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Siem Reap, Cambodia

Day 1

Fairly boring day of travel. Ko Samui airport was great: free internet, free drinking water (a first), free cake and free drinks. We were so caught up in all the free stuff that we almost missed the flight - they had to call our names over the loudspeaker. A one hour flight landed us back in Bangkok, and from here we made our way to the bus terminal. It was a long, three hour wait for the bus to the border of Cambodia. There isn't a whole lot to do at a bus terminal, so this felt like an eternity. Finally we boarded the bus, which took three hours to reach Aranyaprathet (border town). Along the way the military hopped on board, demanding to see everyone's passport. Danny's was packed in his luggage, under the bus. Somehow the officer missed him and it didn't matter.

 

From the bus we jumped in a tuk-tuk to take us to immigration, and spent about half an hour filling out forms. We also paid in advance for a taxi in Cambodia, which was probably a rip-off but we were too tired to care. A short time later we found ourselves officially in Cambodia, in a seedy looking town called Poipet (known for its casinos). We quickly climbed inside our waiting taxi and spent the next two hours heading towards Siem Reap. 

In the taxi were two other Dutch men, who didn't know each other, and we all got chatting. One was a tour guide around South East Asia, so he was filling us in on the history of Cambodia and giving us random Cambodian facts. He was extremely arrogant but his information was useful, and he helped us find a guesthouse to stay in when we arrived in Siem Reap (at about 7:30 p.m.). We wanted somewhere cheap to stay and we got cheap. $6 a night, cold water shower only, size of a shoebox. 

The Dutch guy was telling us about an area called Pub Street, so we searched it out for dinner. Literally every ten metres on our walk a man came up and asked us to get in his tuk-tuk ("Where you going, where you going, I take you, I take you. Okay, okay, maybe tomorrow."). It was the same in the marketplace - we just glanced at a souvenir and someone was in our face trying to make us buy it. It was exasperating. 

We found the Pub Street area (there are several streets involved, and yes, they are full of pubs) and chose a laneway that was lined with colourful, two storey, open-air restaurants. We picked one at random and ordered the national dish, "amok" (thanks Dutch guy), which is usually a fish curry but I managed to swap it for chicken. It was tasty, similar flavours to Thai food, but it was not spicy at all. It needed the chili. Meals $3, cocktails $4 (but it was buy one get one free), beer 50 cents. Awesome.

Driving rules here are interesting. Suddenly we're driving on the right hand side of the road and it's all about overtaking. At one point I saw a truck overtaking a car, overtaking a tuk-tuk, overtaking a bicycle. I think that smaller vehicles give way to bigger ones but it's not consistent. At intersections there are no stop or give way signs, so it's a battle of who is the bravest. I can see why they don't let tourists drive cars here.

An interesting fact our Dutch friend revealed to us about Cambodia: it is illegal to drive during the day with your headlights on. Headlights are reserved for the royal family and the Prime Minister. However, it is NOT illegal to drive at night without headlights.