Now full from breakfast we decide to head over to Lemongrass (another recommendation from David and Melissa) for massages. I was a bit skeptical from my last massage in China (where the masseuse thought it would be comfortable for me to be punched in the head repeatedly for 5 minutes). I explained to the kind people at Lemongrass that I was not into S&M and I would prefer a softer massage.
They recommended the 60 minute traditional Khmer massage. Sounded good to me, so I paired that with a 30 minute head massage (Amy did the same). They take us upstairs to slip into some pajamas. Not sure how to lie down, the masseuse tells me to just relax. Well that is what I did. I am not the biggest aficionado when it comes to massages, but this is probably the most relaxed I have felt in a long time. We started with our heads in their laps and they cradled us while massaging us to bliss. We’ve (or mostly Amy) has had the pleasure of massages around the world and this was one of the best. The 90 minutes went by way too quickly (I might have even fallen asleep in the middle of it). Amy and I pondered about dropping another $15 to turn it into a 3 hour massage, but decide we had enough. There are more countries with more massages to be found.
Afterwards, Amy wanted a few more spa treatments, but these were not offered at Lemongrass. One of the guys that worked there said he knew a place and would take us. He disappeared for a minute, then came through the front door and told us to follow. He got onto his moto and told us to come aboard. It is no problem for a family of 5 Cambodians to fit on these motos, but I looked at it thinking no way could the three of us fit. Once again he tells us to relax, so we listen and get on. It was both of our first moto rides. Amy was hanging on for dear life on the .3km journey while I was digging the ride.
We tried to go to a few salons, but they were all closed for the New Year. Amy decided to just give up and we continued on foot to look for a bookstore so Amy could get a few books for the beach (she tells me the beach is boring if you don’t have a book, apparently that is why I was always bored at the beach). We walk around looking for a few bookstores and once again the only ones we find are closed. Disappointed, Amy decided to let her aggression out on the old market as we made a few more purchases. She then let more aggression out at the Mexican restaurant (apparently she enjoyed the tacos yesterday quite a bit). It was kind of late for a siesta, but hey we are on vacation (we are using this line a lot, although I am not sure it is still considered vacation when you are traveling for 3 months).
We wake up from our nap to see if the party is going on, but it is still quiet. So we decided to get a start of our own. We headed back to the Temple Club because they put on a free Apsara show every night (you just have to sit through their overpriced food and beverages). Besides seeing a free show, I was more interested in seeing if they got a new shipment of tshirts in so I could find something closer to grown up sizes, but to no avail. We weren’t all that hungry so we ordered light meals (more of a liquid dinner).
The dancers train since a young age in order to bend their fingers backwards. It is kind of freaky to see their fingers pointing in both directions as they dance, but we still enjoyed it. As we were leaving, we spotted a guy on the street wearing a Michigan shirt. So of course we jumped at the opportunity of crossing off another item from the scavenger hunt. Talked to him for a little bit, turns out they were three guys currently living in Madison, Wisconsin in SE Asia for two weeks (graduated 2005). It looks like they had already started their evening festivites and might shortly be headed to Temple Club themselves.
We finally made it back to the hostel and the party was in full swing. At this point it was only David and Melissa, along with the entire staff (we were not originally told this, but the party was for the staff, which makes sense). We felt like we were intruding, but were welcomed with open arms. The staff squeezes together to make room for us, and I notice a lot of empty beer cans under the table. It looks like they are definitely enjoying themselves. The guy next to me tells us that his name is Jackie, and he is the Cambodian Jackie Chan (perhaps he should lay off the sauce). The staff is very friendly when inebriated (when sober they have a wall up, so it is tough to get to know them), and they make sure Amy and I always have a beer in one hand and a fork in the other to sample the food (even though we just came from dinner, no was not an appropriate answer). In fact, they make sure everyone’s glass is filled. Each time someone starts to drink a new glass, everyone has to cheers (chul muy in Khmer, the local language). When there are 15 people at the table, this means you cheers close to every minute.
We sat around hearing stories about growing up in Cambodia, what age they start to drive motos and drink, and the food they like to eat (they love snakes and frogs). Two of them even opened up about their childhood during the Pol Pot years, and how their family had to give up everything in Siem Reap and move to the countryside in poverty to survive (David later told us this was very rare for a Cambodian to even talk about this out loud).
