Our time in Cambodia simply cannot be condensed into one measly post. So, I have decided to write my very first three-part series. Yay! Are you ready kids? (I bet you said “aye aye, Captain” in your mind. You did, didn’t ya?)
On a Monday morning in March we caught a Taxi to Mo Chit Bus Terminal in Bangkok. We bought our regular toasted sandwiches and coffee from 7-11 (7-11 saved our lives on many a hungover morning) and waited for our bus which would take us away from Thailand and to our next destination: Siem Reap, Cambodia. About 4 and a half hours into the drive the bus stopped near the border and we were all handed a free lunch of vegetable fried rice. We weren’t expecting any lunch, never mind a pretty damn yummy one, so we were happy as full-bellied globe-trotting clams.
Not too long afterward we arrived at the Thai-Cambodia border. The bus staff warned us about the various scams to watch out for. We were told over and over again that we would not have to give money to anyone. We had already purchased our visas online for US$40 each, so we just had to get processed and stamped and we’d be good to go. As soon as we stepped off the bus, absolute chaos broke out. We were bombarded with men shouting “passport photo this way!” and hoarding the passengers down a back alley. Even though we had just been repeatedly warned about scams, people started following these strangers in the opposite direction. How quick we are to follow, hey? Luckily, Jason kept his wits about him and looked for an official sign showing us the way. We found the office and got stamped. Quick and easy.
The two-and-a-bit hour ride from the border to Siem Reap was tough; the last little bit of a bus ride always is. Restlessness and fatigue set in on a whole new level. I mean, excitement is exhausting! We were quite disoriented when we finally stopped at the bus office (yes, you read that right – not a bus station, but rather a little bus office). We had expected Siem Reap (being a main city and all) to look a bit more, you know… like a city. Instead it was all farmlands and little shops and cows and small roads with no road signs. We tossed our backpacks onto a tuk-tuk and off we went down the road in the direction of who knows where. Ooooooh, the excitement!
Our hotel, Blossoming Rombuol, was freaking beautiful. A little serene refuge in the middle of a chaotic street. We ate a dinner of veggie fried noodles and drank a couple of Angkor beers by the swimming pool. If you read my last post A Weekend in Bangkok then you know exactly how exciting this was for us! Our friendly young bartender named Ratana challenged us to a game of pool and attempted to teach us Khmer, the local language while the sun set on our first evening in Siem Reap.
Two days later we finally got to find out what the famous Angkor Wat was all about. It is as awe-inspiring as they say it is. I always thought Angkor Wat was the entire thing. NOPE. Angkor Archaeological Park is a humongous place with heaps of temples, each one exuding its own little bit of magic. I tried to write down some background of this incredible place, but, to be honest, there is just waaaay too much. Google it. Or better yet, book a ticket to Cambodia! For now, you can enjoy some photographs of it instead.
Angkor Wat attracts thousands of visitors a day, so of course it was packed. I could deal with the hordes of people though. You have to whenever you visit a tourist attraction. The one thing I could not stand for were the hordes of melancholy-looking elephants being ridden around by shrieking humans. Those poor majestic creatures had no soul left in their eyes. It was heart breaking.
Guys, I’ve said this before and I will say it again until I am blue in the face: DO NOT PARTAKE IN ANIMAL-CRUEL TOURIST ACTIVITIES. Do your research. Visit animal sanctuaries, not zoos. Love these creatures from afar. If you can snuggle up to a tiger or cuddle with a gorilla (for argument sake) then they are probably drugged up out of their minds and/or abused into submission. Not cool.
Around 2pm we had had our fair share of temple hopping, so we went back to the hotel and relaxed by the pool. Around dinner time we ventured out to find some food. This was when we came across the beautiful gem that was the Red Angkor. Delicious food, cheap beers and the absolute friendliest people – what’s not to like? I had a Cambodian curry (when in Cambodia, right?) which was a mix of chicken, eggplant, onions and carrots in a rather bland watery concoction. Unfortunately, it didn’t match up to the flavours of the Thai food I had become so accustomed to. Jason ordered Lok Lak, a traditional Cambodian beef dish, and that one was mouth-watering. And so started the trend of him always choosing the better meals!
After dinner we took a slow stroll, taking in the sounds, sights, and smells of the night life of Siem Reap. The entire place lights up at night – the markets, the streets, the bridges. Downright gorgeous!
The next day started off so deliciously slow and lazy…