The Liberty Gazette
March 20, 2018Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
We didn’t travel thirteen time zones in tightly packed aluminum tubing to be shielded from our hosts’ culture. However, happy to be vegan, we passed on the opportunity to eat snake on a stick, crispy scorpion, seasoned tarantula, and assorted fried bugs in favor of a veggie pizza in the lively Pub Street section of Siem Reap, Cambodia.
This place defies the idea of a small dusty bit of a town in an under-developed country. One can explore Pub Street ‘round the clock. Amid the many ornate Buddhist temples are day markets and night markets. Luxury hotels and beautifully aged colonial buildings fill spaces between impeccably clean and well-lit streets. Cross the canal to the Art Market to find great deals on original native art. Many talented artists proudly display their renditions of elephants, monks, temples, jungle, and sunrises in brilliant oils.
Pub Street only takes up two blocks in two directions but it’s buzzing with people. Excellent restaurants offer traditional Khmer and Thai food, or Chinese, or Indian. Tempting aromas of herbs and spices waft through the crowd. Street vendors sell goodies from their carts (besides those creepy crawly things for a dollar a skewer), like delicious bite-sized fried dessert nuggets made with coconut milk. Along the main drag and down the numerous lanes and alleys, live music and street entertainment fill the air with fun. Spas are popular here, and especially the kind where you can get a pedicure by fish.
We first experienced Pub Street at night. Having passed a few of the party-sized tanks filled with fish dining on dirty feet, we gave it some consideration. One of us had to get up the nerve though.
The next morning, our driver, Alex, took us back to Pub Street for the day markets. By then, we were feeling brave. Well, one of us was. We joined other tourists seated along the wide frame edges of the tank and dunked our feet into the water. Well, one of us did. One of us made several attempts, squealing, shivering, and pulling the feet back out. However, both sets of Ely feet eventually got the treatment. Alex was amused. Feeding the fish tickles terribly at first, but after a few minutes we didn’t feel more than a light sensation touching our tootsies. The bragging rights are worth it, and the result is amazing. These little black fish left our ped paws so much smoother than what any pedicurist pumicing them raw can do.
With freshened feet we stepped into a beautiful restaurant and filled our bellies with five-star veg meals before getting back in Alex’s tuk tuk to go on a boat tour of the floating village.
The houses are on stilts like the ones in Galveston, only built much higher for the wet season. For children growing up on the water there are no lawns to mow, but there’s plenty of fishing and vessel work to do. Catch you next week. There’s plenty more to this story.