Seim Reap, Cambodia
To get to Siem Reap I had to take an afternoon bus to Phnom Phen. From there I waited about 5 hours for an overnight bus and then arrived in Siem Reap at 5am.
Our route to Siem Reap looked a little something like this.
Two of my new friends from Kampot had a similar plan so we caught the same buses all the way to Siem Reap. During our 5 hour break Phnom Penh we walked to the One Stop hostel I had stayed at only nights before. The guys happily welcomed me back and let the 3 of us girls rest there until our bus arrived.
SoKim (a One Stop employee) and I hanging out before my overnight bus arrived.
The overnight bus in Cambodia was a completely different experience than anything I had experienced in Vietnam.
The seats aren't seats at all. They lay you completely flat on padded mats. There's a plug in for your phone and personal control to the aircon in your space. Shoes are still expected to be off and you are provided with a blanket just like Vietnam. When you get on the bus there are double beds on the right, an upper and bottom level. There are also single beds on the left but it's all assigned seating. We also had a great bus driver but the roads are crap so it was hard to sleep.
The bus driver offered to take this photo for me. I was a little surprised but happy to except the offer.
My first two nights were spent here, at a hostel that's said to be one of the best in S.R. and even won an award for being the best. It was nice. Owned by an Australian couple but I wouldn't say it's the best. With a dengue fever outbreak going on I didn't care much for the open air common area. Mosquitos... Attack! And since I wasn't wearing any repellant, that's about all I could think of.
I saw this dragon fly while sleepily waiting hours for my check in time. I had a hard time determining if it was a painting or a 3D something or other coming out at me. Upon further investigation which meant getting up and walking to it I found that it was a painting. A very well done painting. The pool is to the left, invade you were curious what exactly was happening in the corner. Those red and yellow things are fun animal flotation devices.
So this was probably my biggest perk to staying at The Siem Reap hostel. The $2 all you can eat breakfast buffet. Fruit and a few sand dollar sized real westernized pancakes with yummy jam. That's what I'd have and then I'd go back for about 3 more plates loaded with just fruit! Mostly papaya. Yum! Live that fruit and how great it is for you!
I was told of this cafe. Sister Strey which is owned and operated by two Australian sisters. I tried it out for lunch in the first day and I'm so glad I did! It was AMAZING! So, so good that I ate there everyday that I was in Siem Reap. Sometimes I ate there 2x a day. I loved the westernized healthy food options they offered and the twist on local foods. I think it was getting so close to end of my trip that I was craving exactly what this cafe offered. A little bit of both!
The city was very much alive and booming with tourists day and night! At night the crowds seemed to migrate towards pub street. You guessed it! A street (a long one) full of pubs! Might I also mention loud music and jam packed full of people. It wasn't really my scene so I didn't participate in the late night shenanigans but I went out earlier in the night to get some photos and a little taste of what the hype was all about.
Pub street entrance.
Close to pub street was The Night Market. I bought a tie die dress/swim suit cover up here at the market. The lady wanted $20 for it and I talked her down to $9! It may have taken me an hour to do this but it was actually an entertaining back and forth conversation I had with the vendor. The two girls who were with me were really enjoying listening to us. I think they may have even picked up a few pointers for me on how to bargain with the vendors.
When the next day came and I found the start of the hole in the dress and next to it an area where the seam was starting to come undone I was happy I only paid $9 vs $20!
Two years ago I took notes from fellow travelers regarding Cambodia. They told me that there was a driver with a purple batman tuk tuk and he was the best! I had also been given the name and number of a driver named Mr. Moon. I'm glad I had Mr. Moon's contact info!
ALL of the tuk-tuks in Siem Reap were personalized and apparently word had gotten out about the batman driver. A large portion of the tuk tuks were batman decorated now. I never saw a purple batman one.
This isn't the best photo but it was something I saw often and wanted to document! Scooters cruisin down the road with loads of new mattresses being towed behind! Who was buying all these mattresses!?
A floating village tour was highly recommended to me by friends I had met in Thailand. It was a magical experience for them and I needed to experience it, I was told. So based on the picture you see above it's obvious that I went. It was pretty expensive at $5 each, round trip for the tuk tuk and $20 each for the boat ride! There were three of us in total who went on this adventure and it was our first trip with Mr. Moon.
We were at sister srey café when we decided to go, I gave one of the servers Mr.Moon's number and he called him for me. In 15min our driver was at the cafe, big bright smile and all! I didn't take into consideration that it was the dry season and the village might not be floating. That was exactly the case! A very low river that was incredibly muddy and homes on extremely tall stilts. I know the tour would have been more magical for me had there been more water. Due to the conditions and looking back on the trip I could have taken it or skipped it. Had the river been full, id say hands down, take the tour!
