha 🙂 I didn’t get the chance to see the towers up close so if you get to, please let me know if the Prsat Suor Prat makes you feel the divine presence as well!>
After kilometers of biking, marveling and picture-taking (aka camwhoring) in and around the Angkor Wat Archaeological Complex in Siem Reap, you’d end up really hungry and I would personally recommend for you to satisfy that hunger for Khmer food at Stall No. 29.
It was Julian, the Spaniard-but-based-in-Ireland-whom-I’ve-met-in-Phuket (whew!), who told me about the place. Since he arrived at Siem Reap and Angkor Wat complex a day before I did, he had the chance to try the place out.
He said that apart from Stall No. 29, he tried another place too. But he chose for us to come back to Stall No. 29 not just because the Khmer food was better but also because the people are nicer!
Stall No. 29, located inside the Angkor Wat Archaeological Complex in the stall area near the Terrace of the Leper King, Terrace of the Elephants and Prasat Suor Prat, is a family-run food stall (restaurant). Granma runs the kitchen, Mommy serves the food, and the daughter takes care of customer relations. (I’m really sorry that I have now forgotten her name)
Don’t get me wrong. I mean, I am not recommending the place just because the people are nicer but it’s because the Khmer food they serve is really yummy. And the price, in thousands of Khmer riel (I think USD1=KHR4000 at the time) seems reasonable at 20-30000 for a dish, and looks like the same range of prices anywhere else.
Well, it’s quite expensive in a sense that it’s a roadside stall and in that price, you can get a full meal with drinks and dessert in some restaurants/restobars here in the Philippines. But hey, this was real deal Cambodian food and Khmer goodness while marveling at temple ruins. Seriously, that ought to cover it. And, did I mention that the food was really good?!
Khmer food are usually curry-based, with a lot of coconut powder and lemon grass. During my stay in Cambodia, I’ve had several Khmer food and none of them matched the goodness I’ve tasted with the food from Stall No. 29.
Not even the dinner buffet at the Apsara dance performance or the free food at the Bousavvy Guesthouse where we stayed. There’s a certain way about Grandma’s fish amok (curry), served in a coconut shell no less, that when I tried to order another fish curry at Phnom Penh, I wished I hadn’t.
Grandma’s version was smooth, rich and flavorful. I know I probably sound like a TV show host selling food via home channel right now but really, that’s what it tasted like to me. Whether it was a spicier chicken curry (not as hot as Indian curry of course) or a simple-but-complex clear vegetable soup, Grandma knows how to tickle one’s taste buds and leave you wanting for more.
Whenever we taste Cambodian food goodness at Stall No. 29, Julian and I would always leave full and satisfied. Plus, during the meal, we get entertained by the daughter’s stories about Cambodian culture. At the time, especially when I was on my last day at the Angkor Wat complex, we mostly talked about marriage and married life. I saw a wedding photo shoot and she was already thinking of marrying her boyfriend. The way she shared her stories made me experience it too, perhaps more than I should. Hehe
Another reason why I am recommending Stall No. 29 is because I believe in their genuineness. Of course, it is a business. But, it is a business which they run with sincerity and willingness to share. Stall No. 29 also reminds me that there really is good in a person, even when we are with strangers. On my last day and Khmer meal at Stall No. 29, I accidentally got my left leg burnt by a motorbike’s exhaust. After learning about this, the daughter disappeared and came back with a new tube of Colgate, bought especially to be applied to the burnt skin to soothe the heated pain. I was, of course, touched deeply and was at lost for words.
So yeah, when I said Khmer goodness at Stall No. 29, I didn’t just mean Cambodian food. There’s a different kind of Khmer goodness that Stall No. 29 and the family have shared with me and Julian. If in case you are heading in Angkor Wat complex and heading to Stall No. 29 to taste and experience Khmer goodness, enjoy the food and I’d appreciate if you can give the family my regards.
I first read about Buddha and Nirvana when I was in high school. Or at least that’s what I remember. But all I used to remember was this prince who meditated so hard that he became enlightened. No, don’t blame my teachers. It’s probably due to my lack on general interest for history at the time.
It was only when I traveled to Bangkok as part of my Backpacking South East Asia in 2011 that I had my first real encounter with Buddha, Buddhism and Nirvana.
Of course, I am not saying that I know a lot. But I think I know enough to say that I think the teachings of Buddhism (at least the ones I heard of) ring true, even today. Or, perhaps, especially today.
But anyway, this post is not really about Buddhism and Nirvana in the religious sense. More of in a historical and artistic note I think. You see, I have seen several versions of Buddha’s Sleeping Position (reclining for some) as he enters Nirvana–from golden statues to simple stone form to massive temple-sized carving.
I don’t know if it differs based on the sects or schools of Buddhism but one thing is for sure—all of these show the Buddha in a rested and peaceful state. I guess Nirvana really is enlightening. Or something like that. So, below are some of the Buddha’s Sleeping Positions that I have seen from different countries and states.
And, as bonus, I also included here a photo from the 4th Generation Bodhi Tree at the Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India. It is under the ancestors of this Bodhi Tree that Buddha was said to have attained enlightenment and entered the Nirvana.
Of course, I will be a liar if I’d say that I reached Nirvana or was “enlightened” in the same sense that Buddha did but I did feel great, as in kind of at peace, when I went to Bodh Gaya with my co-volunteers. Maybe someday, you can try it for yourself too.
If you want to visit the Mahabodhi Temple Complex and the other Buddhist temples at Bodh Gaya, you need to get in at Gaya Jn train station in Bihar and take a shared (Rs 20) or hired auto-rickshaw (tuktuk, Rs 150) or taxi (about Rs 500-700 at night). Leave a shoutout if you need more info. You can also read on our experiences or see more temples and activities (esp monks) at Bodh Gaya. If you really want to, you can also watch my videos/playlist for the Bodh Gaya trip.