Our week in Siem Reap.
22.06.2011 32 °C
Siem Reap! Wow. What a place. We spent 7 nights there and loved every minute - actually were only supposed to stay for 6 nights but felt like we needed some more time to truly appreciate this amazing city.
We stayed at a hostel called 'Rosy Guesthouse' and it has been, to date, the best hostel I've ever stayed at. For $8.00/night each we got our own room with a bathroom, tv, fridge, A/C, and fan. It was like we were staying at a nice hotel. They had free internet, a DVD library free for guests to use, a book exchange and amazing food! People came from other hostels to eat there. The cook, 'G', is originally from France and moved here 5 months ago after spending a week here and loving it. I can absolutely see why.
The second day we were there, we bought a 3 day pass for the temples ($40 each) and hired a tuk-tuk driver to take us from temple to temple inside the park. It reminded me of how on PEI you pay to get into the national parks and can go anywhere you want, same idea as with the temples. So, I have no idea how many temples we saw, but I could guess around 15? It is a lot of temples. I'm not complaining at all, but by the end of the first day, we were pretty 'templed out'. We did have a random encounter with several monkeys though which scared Derek almost to death. We had pulled over to the side of the road while our driver had to do something and all of a sudden we hear a thump on the tuk-tuk roof... who is peeking over? About 4-5 monkeys who then proceed to jump into the tuk-tuk and terrify Derek. It was hilarious. They didn't bother us, were just playing around with each other! I'm sure my friend Steve remembers his close encounter with a more aggressive monkey in Ubud, Indonesia when he almost had his hand chewed off, it briefly brought back that moment! Haha!
We saw Angkor Wat the last day and if I did it again, would see it on the first day as you're just exhausted by then! We did take a day between each sight-seeing tour of the temples which G recommended. Such a great idea. We got a chance to see several Asian elephants en route to some of the temples. I think most people know I love elephants, but when I got close to that trunk... swinging around with purpose, I was terrified he was going to smack me! I couldn't even touch him. On our temple trek (and also everywhere else in the city), we came across tons of children (any age, mostly between 8-14 years?) who were selling things like postcards, bracelets, etc. who would come up to you and ask "Where are you from?" and you would say "Canada" and they would go into a speech like this:
"Oh! Canada? Capital city is Ottawa, big cities are: Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Vancouver, Calgary... You speak French and English but only some people speak French. Your prime minister is Stephen Harper. There are 30 million people who live there." I swear, North American kids have nothing on these ones... so smart! And their English is excellent. Plus these kids actually have to work... will explain that in the next paragraph.
There are tons of markets in South East Asia, we went to a night market in Siem Reap and went a little crazy (well... presents for people back home, not just for me!). There are 'fish spas' everywhere in SE Asia and basically it's a tub filled with water and these fish which eat the dead skin off your feet when you sit on the edge. Jaclyn and I did this in Malaysia last time we were here and it's definitely a hilarious tourist novelty. We saw a sign in the market that read "Please feed our hungry fish your dead skin" which is absolutely literal. Feed the fish your dead skin. Not a great mental picture.
On our 'days off' (such a tough life... haha) we usually woke up, strolled down the river to Pub Street and had lunch (they have amazing restaurants there as well - every type of food you can imagine) and then went to our favorite cafe called 'The Blue Pumpkin' which had amazing baked goods, homemade ice cream, coffees, teas, etc. so we would sit on the big white couches for the afternoon with our snack, play scrabble on the IPod and do crosswords (yes, we are getting old). Then we would head back the hostel for a few hours, watch a movie, then head back to Pub Street for dinner. I tell you, I'm not taking these stress-free days for granted. I know a new reality will set in once I go back to Canada and I'm holding onto these days for dear life! If only dietitians could get paid to travel the world and test out different foods... sigh... So while we were hanging out one day at a restaurant, a 14 year old boy came up to us, wanted to sell us postcards and asked where we were from (see script above) and then we started asking him questions about himself. Turns out, Cambodian children go to school Monday - Saturday from 6:00am - 12:00pm and then work in the afternoon to raise money in order to pay the $30/month to attend the English school. So his parents are both farmers in the country and after school he rides his bicycle into the city to work from 12:00pm-6:00pm selling postcards, then bikes home for dinner. Sunday is his "day off" where he spends it helping his parents on the farm and doing homework. We ended up asking him to have lunch with us and then gave him $10 towards his school fees. He was such a nice boy... wanted to grow up to be an astronaut and had high hopes of university. It's interesting the different perspective the kids here have towards education versus the Western world... it makes you realize, that in general, we are UNBELIEVABLY spoiled... and on the greedy side... Many (definitely not all of us, just generally speaking) people strive for a big bank account, nice car, big house... (the American dream?) it's never enough. We have too many choices and are never completely happy or satisfied with our own situation. I realize there are many problems in developing countries but they seem to have one thing right - the focus on family and happiness through a non-tangible means. Technology does not clutter the minds of people here like it does at home... it's just a nice change!
Last night we decided to go to a local Khmer BBQ restaurant which was a huge outdoor spot with plastic chairs and about 10 people at each table (even if you didn't know them). It had fresh grilled whole fish, stir fried veggies, kebabs, shrimp, squid, rice, etc. and was delicious! The only thing... when we sat down, I was attacked by crickets. For real. They were jumping at my hair (probably though it was a nest, something my sister and I are cursed with... dark hair = conceivable cozy shelter for insects), going down my shirt, on my face... ugh. At least they don't bite! They stopped bothering me when I got my food but then moved to Derek so we tried to shovel the rest of it pretty quickly and left. We seemed to be the only ones flailing around frantically... the locals thought it was funny for some reason... wonder why...
This morning we said goodbye to the hostel workers and caught a bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok for $12.00. We read it would take 7 hours and I can tell you, it does not take 7 hours. It took 12 hours. Whoever wrote that must have used a much fancier means of transport. Obviously not us though! So we left at 8am, got to the border at Poipet and had to go through the border to leave Cambodia, then walked without any direction and somehow found the Thailand border office. Pretty easy stuff! No issues at all. Except when we flew into Thailand on our way to SE Asia, we had a 30 day entry visa so expected that this time... unfortunately, we only have 15 days in Thailand this part of the trip because we crossed over land vs. flying in. We were planning on spending 3 weeks in Southern Thailand but will have to deal with 2 weeks which is fine! Can't complain, just threw us off a bit! Also, you can't enter Thailand more than 3 times in one year - this being our second entrance, therefore we need to save our last entrance for when we fly from Indonesia back to Bangkok to come home (I would not be happy if we couldn't get home in August!).
Anyway, we're in Bangkok right now and are leaving in the morning to catch a flight to Phuket, Thailand (in the south) and have decided we're going to stick to the west coast islands instead of taking in Ko Samui, Ko Phangan, and Ko Tao. We can't make a full/half moon party this time around and hear the beaches on the west coast are much nicer. Two weeks there it is!
Nothing too exciting this time around but wanted to update everyone!
Until next time,