Published: March 2nd 2011February 27th 2011
After a quick stopover in Phnom Pehn, and a few drinks with Paul and Emily, we made our way to Siem Reap on the popular Mekong Express bus. It was a bargain for $11 (booked trough our hotel), as it's the only bus I've got yet that left and arrived on time! Exactly 6hrs from A to B with a snack and water provided. It may not sound that exciting but it was to us!!
On arrival in Siem Reap, we noticed it was a lot more expensive than the other places we'd visited in Cambodia. To buy a day pass for the temples it was $20 each and $40 for a three day. According to Lonely planet, only a fraction of the ticket price goes back into the conservation of the area, and the majority goes into the deep pockets of the Finance Ministry?? That's before you even hire a Tuk Tuk driver to take you around. Prices seem to vary greatly depending on your haggling skills and which temples you visit. Our advice to anyone going here would be to shop around, get a few prices and try and work out what the going rate is for the
routes you're looking at. Don't necessarily go for the guy that picks you up from the bus station! We ended up paying $75 for two and a half days, but that included some of the further away temples too. Paul and Emily had arrived by the second day, and joined us for the smaller circuit which made it seem better value.
I won't bore you too much, but our temple highlights were:
- Watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat. We did have to get up at 4am which was shocking, but we were let in before the park opened so the whole place was deserted apart from one or two others. It's was PITCH black and we could hear bats squeaking and flying around above us in the dark stone towers. We only had Dave's iPhone as light and eventually managed to get over to the far side of the temple, and climbed up one of the ancient buildings to wait for the sun. Just us and the loud sounds of the jungle again! Magic!
- Viewing the beautiful carvings at Banteay Srei, and exploring the more jungle based ruins at Phreh Khan and Ta Phrom (the
When we didn't have to be up at the crack of dawn, our evenings involved cocktails, teaching Emily to play cards, B52s, Paul acting as a barman, meeting up with Jenny and Justin, eating great food, more B52s and random dancing... Closely followed by hangovers...
We also got some haggling tips from Paul, and decided to put what we'd learnt into practice by seeing who could buy the most random object for under $10. Strangely Dave and I went for the same bottle of Snake Whisky as Paul and Emily, except they paid $4 to our $7. We're getting better, but now every time we get told a price we find we're asking ourselves, 'What would Paul do...?'.
That is one thing that annoyed me about Siem Reap. You always haggle in Asia, it's just what you do, but here on several occasions you just felt like a walking pound sign. A dollar was a standard amount to pay for a Tuk Tuk home, but the drivers would ask us for more than people who were staying in hostels, just because our hotel was classed as a midrange ($40 a night). One guy told us
for a dollar we could walk home as we were rich and could afford to pay him more! The driver we hired for the temples was constantly dropping in how poor he was and how he didn't have electricity where he lived, and then popped home one day to charge his phone??
There is a lot of money going through Siem Reap and I guess everyone wants their share, but we just felt like we were getting screwed over more here. It was great to meet up with friends and we did have a brilliant time at the temples though so it was worth coming.
The majority of Cambodians we've met have been lovely and are very friendly. The food has been surprisingly lovely and the beer has been cheaper than water! We've had an eye opening time here and will miss the rich culture and the lovely people, but definitely not the transport system! I'd recommend Cambodia to anyone. The more responsible tourists that come here, the more legitimate jobs will be created for the people that need them.
Goodbye Cambodia. Next stop Singapore!
Love Emma & Dave xxx
There are more photos below