The good news is that these guys are proof of continuing to thrive in the new tourist economy in Siem Reap. We also got to talk to David and Melissa a little more about owning a guest house in Cambodia. Apparently they have been traveling to SE Asia for 6 years, always staying at the same place. The former owner wanted to move back to England, so David and Melissa gave up their jobs and took over. They have now been at it for 4 months and are doing a great job. It was interesting to me to see how reliant they are on reviews from Tripadvisor and Hostelworld (and the games that other guest house owners play to improve their ratings). The night continued on like this for a few hours with some other guests stopping in here and there. It finally stopped when 2 of the staff members got calls from their wives wondering where they were. You could see the disappointment in their eyes as they were getting the hook (a term we like to use back at school when one of the wives calls up the husband and makes him come home, in reference to a starting pitcher getting the hook). Seems like this kind of behavior transcends cultures. They all poured one last quick one and I guess it was getting late, so Amy and I decided to head to bed as well. This was a great opportunity to really get to know locals and we thoroughly enjoyed it – many thanks to Melissa and David for including us. One of the reasons we like to travel.
Happy New Year! We were thinking of checking out more temples today (going with the Grand Tour route), but after last night's festivities, we decided to sleep in.
And sleep in we did. Once again we missed breakfast, so by the time we woke up we ventured out on the town in hopes of something being open to grab food. As we started to walk towards pub street, we noticed the bookstore (that was closed the previous day) was open. So without hesitation we went inside to purchase some used (and illegal copied) books. Amy got 3 books for $5 (definitely from the bargain bin), and I went with Jack Kerouac's On the Road Again (a book that every traveler reads). Now that we had books, we could properly enjoy the beach.
We then ate breakfast and walked around looking for a Dr. Fish to get foot massages. Unfortunately all were closed. Guess we will have to wait to Bangkok to try a Dr. Fish. It was now getting close to 1:12 (the official time of new years, dont ask me why it is some a random time), so we headed toward the river as Melissa told us we might find some celebrations going on. That we did not find, but we were able to find a more modern Wat. The temple was very nice, but it didnt have that old world charm we were used to with the other Wat's (and there was a French group following us around stepping in front of our pictures). As we walked back, we decided to stop at the grocery store to stock up on the essentials (bug spray, suntan lotion, and snacks for the trip the next day).
The remainder of the afternoon was spent fixing up the resume/cover letter in order to find a job when this whole adventure is over along with getting directions to Ko Chang.
There is typically a bus from Siem Reap direct to Ko Chang, but with the holiday, there are no buses running on the Cambodia side. So our alternative was quite complex, but that will wait for another blog. It was getting late at this point, so we decided to head back to the street food area to get Cambodian bbq. We figured our last meal should be the same as our first in Siem Reap. We found a stall that was fairly crowded with local people, so we grabbed a table and ordered our meal. We each got a stir fry and a bbq skewer. I went with the old standby of beef steak, but Amy, being the daughter of an Orthodox Jew who keeps kosher, ordered the pork ribs. I have to say it was all pretty good.
Once dinner concluded, we made one final run to the night market to try Dr. Fish. The place was packed, with only room for one more person.
He wanted $5 for a tshirt, a beer, and a massage (but you can stay as long as you want, even until the next morning). I decide to pass and go to another Dr. Fish that was only $2 sans tshirt, and a lot less crowded (less dirty feet in the tank). Amy decided to just be a spectator (and shop) while I was more tickled than massaged by the fish. It took about 10 minutes to get used to the feeling of hundreds of tiny fish eating your feet (or maybe it was the beer kicking in). Regardless I only stayed for a few minutes longer before getting dried off and heading back to the hostel for the night. Pretty sure you would need to have your feet in the tank until the next morning to see any results. Just a touristy gimmick I guess. We did, however meet a nice couple from Miami so we bonded over some USA jokes since we don't see many Americans. Their first question when they heard how long we're traveling for was, "how did you get all that time off? our bosses were mad at these 2 weeks!" which we found funny since only Americans would ask us that.
We then called it a night and bid farewell to our home this week, Siem Reap.
We now have two more days in Siem Reap and are a little templed-out for the time being. So we decided to sleep in (until noon) today and make it a relaxing day. As we headed out for breakfast (we missed the free breakfast at the hostel because we slept too late), Melissa tells us that we are lucky to be staying a few extra nights because she is throwing a New Year party this evening. Awesome (as all American's say)! We continue on to the Red Piano for breakfast, the bar made famous by Angelina Jolie because she had one beverage there. Her name is plastered throughout the bar and they even named a drink after her (they advertise every 10th drink sold is free and every 500th drink wins $100, although I don’t think they track this or follow through with it).