Both Jordan and I were leaving Sihanoukville at 8pm in the evening. Toni hung around to see us off which was nice. We were ferried to a bus agency where we were waiting for about 90minutes, amounting to the bus being over an hour late. While there I met with two English girls who were having a really tough time with Cambodia. The previous night one of them had their bag violently torn from them, another had been bitten by a dog and they had a whole world of hassle crossing the infamously dodgy Poipet boarder with Thailand
. I assured them of my positive experiences and advised that they get a little bit off the tourist trail to discover something of the real Cambodia. When our bus arrived there was some confusion as they were loading passengers to Saigon, Bangkok and Siem Reap onto the same bus; destinations in three opposite directions. It turned out that everybody was first going to Phnom Penh which must have really pissed off the Bangkok passengers as its about 250k in the wrong direction. The bus was a rather peculiar type of overnight sleeper bus, much different to those I have experienced before. The sleepers were super narrow bunks in three rows that were surely designed for the Asian build. I just about fit comfortably into a berth myself and it was quite hilarious watching some of the larger barrangs trying to cram themselves into the narrow space. Although the roads we were travelling we supposedly some of the best in the country it still felt like a pretty rough ride so I didn't sleep very well.
It was about 7 in the morning when we rolled into Siem Reap bus station, a few km from the town. I had been offered a free pickup when I bought my ticket, something I was a bit dubious about. Of course I lied to the driver, saying I had already booked a room in a place to avoid paying him commission. He explained that he works for the agency for no cost in the hope that I will also use his tuk tuk for exploring the temples of Angkor Wat in the following days
. I didn’t particularly like the guy so I tipped him a dollar hoping it would get rid of him. The place I stayed was another guesthouse which had been recommended by travelers I had met. Garden Village provided dorm beds at just $1 per night, a price which was simply too good to pass by. The dorm was the most basic accommodation I have paid for on my trip. I was something of a shack, completely open to the outside world. There was a bamboo platform on either side of the shack with 5 thin mattresses side by side and a mosquito net above each one. I was so tired after my trip that I could have slept anywhere and the noise from the families living around the shack didn’t bother me. I slept until about 2pm at which point I awoke to start to plan my visit to Angkor Wat… Pretty much the sole reason anybody comes to Siem Reap.
The day after my temple marathon I wrecked tired and had aching mussels. I was quite happy to spend the day doing absolutely nothing. In fact I just arsed around the guesthouse chatting to people and had breakfast lunch and dinner there, a little boring perhaps but you need these kind of days more and more often the longer you travel. The next day would be my last in Cambodia so I didn’t want to waste it in the same way. Instead I set out on foot to explore the town of Siem Reap. There were no major attractions to explore, something which I like actually, so I just strolled around the take in some of the cities vibe while visiting various markets and temples
. I also headed up around the Royal Residency where people were busy giving offerings to the temple for the Queen’s birthday. They do show great respect for the royal family here as I think it is something which separates the nation from the years of the Khmer Rouge, although it’s nothing like the same extent as in Thailand. In the Royal Gardens there was a class of Tae-Quan-Do students practicing near the fountain so I stopped to watch for a while and snapped a few shots. I was really tempted to ask to join them and bust out an old karate move for the first time in a year. It was quite a nice little town to stroll around although it feels quite superficial since it is built on a foundation of tourism. There were lots of big extravagant hotels and excellent infrastructure which made it feel even wealthier than the capital. As the sun began to set I hurried back to the guesthouse roof bar for a sunset Angkor. I had planned to head back out for some more market shopping and a massage but I ended up chatting with people, some of which had also done some teaching volunteering in Cambodia. We had plenty experiences to share so we headed out for dinner together on Pub St. Pub Street is like a little micro Koh San rd with lots of restaurants and Pubs as the name would suggest. We had a fairly tame night, just a few drinks over dinner and headed back to the guesthouse by 1am. That was the extent of my experience of the night life of Siem Reap but I didn’t mind since I partied a little too much in Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh.
Siem Reap actually means Thais defeated; quite an ironic name considering the city was occupied by the Thais for well over a hundred years. The city is built almost entirely on the tourism generated by the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat nearby. Angkor Wat was the capital of the great Angkor Empire (c900-1200ad), and is considered one of the Primer tourist attractions in South East Asia.