Leaving Siem Reap with a baby on board

Miranda Glasser (second from left) playing dress-up, Khmer bride style, with her friends.
Miranda Glasser (second from left) playing dress-up, Khmer bride style, with her friends. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Leaving Siem Reap with a baby on board

When I first arrived in Siem Reap for a six month stint teaching English with my husband, little did I know that three years later I’d be leaving with two years as a journalist under my belt, a couple of Cambodian cats and a baby bump.

I had no idea I’d end up working with four-year-olds for the very first time (a concept which terrified me), learn to ride a bicycle at the ripe old age of 35, and embark on various adventures in the name of journalism including zip-wiring (sustaining a blackened toe from the experience), hot air ballooning (the balloon crashed on a busy road) and eating scorpions and tarantulas (by far the safest option of the three).

I learnt to navigate dusty, pothole-filled roads to work, survived the Great Flood of 2011 (our first year), put up with power-cuts and deal, after a fashion, with my lifelong phobia – cockroaches, which became my unwelcome office companions at the Post.

I discovered what it was like to dress up as a Khmer bride, attended more weddings than I can remember and ran my first (and frankly, last) half-marathon.

So it is somewhat surreal, and with a heavy heart – and even heavier belly – that my time in Temple Town ends. As I pack my bags, dust off the CV and cry into my mango juice, I find myself reflecting on my time here. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve cycled down Pub St dressed as a witch in a tiny black cape.

In my final farewell, I have rounded up my checklists of the Best and Worst things about Temple Town. But mainly the best which I list here:

Sunshine –There is no doubt about it, sunny days and blue skies make everything better.

Swimming pools – where else in the world can you lounge by crystal-clear waters in a boutique hotel, for the cost of a coffee back home? Something I will miss when faced with my local north London municipal swimming pool, full of shrieking kids and floating plasters.

Fruit – mangoes, passion-fruit, watermelon. Cambodia is where the fruit is almost as good as the sweet treats. Almost.

Blue Pumpkin pastries – I am addicted. The custard slices are divine, the chocolate tart decadent, the lemon tart zingy and refreshing. I also have a soft spot for The Hive’s lime and coconut slices, and Park Hyatt’s cupcakes.

Foot massages (and general pampering) – some people come to Asia for the 50c beers, but I’m all about the foot massages. And let’s not forget about mani-pedis, an affordable treat here.

People –the “Cambodian smile” is one of the biggest clichés in the book by and large, Siem Reap locals beat Londoners hands-down in the friendliness stakes. Never before – and particularly since becoming pregnant – have I encountered such interest in my general health and wellbeing. Staff at my local swimming-pool ask how the bump is, and are full of sage advice – my favourite being that I should eat a swan’s egg for the baby’s development.

Creative freedom – I have never lived anywhere where entrepreneurship is so rife. It seems easier here than anywhere to reinvent yourself, or start a new business. Siem Reap is a town where bankers can become restaurateurs, graphic designers can become photographers and producers of trash TV can even become journalists – and language school owners (oh did I mention? Somehow we ended up buying an English school too).

And here’s my worst list:
Humidity – in all my three years here I don’t think there is one good photo of me. Make-up? Pointless – lasts about half an hour. Hair goes puffy and frizzy within seconds of stepping outside the house. In my pregnant state, friends have commented that I am “glowing.” This is nothing more than sweat, and I will not miss it. Not a jot.

Mosquitos –Nothing good to say about these little buggers. Lurking in dark corners, they will find a way into your house, through that one hole in the mosquito net, they will hunt you down.

Ants – there is always an ant. In your kitchen, in the crevices of your wooden furniture, marching in little determined trails up your walls.

Cockroaches – (notice a theme here?) Even after three years I never quite got used to them. Large, black, shiny and FAST – the scuttling sends chills down my spine.

Power cuts – An occurrence that is both random and regular (at certain times of the year , usually April, the hottest month). Blackouts taught me all sorts of inventive ways to stay cool – the most effective being lying prone on the balcony, clasping a tea-towel full of frozen peas to my head, and trying to move as little as possible.

But all this aside, the last three years has been nothing short of a great adventure, full of memories that I will treasure forever. It will be hard to say goodbye, but I have no doubt that I will be back. Until then, li-hy and som nang la’or. And don’t forget the frozen peas

MOST VIEWED

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the

  • Shipwreck found off coast of Koh Kong

    Royal Cambodian Navy researchers are working to identify a decades-old shipwreck found earlier this month off the coast of Koh Kong province. Divers found the 70-metre-long wreck on April 4 about a mile from Koh Chhlam island, according to Navy officials. Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha,