Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Siem Reap!

Sorry for the long hiatus on blogging! Its been a busy week!
Last Friday I said goodbye to all my new friends at the Fatima Center. It was bittersweet, since I felt like I was beginning to find my place there and could have done more to contribute if I'd planned to stay longer, but I was also excited to say goodbye to Bangkok and begin my travels across the rest of SE Asia!

Angkor Wat at Sunrise

Satrday morning I left bright and early and boarded my bus for Siem Reap Cambodia. I was fortunate in my seating partner- a Californian girl the same age as I am, of Cambodian heritage. She has also been doing a fair bit of traveling this year, and we talked for a really long time and really connected. We were booked into different hostels, however, so we parted ways upon arrival.

Backing up a bit...despite being warned of scams at the border, a bunch of us definitely fell for the trickers that lay in wait. Our bus was no help. The driver likely has some kind of deal with the scammers, so he dropped us off at their office which is right outside passport control. We were told this is where we got our visas, so we paid the money, waited 20 minutes, and were given our visas, and then they started to fill out our entry forms for an additional 200 B. (approx $7). Once we realized what theye were doing, we told them we would fill out the forms on our own, and headed for passport control. After completeing that, we stepped out of the office and saw a very official looking sign that said "Visa On Arrival" for about $15 US less than we had paid. Oooooh well. Live and learn.

I stayed at the European Guesthouse in Siem Reap on the advice of my trusty Lonely Planet travel guide. While it doesn't win any awards for cleanliness, it has a nice small pool, a decent bar/restaurant, and it comes at the low, low price of $5 US/night. Having lived in treeplanting camps probably helps me get over a bit of bathroom grime!

My first morning I met  (read: nosily wormed my way into a conversation and introduced myself) a Colombian girl who was also traveling by herself. We hit it off, and decided to take a Khmer cooking class and wander around the city together, and then rent bikes to ride to Angkor Wat the next morning. I am so glad I met her, as we had a great time hanging out over the next few days, and sharing my Siem Reap experience with someone made it so enjoyable!

We got up at 4am on Monday and cycled to the temple, joined by throngs of tourists in tuk-tuks and taxis. I was a bit dismayed by the crowds of selfie-sticks, but we moved to a less-popular and populaced location to watch the sun rise and snap a few photos. It was really beautiful, though I remain a bit jealous of those who had the opportunity to see the magical area before it became such a tourist hotspot.

The rest of the day was spent wandering through the main temples, riding our bikes in the hot sun, and snacking on dried mango and salted cashews we had bought cheaply at the market the day before.

On the way home, we missed a turn and ended up way off track, out towards the airport! It made for a VERY interesting ride back to the hostel as we were obliged to cycle along one of the busiest main roads in the city! It was quite an experience, and I have to say, I'm pretty proud of myself for how calm I remained, especially as I have never been much of a bike-riding expert, and helmets literally do not exist here. Traffic patterns in Cambodia are different from anything I have seen before- they seem even more chaotic than what I saw in Cusco, Peru! So there we were, pedalling hard on a mix of pot-holed dirt roads and random brick sidewalks, while cars, motorbikes, and tuk tuks are zooming by, occasioinally honking at us to get our of their way (which I would have gladly done, had there been anywhere to go!), and then out of nowhere some random will cut directly across traffic, or just go right against the flow. Literally everyone is just going everywhere and hoping they dont get hit. I just kept my eyes wide open, and kept on pedaling!!! It was actually kind of hilarious. My friend and I were just like...what is even happening right now....

Needless to say, we survived, and it is something I will never forget!

Yesterday we took it easy, swam in the pool, did some skyping and facebooking, went to the market, ate some spicy frog stirfy and then delicious ginger and black sesame ice cream, stuck our feet in a tank of fish that ate our feet, and visited the night market with some new aquaintances! It was a fun, relaxing day, and a nice finale to my Siem Reap visit.

Evidently my feet have more to offer....
This morning I hopped on another bus for my next destination, but that's another story for another day!


mumsy said...

Thanks for all the updates and pics, Jilly! Always love hearing how you are doing!

Kriss said...

Sounds like a grand biking adventure indeed! Although you have convinced me to get a pedicure in the past, I'm not quite sold on this whole fish eating the feet thing!