"One dollaaaaaarrr"

Trip Start Sep 28, 2010
Trip End Dec 16, 2010

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Friday, November 12, 2010

"One dollaaaaaarrrr" - the cry you here almost everywhere around Angkor, Cambodia's biggest cultural attraction and source of national pride - Angkor Wat is the temple featured on their flag, and there are literally hundreds of other Angkorian-era temples in and around the region. The main concentration is at Angkor Wat, and we used Siem Reap as a base from which to do our temple-exploring.

Having spent one night in the guesthouse the Tuk Tuk driver dropped us at - it was 5 dollars a night for both of us (cheap as chips!) and it meant we didnt have to pay for the Tuk Tuk - we decided we could do with somewhere a bit nicer as we planned on staying in Siem Reap for a while. Essentially, and I can't even remember the name of the first guesthouse, it was just a high-ceilinged concrete room adjacent to the reception area, ok for a night or two but not several.

We had decided not to do temples that day as we were having a recovery day from all the recent travelling, but instead we sorted out better accommodation and other bits and pieces whilst exploring a bit of the town. We quickly discovered Cambodian digs don't come with hot water...I should mention that before we set off on this trip Keiron warned me I would hardly ever have a hot shower, but this has not proven to be true! However, Cambodia also turned out to be scorching hot, as well as humid, dusty, and slightly chaotic, so cold showers were a welcome relief most days! After a lttle wandering we found the Ivy 2, which we could not say no to thanks to the sign announcing a 'special vegetarian menu'! The food there is really good, rooms are clean, fan only but that was ok (we've definitely got used to the heat by now - too much fan and I do have to put a jumper on...), friendly staff, and they have a rooftop chill-out/tv area plus gym equipment. And at only 6 dollars a room, it was perfect!

Towards sunset we'd stocked up on insect repellent, suncream, food, etc. and decided to go and get our 3-day pass for the temples. If you buy your pass after 5pm you get sunset that day free, so we headed to Angkor Wat for sunset - a bit cloudy, but still an impressive introduction to the main attraction! It was also our introduction to the hundreds of children, teenagers and young adults selling souvenirs, guidebooks, postcards, water, etc etc around all of the temples, to cries of "You want [insert here: wateeeeeeeer, postcaaaaaaaard, braceleeeeeeet, all in a drawly American accent]" followed by "only One dollaaaaarrr". On this occassion, a teenage boy (all of whom sell guidebooks) asked us for 8 dollars for a book, we said no and got out of the Tuk Tuk, he said 5 dollars, we said no and left the Tuk Tuk, then as we were walking towards Angkor we were followed by the cry of "One dollaaaaaaaaaaar!...Sir! Only one dollaaaaaarrr!"...oh dear!

Our main temple days were then Saturday and Sunday, when we had Ron from the Ivy 2 as our Tuk Tuk driver. For all of our temple exploring, we hired a Tuk Tuk - the temple complex is very large, and whilst you can rent bikes and cycle there is no way we wanted to attempt those distances in the sort of heat Cambodia gets in early November! Ron turned out to be pretty good and took us to some nice spots for sunset, breakfast and lunch. 

We essentially did Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and the other temples on the smaller circuit plus sunset at Sra Srang lake on Saturday, then sunrise at Angkor Wat and the temples on the big circuit on Sunday. The 5am start meant we were ready to leave by 1pm that day! We also had one of the best hawker cries of the trip - at around 5.30am, not "You want cofffeeeeeeeeeee", but "You neeeeeed cofffeeeeeeeee"!!! See our pictures for an impression of various temples - we took hundreds of photos so I have tried to upload only a select few!

In the evenings we hit 'Angkor What?', which appeared to be the bar in town for pool and dancing into the wee hours - good music there. We also sampled the Asian buffet at Red Piano on the Saturday, which was quite good if a little pricey, and one night watched England v Oz rugby in the Irish pub - great result!!!

Monday was a bit of a rest day again, we spent a while updating this blog and then visited the Tonle Sap exhibition. On the walk back we passed Angkor Market, which I was delighted to find did live up to the Lonely Planet description with baguettes and cheese for sale - have been missing cheese a lot!! So that was dinner sorted, whilst we watched Rainman at the guesthouse (good film).

For our final temple day on Tuesday we headed to the Roulos group - we had agreed to meet Ron but he didn't arrive so we went with a much younger driver instead. However on his suggestion we also went to Kompong Phhluck to see the floating village via boat, with an even younger driver - probably about 16!! - who took us to the village and then a small boat (literally a flat piece of wood with slightly curved edges in a boat-like shape) around the village and the nearby submerged forest. Although it was all a bit overpriced it was great!! The village is adjacent to the Tonle Sap, which expands massively in the wet season so all the houses are on huge stilts, and we got to see the great lake itself. Amazing!

The intention was then to head back to Angkor for sunset, however en route the heavens literally opened. We agreed just to go back to the guesthouse, but about a third of the way back (we were about 13k out of town) the Tuk Tuk came to a wobbly halt. It was about this point we realised that our Tuk Tuk had no covers, and our driver had no poncho, unlike every other one that was whizzing past us...

Our driver brought some petrol - sold on street stalls everywhere in cola bottles - but that didn't work: "I am sorry, but, um, Tuk Tuk is broken". Tuk Tuk is broken!! We had to feel sorry for him as he was probably even more soaked than we were from driving out front. The driver managed to call his brother from someone else's phone - typically, his mobile battery had died mid-coversation on the first attempt. We're not sure what the purpose of this was other than to cheer us up, as we learned we were actually waiting for his father to arrive with a non-broken Tuk Tuk to pick us all up, from the very happy and chatty older brother who shortly arrived on his moto, soaking wet too. However, 2 brothers plus a crisp packet saved the day - they figured the electrics were too wet, so put an old crisp packet over the top, and voila! Tuk Tuk can go!!

And that is the only time I really needed a hot shower in Cambodia.

Sophie x

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