Angelina Jolie's Trail
Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
84Trip End Jun 11, 2011
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We arrived at the Siem Reap bus terminus where Perry (not sure if that is how it is spelled, but it is how it sounds) from Siem Reap Rooms was waiting to pick us up. The tuk tuk drive to the hostel was about 15 minutes and you can see the area becoming more touristy with each passing kilometer. Once we arrived, three men come to great us by taking our bags and handing us iced tea. Once inside we check into the hotel with Melissa (of David and Melissa fame, a Canadian couple who now runs the hostel). Melissa immediately pulls out a map and shows us the good restaurants, the ATM with no local fees (Chase is still taking $5 from us back home every time we use an ATM), the pub street, three markets, and a few museums. She then turns the map over to discuss the temples of Angkor (the reason everyone comes to Siem Reap). There are three paths to take to see the temples. The first path, called the mini tour, goes to Angkor Wat, Angkor City, and the Tomb Raider Temple (it is called this because the movie Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie, was filmed there). The Grand Tour goes to other temples in a bigger loop in the Eastern Baray. Then there are temples outside the official Angkor park all around Siem Reap. One specific temple is Beng Mealea that is 70 km away which is mostly untouched and less touristy. We decide to book a driver and English speaking guide for the mini tour for the next morning (to watch sunrise over Angkor Wat and go from there).
We then drop off our bags and run out to grab some lunch/dinner since we have not eaten anything of substance today. Turns out this hostel is in a perfect location, just a few short walking blocks to the main tourist center of town but far enough outside the popular area to be quiet. It's great that everything is within walking distance. As we head out, we start to walk toward the area that has a few street food stalls, but decide to get money at the ATM first (to pay for dinner). We were now close to the central market, so we decided to stop in quickly as well. Being the only people in the entire market, we are hounded quite a bit to buy something. Usually these markets contain on the same crap, so we just go to whichever person is the nicest to us. We decide to purchase two Krama's which are Cambodian scarves worn by both males and females to wipe off the sweat since it is so hot here. I also purchased a Angkor Beer tshirt (since I now have 2 beer tshirts from 2 countries). The lot cost $5 (this is where mami says we overspent because she has said that about everything we have bought so far).
Starting to get lightheaded from the heat and hunger, we finally head to the street food area. All of the food is the same in this area, so we pick a restaurant based on the color of the sign (surprisingly the pink sign won). The food is Cambodian BBQ. You walk over to the grill, pick out the skewers (of the meat and veggies that you fancy), and wait for it to cook. We decide on 2 meat, 2 chicken, and a shrimp skewer. The food was very good, but we spent most of the meal shooing away the bugs and listening to the Australian guy next to us ramble on to guy from Belgium. The Australian guy was so cultured because he has been backpacking for 3 months now and has been to 10 countries. He spent the 30 minutes mostly talking about what each country needs to do to be better.
At this point the night market is opening so we walk on over. More of the same crap. Besides the typical material goods (kramas, tshirts, wooden carvings of temples, Buddhas, and animals) there are also numerous massage parlors (advertising $1 massages) and a Dr. Fish booth. Dr. Fish is a tank of fish that you put your feet into and the fish eat all the dead skin. It is supposed to massage/tickle your feet and it is advertised as a pedicure. We have been told to stay away as they are not very sanitary, but I am a fly by the seat of my pants kind of guy. For $3, you get a beer, a tshirt, and fish eating your feet for as long as you like. This was the start of a trend that I noticed in Siem Reap of free tshirts for buying other items. You can get a free tshirt for drinking 5 beers or going to Dr. Fish or buying 4 other tshirts. More of this to come in a later blog. We both decided to pass on the Dr. Fish but did walk away with other items as we can't resist a good market.
After the market we made our way to pub street (as you guessed it is a one block street that is closed off and contains nothing but pubs and restaurants). We noticed a place with seating on the street serving fitty cent drafts. So we sat down for a few, ordered dessert (sticky rice and jack fruit), and people watched. Since we were right next to the hostess desk, we spoke with the young lady for a bit about how business was doing and Siem Reap in general. One thing we noticed is that there are pictures of Angelina Jolie everywhere around town, and specifically in one bar. We also noticed this in Vietnam. When we were in Hue, we passed by several stores advertising their proceeds go to local orphanages and they also had several pictures of Angelina and her adopted kids (Pax is from Vietnam). Anyway, turns out that while filming Lara Croft Tomb Raider here in 2000 the movie team took a liking to one bar on pub street and Angelina also was a frequent visitor. I also think that's around the time she visited an orphanage here and adopted Maddox (and began her humanitarian efforts). At this point, we can't get away from Angelina - she's everywhere.
After an hour or two we decided to head back to the hostel to get some sleep as we had a 4:30am wake up call to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat.