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Published: November 12th 2007
Air Asia to Cambodia
We spent the day traveling from Chiang Mai (Air Asia) to Bangkok, and Bangkok to Phnom Penh (Air Asia). Air Asia is a budget Thai airline. Air Asia is definitely budget - no assigned seats, and they charge for beverages.
The only airline that flies directly from Bangkok to Siem Reap (where Angkor Wat is) is Bangkok Air, which charges $150 USD each way. The flight is like 45 minutes. Ridiculous, but it's the only direct flight. Anyway, we flew into Phnom Penh, which is Cambodia's capital. We figured we could see PP and then take a 5 hr bus ride up to Siem Reap. Cambodia Visa
U.S. citizens need a visa for Cambodia, and everyone "applies" for one at the airport. Everyone seemed to have their own passport photos along with their applications, and I was a little nervous since we didn't bring any. I asked where we can take passport photos at the PP airport, and the officer says, "No photo, pay $1!" No, not for the photo, but $1 for a "fee""for not having a photo. Hahaha. What a bargain! A passport photo at Costco costs at least $7 USD!
We get to PP and we hop into a taxi... the taxis here do not have meters; the fare needs to be negotiated! I don't really like that since I'm afraid there might be a change in the oral price upon arrival of the destination. Of course the driver tried to convince us to stay at a different hotel, but we told him that we already paid for the hotel we wanted him to take us to. I learned my lesson on taxi drivers taking me to hotels.... Anyway, my first impression of PP was overwhelmed by the pollution, squeezing of scooters, and the frail looking local people. The sidewalks were not concrete (dirt), and there are not many stoplights; traffic was pretty bad. The way from the airport to central PP made me think that this is the poorest capital city I've seen in all my travels. Splurge?
Anyway, we stayed at Renakse Hotel, which is a "splurge" on Lonely Planet's Southeast Asia book. $55 USD a night, and the room was so-so. Some old, run-down parts, some new and nice. Horrible water pressure, no hot water, and fuzzy TV reception. The room was big
though, and location was great. I wouldn't stay here again. We walk out the hotel to look for dinner around 6:00, but it was already very dark. There aren't many street lights and there are a lot of people loitering, lots of moto-taxi touts, and just felt a little unsafe. We found the closest restaurant and ate a nice meal - pomelo salad, palm sugar fish, noodles, and this great coconut pork with rice cake. The Search for the Silver Pagoda
We bought tickets to departing to Siem Reap the next day (12:30) and planned to visit the Royal Palace. The grounds were pretty - my favorite was the "Silver Pagoda", which we had to search for. Based on the description in LP, I imagined a silver pagoda.... we looked and wandered and couldn't seem to find it. We walked into one temple and there were really ornate statues and buddhas, including the Emerald Buddha. On our way out, I asked the security officer, "where is the Silver Pagoda?" and he smiled and replied, "You're in it!" haha - the temple's sterling silver floor was covered with carpet for protection. The Rode to Siem Reap
ride to Siem Reap was long... 5+ hours on the Angkor Express. We passed a lot of farmland, wood houses, swamps.... and the bus literally honked every third second, everytime we passed a moto, dog or car. As we get off the bus, the door of the bus is blocked by tuk-tuk drivers trying to get us to go to their hotel/guesthouse. After we squeeze out, I'm immediately approached by 4 little children that start to beg - and one girl asks for the bottled water I'm holding. Of course I give it to her, and then another one asks for the bag holding my sneakers. They start to crowd and I get a little nervous about being attacked my children. We hop onto our designated tuk-tuk and head to the guesthouse. This is only the start of the touts and begging.
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