Siem Reap – A city built up around the ancient temples of Angkor Wat for the vast sea of tourist flowing in and out, with it’s hawking of wares, tuk tuks, massage, tourist scams and of course, a pub street.
We arrived here after a seven hour boat ride in which we were scammed at the end to pay for a tuk tuk the rest of the way to town. I was not happy about it at all. Check out Al’s post here to get the gist of it.
We planned on staying eight days here but ended up staying twelve and only two of those were spent doing what tourist do here… visiting the Angkor temple complexes. The rest of the days were spent acting like a local (kind of), at least an ex-pat local.
We started out just hanging out at the hostel for the first couple of days. I had vowed not to come out of my room until I was caught up on my blog posts. I had written the first daft of the last five posts but had not edited or organized my photos or compiled the ingredients together yet. I’m happy to say that I mostly completed the first four before coming out of my room finally to have a good-bye drink for Lilly and Mel who were heading back to France that night. We met them originally down in Kep at Bacoma then found them again here at the same hostel.
It’s fun making friends on the road especially international friends. I really enjoy hearing perspectives from other countries about the world, it helps to keep my mind open. It also helps me to realize just how much alike everyone is all around the world. We (people) are not our governments. At the basic level we are all individuals doing the best we can with what we have, to care for ourselves and our families.
We stayed once again at a One Stop Hostel, like we did in Phnom Penh. We would have stayed at their third location in Sihanoukville had they had any vacancies. Is it a great hostel? No, but it is a solid good hostel and knowing what to expect can be nice from time to time while traveling. We knew we could expect comfortable beds, two dollar breakfast, fairly well cleaned bathrooms and rooms, lockers with locks, and great employees working their butts off to help everyone from every different country trying to speak English with every different accent imaginable. I’m not sure how they do it but I guess after a while they learn the different tones and textures of accented English.
Here are a few of the guys at the front desk. I wish I had the foresight to have taken a picture of Sokvoth before we left. He is a character who particularly likes American slang and we had alot of fun with him.
Oh, what was that? Temples? You want to hear about the temples?
They were amazing! Incredibly amazing and I’m glad we saw all the other places and temples in Cambodia first because it made the Temples of Angkor the grand finale.
To get in to the temple area we hired a tuk tuk for the day and he drove us to the ticket office. We purchased a three day ticket for $40. We could go any three days in the next week. They also sell a one day ticket ($20) and a seven day ticket. Some people rent a bicycle to do the temple routes but I refuse to exercise in this excessive heat (95 degrees on average with high high humidity) so we took a tuk tuk.
There are two different circuits or routes you can take. The first day we took the route that went to The Angkor Wat and paid a local guide for a tour. We figured if we were going to pay a guide for a tour anywhere, then Angkor Wat would be the place. Turns out that if we had just done our own research, that would have probably been good enough but we hadn’t and we did learn a few things on our tour. Angkor Wat is BIG. Much bigger then I would have expected I’m amazed as can be that people, 1000 years ago built this. I don’t think anything that would take the same effort would ever be made today with as much skill and intricate art work.
I’m not even going to try to spout off information about each of these temples but the names of them are hyperlinks to their wikipedia pages.
Unfortunately my camera battery failed just a few shots into our visit so some of these below are from my iPhone the others are compliments of Jose Dulce.
The Beauty here was in the details:
The second day we visited the next circut of temples and saw…
Touring the temples takes a good two to three full days, even more if you want to venture further out. During August it is hot and muggy. Very hot and muggy. We were drenched in sweat by the end of the day. We longed for our tuk tuk rides between temples to have a little wind “air-conditioning”. It’s easy to become over heated and it’s important to take and drink lots of water, electrolytes, eat breakfast and lunch and take it easy in the shade. I used my rain umbrella for shade several times and that helped out.
You will never accomplish here, in the heat, the same mileage as you would back home. It’s just too hot. So when you plan to come, keep your plan conservative and don’t be surprised if you run out of time on your conservative plan. Again, it’s just too hot. Consider buying a coconut from the many, many vendors on the side of the road and a local coconut ice cream popsicle is nice too.
We were in Siem Reap for twelve days. Only two of which we spent being tourists. The rest, when we weren’t tucked away in our hostel writing, was spent hanging out at cool ex-pat cafes, eating ex-pat food and being mistaken for ex-pats. I love it when I’m mistaken for an ex-pat. I must look the part somehow. I take it as a compliment.
Cambodian food was not really my cup of tea so having these places to go and eat was wonderful and saved me from more fried rice, not that fried rice is bad, it just gets a little old after a month.
Some of the great restaurants we enjoyed include:
Haven – A foodies paradise in Siem Reap. We lucked out and got seats here on a date night for Al and I. When we came back later with Jose and another traveler we were told they were booked solid for a week. We managed to get a reservation for our last night in town. The owners, Sara and Paul are great people. We ran into them around town at Joe To Go and The Hive. Seems we have the same tastes. Sara and Paul went home after a visit to Cambodia with a dream. They sought funds for thier dream and succeeded. The result is Haven – a training restaurant for disadvantaged youth. We really liked Sara as we had a chance to speak with her for a bit. Such a wonderful person with great vision and creativity.
Joe To Go – Our main place to go. Great vibe in an air conditioned space with very nice staff and good food. Proceeds go to support – The global Children. We met Maggie here. A young lady from America here on a fellowship from her college to teach at the Global Child. She is a joyous bubble of enthusiasm! We immediately liked her and invited her to come to dinner with us at Haven.
The Hive – We only ate here once. No air conditioning (we are such babies). They have fresh veggie juices here and I had the best breakfast of my trip. Didn’t find this gem until a couple of days before we left. Would have come more but the space is small and hot. Not good for hanging out and working on the computer.
Sister Srey – Nice space next to the river with excellent coffee and tea. Breakfast was pretty great too. I would have come back again but Al preferred the air-conditioned places better.
Namaste – A Taste of Indian – Indian food – A veggie curry was between $3.50 and $5.00. It included free rice and naan. How could we not come back? Friendly staff and consistently great food. This was our “go-to” place whenever we were lost with a place to go or could not decide. We were never disappointed. Don’t go to the Curry Walla down the street. It has the same menu but with hire prices.
Blue Pumpkin – Great tea, air conditioned and wi-fi – I got a whole pot of tea for the same price of a cup of tea at Joe to go. Also, a better brand of tea so I had my morning tea here then headed over to Joe’s.
We (mostly Al and I) needed this space to just be and not go, go, go and see, see, see and snap picture after picture. So though we didn’t completely envelop ourselves in all that a tourist can be and see in Siem Reap, we were able to get the chance to feel normal and part of a community for a while and that, turns out, is important to us.