One row of several homes on stilts that local villagers live in. Their boats parked in front of the homes.
The driver of our wooden long tail boat.
There were a handful of others who were taking the tour as well but instead of putting us all into just a few boats they put each small group in their own boat. Some boats only had one passenger and others had 4 passengers. This bothered me because of all the unnecessary pollution that was being added to the river not to mention more river traffic with very little water.
These 3 boys were standing in a row and doing cartwheels in unison from the shore line to the water. They repeated this again and again as we boated by. This was just the kind of authentic experience I was looking for.
Once we passed the floating Village we continued out into a giant lake so big that it was easily mistaken as an ocean. Our driver did not speak any English but we soon figured out that we were going to be sitting in the lake until the sun had set.
I decided to take on Angkor Wat and the great temples of Cambodia the following morning. I hired Mr. Moon again and 3 others from my hostel joined in making the tuk tuk only $5 each.
The night before our lil crew decided to go to dinner together and see about getting snacks for the next morning to keep us satisfied they the tour. At dinner I ordered a side of sticky rice and nothing else. I wasn't hungry but cold sticky rice sounded alright for the next day but when it arrived I couldn't help but eat it so I had to order another! Oops! When I went to pay for my 2 orders o sticky rice they charged me more then I owed. I questioned her and she said it was because they gave me extra rice then usual. I was a little irritated by this but at the same time I couldn't help but laugh it off. Just another SE Asia experience. I didn't want extra or did I realize I was getting extra. THEN after we paid and walked out the door one of the ladies ran out to me and held out her hand with a big chunk of slightly browned sticky rice from the bottom of the pot. She placed it in my hand smiled and ran back inside.
My friends and I were speechless over what had just happened.
Me and my rice!
We left the hostel at 4:45am for sunrise at Angkor Wat. I had to get my pass to have access into the temples, 1 day was $20 or 3 days for $40. To be safe I went with the 3 day pass. I visited the park 2 days in a row but really could have been alright with just 1 day. It's hot and humid even at 7am and walking around in the sun looking at temples (as amazing as they are!) might make you a little stir crazy! Just something to keep in mind.
Most people who have not been to Angkor Wat don't realize that there is a mob of individuals who gather for sunrise. This photo is only the majority of the sunrise crowd. I couldn't fit them all in my shot.
Sunrise on day 1, well this was it. Fairly bland but still amazing as I hadn't seen Angkor Wat in person so it was the unveiling of the temple.
The day 1 Angkor Wat crew.
Day 2 sunrise was more colorful! And yes, I was crazy enough to think I should do the sunrise tour 2 days in a row! Here's the thing though, it's so humid and hot out at that I figured it was best to just do it back to back and early to get it over with. I'd say do it in one day or two early mornings like I did.
A sunrise jumping photo with Oliva (from PDX, Oregon) in front of Angkor Wat.
At Angkor Wat.
I did the second day with a different group of travelers but still with Mr. Moon as our tuk tuk driver/guide.
Mr. Moon and I.
I repeated a few temples but it was still good the second time. New people and another look at things made it worth while but I think this 2nd group tired out faster than day 1. I was definitely okay with this. Knowing Sister Srey cafe was going to be the end of this tour, like it was yesterday, made me excited to get to the end of the temples.
Yep! Food sometimes drives me. Even thru something as remarkable as the Angkor Wat temples.
A monk inside Angkor Wat. I have a hard time resisting photographs of these men and the vibrant orange outfits they wear just draw me in more!
See what I mean! Another photo that I just couldn't resist and I refuse to delete it even though it's blurry.
Bayon temple. Thom Bayon.
You see what's happening here, right!?
Here's an interesting detail shot that really shows the original door frame work and the newly renovated work. Part of me wishes the renovations weren't happening but I do realize that then there would be nothing left.
Temple of many steps is what I call this one. I don't remember it's actual name but it's possible it's,
Prasat Preah Khan.
I do remember it as the only one that cared about my shoulders and knees being covered up. I almost didn't get in because of those restrictions!
The view from the top, looking back down at the entrance. It was pretty toasty up top! I only did this temple on the first day. I chose not to repeat it.
Ta Prohm the famous tomb raider (the movie), temple.
This temple was fascinating with all the trees taking over. I loved it! But not the crowds! There were a lot of people funneling thru this little temple.
And one more awesome Tomb Raider shot! So there are still some more things to tell you about in Siem Reap but I'll discuss those stories with you in the next posting. I apologize for how long it's taken for me to get this one out.