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Published: August 8th 2011
Our 30+ hour journey to Cambodia finally came to an end with a cheap, reliable and comfortable flying experience on Bangkok Airways into the quaint and spotless airport of Siem Reap. The "Chinese Architecture" like airport definitely made us feel as though we entered Asia.
Arrival was great - passport control was simple and easy since we were able to pay for our Cambodian visa on the spot (20$ USD each), Gus and Michelin (our backpacks) were waiting eagerly after we passed through immigration and Mr. Dim was waiting outside to drive us into town and start our Cambodian adventure.
We exited the airport in Mr. Dim's air-conditioned Lexus (who would have thought- are we really in Cambodia?!?) to transport us to the Borei Angkor Resort and Spa Hotel. This was a free service offered by Mr. Dim with permission from the hotel so he could sell us his tour-guide services. Smart move on his part to conjure up business, but we did not take him up on his offer as we were still rookies and wanted to scope out the different services.
Note: The airport is being moved to the other side of Siem Reap in order
Notice how the top of the tower is shaped like a lotus flower
to accommodate large planes. Currently, these planes are unable to land as the vibrations are destructive to the Wats (Cambodian for "temples") which have stood since as far back as the 8th century.
The hotel Seth chose for us (suggestion from Marc-Etienne) was a great way to transition into this trip. The going price for hotels here is about $30 for a clean and decent place. The Borei Angkor is a 5***** resort ($80/night) outfitted with beautiful rooms, attentive service and the yummiest breakfast - It was here that we were first introduced to noodle soups for breakfast. We were forewarned so we were not surprised to have this unusual dish for breakfast in a country which is hot hot hot. We quickly welcomed the tasty food and incorporated it into our daily diet. Be warned Cambodian coffee is not drinkable...
The town itself is busy with tons of scooters and motorbikes. It is quite poor and dirty but full of life. There are tons of tourists but five times as many locals trying to earn a living from them. Some of the lines we heard more times than we can count are - Tuktuk lady, sir?sir? massage,
massage, one dollar massage, you buy from me lady? ok, how much you want? we make a special price! You are my lucky customer...
The constant buzzing wasn't such an annoyance but what was bothersome are the children begging on the streets at all hours who are relentless, we were told they are monitored by "pimps", who know that tourist's have a soft spot to help out these adorable kids.
The culture is evident, some of the things we have noticed thus far:
- There is no such thing as traffic laws - if you want to cross the street - run for your life and say thanks when you make it across.
- Many children are unsupervised and seem to be wandering the streets at their own leisure, that being said when we saw parents and children together, the parents are quite affectionate and attentive to their toddlers.
- Street food galore (and the smell of it too) - we have yet to have the stomach to purchase anything from them other than water bottles.
- Abundant amount of rice fields and farming, however it also seems as though many locals are on siesta at all
hours of the day.
- Gasoline is smuggled in from Thailand and sold by street vendors in old alcohol bottles.
The devastation brought on by the communist Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979) is illustrated through the population make-up. A whole generation is missing in Cambodia - there are few elderly people. That being said, the country is clearly on an upswing, visible through the numerous construction projects and modernization of utilities. As explained by the locals, in the province of Siem Reap, where the agriculture is not as strong as in the rest of the country, the main industry is tourism.
As we walked through the tourist streets, Seth tried a fish foot massage. He stuck his feet in this big tank full of little fish that nibble on dead skin. He could not last very long as it was uber ticklish.
After touring the city for the day, we met Matthew and Jenny for the evening whose travel plans luckily coincided with ours. We had an awesome night and it was nice to start the trip with some familiar faces. We ate and drank at a delicious Khmer (Cambodian) vegetarian restaurant and then ventured around the town
Seth laughing from the fish tickling his feet as they eat the dead skin
having a few 1$ foot massages, shopping at the night market and late night pizza.
On our second day, we got a tuktuk and an English guide to tour 3 of the area's 38 or so Buddhist and Hindu temples- WOW WOW WOW, sooooo beautiful.
Our guide up until several years ago practiced as a monk, but then left monkhood to be able to help support his parents and 7 brothers and sisters. He had so many interesting things to say - at the time it felt like information overload but we jotted some notes down.
The three temples we saw were Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm Temple (from the movie Tomb Raider). Each one was different in its own unique way but were also very much the same. The pictures exemplify this!
An interesting tidbit we picked up is that the entrance to Hindu temples are from the East and for the Buddhist temples they are from the West. Also, Hindu temples have sets in odd numbers where as Buddhist temples have sets in even pairs.
After Wat touring, we showered and met up with Matthew and Jenny for our last night
The fish nibbling away
in Siem Reap. We tried another vegetarian restaurant - Indian style this time and the experience was... interesting. First off, the food was delicious... however... the huge rat that ran through the restaurant gave us a scare. We stayed through the first sighting saying - what can you expect? We'll deal with it but after another one ran under our table and chairs - we had had enough and booked it out of there. We have nicknamed the rats - "Cat Rats" as they are HUGE!
After dinner we walked around again, got massages at the same place as the night before (they recognized us) and Matthew and Jenny tried the fish foot massage.
The next morning we enjoyed another buffet breakfast before being picked up by the Mekong Express Bus Service for a 9am departure to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.
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