Eating! Eating! Eating!
Trip Start Aug 27, 2011
99Trip End Jun 01, 2012
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The border crossing took two hours of sitting, well, if you had a seat. We paid a little extra so the bus drivers would take care of Laos exit formalities and the visa on arrival for Cambodia. Sarah and Amy did it off their own back and saved $3 doing it that way. At Laos exit immigration, they charge an illegal fee but plead you have very little cash, then you might get away with it.
There was some confusion as to what bus we should depart the border on. We did kick up a fuss when asked to board a minibus seeing as we had paid for VIP seats, whatever VIP really means.
I wasn't too sad about leaving Laos. On my next return, I will spend more time in the north, away from the drunken crowd, away from exploited tourists to a more natural and realistic setting, similar to when I stayed in La Pita in Nicaragua.
After six more hours of driving, we were dropped off at Kompong Cham in Cambodia as our bus was heading to the capital Phnom Penh. Dave and I have the similar routine on most journeys, earplugs in, podcast on, mouth open, snooze!! A random small uk style bus found the passengers for Siem Reap and another four hours later we arrived in a very dark bus station getting picked on by tuk tuk drivers. The cool thing was we all stuffed our bags at the back of the bus but refused to allow anyone to help us remove them. A human chain was formed and we got the bags out the bus. While this was happenig, I failed to contact our guesthouse for the free pick up but we shared a very slow tuk tuk to our guesthouse near the garden village. After a day of travelling, it was great to get to bed, although, my bedding consisted of a very large towel??
I had visited Siem Reap, like Luang Prabang, on September 2010. I had no desire to see the temples again. They are wonderful to see but extremely energy sapping, hot, sweaty and normally involve a 4am wake up call for the 'sunrise' picture! I did all that before. Dave boy booked a tuk tuk for the day and set off for the temples mid morning by himself. I had organized myself a lunch date with my friend Linda. I last saw her on Cayenne Caulker, the islands in Belize back in April 2011. We stayed in touch and she is in Siem Reap teaching English. We had a lunch of Amok trei (fish amok), which a coconut milk-based mild curry; basically
the national dish of Cambodia, and the best place to get it is in Siem Reap! Cha Kreung Sach Ko Sadach Kuor (beef stir fry with green beans and herbs) and Nyuom Svay Trei Ch'aer Pakea (mango salad with dried fish and shrimp) this all lasted about three hours.
We met later in the afternoon for some local dessert which were Luot Svet (tapioca "worms" with coconut milk, shaved ice, and condensed milk) Chap Chai (means "everything"): coconut meat, pumpkin, seaweed, tapioca balls, tapioca shreds, mung beans, etc. in coconut milk. Thanks Linda for keeping my blog detailed!!
Linda mentioned that she regularly runs past Angkor Wat (how great is that!?) and always buys a coconut to drink off the same street stall so the lady who sells the coconuts told Linda to come by one night for food.
We found a bicycle for me to hire and had so much fun peddling amongst the traffic of tourist buses, tuk tuk and motorcycles. We saw the last few seconds of sunset. Best of all, at this time, there is no fee to enter the area of the temples. We tried to sneak into Angkor Wat but a guard wouldn't let us. After helping some lost Korean kids, we enjoyed some more local food for dinner, ahem, dinner 1!! This consisted of banh cheo: thin crepes filled with mincemeat, onion, and beansprout. They're wrapped in lettuce with other vegetables and dipped in a
sweet-sour fish sauce and mee katang: broad rice noodles stir-fried with beef, vegetables, and egg. This was also the first time I have stuck a straw in a coconut and drunk it dry.
We rode back into town to meet Dave, Sarah and Amy at the X rooftop bar. Cheap beer and football. We had a couple of drinks before finding a table in the market and enjoying dinner 2!! We weren't finished there, Linda then took us to the blue pumpkin for ice cream!! Oh Boy!! And I had breakfast that morning as well, a free one with the guesthouse!
Dave had a very tiring day at the temples and changed his mind about having a second day there.Linda told us, sadly, that the temples are owned privately by a Vietnamese business man. None of the ticket proceeds go to the temples. She also told us the curious notion of all the local people having regular water cuts in order to keep up with the 'tourist' demand for water. I found this sad and shocking. Yes, the economic benefits of our presence is a positive but can you imagine being told you can't use water for the next 6 hours because some tourists need their hot showed? Sadly, there is also a nasty problem of child exploitation in Siem Reap, mainly due to tourists as well! This makes me physically sick!!
It was great to see Linda again, we caught up, shared stories and acted like we had known each other for ages, not just the two occasions we had met.
We agreed to see her again for dinner the following night.
Siem Reap itself does have some charms, if you can get by the constant attention from tuk tuk drivers. It is filled with old French shop-houses, shady tree-lined boulevards and a gentle winding river. The main focal point is the central market. There is a messy pub st, more drunk kids and quite alarming, most tuk tuk drivers are quite clearly high on drugs! It does have it's charms, and one can feel at ease in the town.
Our last day there involved wandering out to a cheap rice lunch. I chilled and blogged, then met everyone in the evening for drinks again. Linda had already cycled 80km that day so didn't stay long.
Sarah and Amy joined us for dinner and I enjoyed another curry! I should rename my trip the trip of spicy curries!!
Next day, we were up early for our bus to Battambang.
I suppose if you were looking forward to pictures of the temples then you might just have to google them. The last time I was here, I spent two days exploring the temples and the pictures are on my Facebook but i won't be uploading them here.
Next stop, Battambang.