When traveling with a chartered tour group, typically there might be a tour guide and support crew (e.g. driver) who would take the group from place to place. But when it comes time to a meal time during the tour, when the group goes to a restaurant or a particular place to eat, the crew would either be the ones serving the food, or else they would leave the guests eating at the restaurant while they would go separately or wait elsewhere. I noticed that during our first couple of days in Siem Reap; our tour guide Vanna and driver Hour would take us to a restaurant, and then would leave us there to enjoy our meal and meet us outside the restaurant once we’re done.
On our last day in Siem Reap, after we spent the early morning at Angkor Wat experiencing the first sunrise of the year, it was time for us to head back to the hotel to pack up and later on continue with our tour for the day. However, since it’s a private tour and we got to call the shot on the itinerary for the day, I asked Vanna and Hour if we could go to a good place where local folks would go for breakfast, and I told them that Kristi and I would like to have them join us for the meal — our treat. The only ‘requirement’ was that the place we would go to has to be one that both of them would go themselves if they were to go out on their own.
Vanna suggested a restaurant in downtown Siem Reap that was popular with the locals. The price was not cheap for them, but it’s still reasonable enough that he said he would go there once every few weeks or so when he would like to eat out. So we went to a restaurant called Kids Plaza — named that way because it had indoor playground for the kids. Vanna said it’s one of his favorite restaurants in the city, especially good for breakfast.
We had really good breakfast there. Good food (noodle soups, rice porridge, fresh juice) and also good conversations. We found out that our driver Hour used to be a driver at the Amansara, an ultra-luxurious but low key resort in Siem Reap. The Amansara is part of the Aman Resorts, which is a small but among the highest rated hotel groups in the world. The founder of Aman Resorts, Adrian Zecha, is part Indonesian. Hour told the story how Mr. Zecha was very down to earth and friendly to his employees and guests.
The photo below was taken right before we enjoy our meal together. It was a nice experience as we got to thank them for their service taking us to places during our visit to Siem Reap. We also got to learn about their life stories; now we consider them as friends rather than simply people who serve us during our trip. I think if you can, that would be a great idea to do when visiting a place, try to make it personal by building friendship / relationship with the locals you encounter. It makes for a unique, unforgettable experience.