So we flew to Siem Reap, Cambodia where we planned on spending our one full day there at Angkor Wat – aka – the ONLY place to really visit in Siem Reap. Angkor Wat is to Cambodia as Moab is to Utah (you like my logic game? Eh?). In Moab, you enter a national park and cruise around visiting the various arches and geographical wonders. In Angkor Wat, you enter a national park and cruise around visiting the various Wats and geographical wonders. So yes, I just compared Moab, Utah with Angkor Wat, Cambodia, but for those of you who have visited both places, you know I’m right. Angkor Wat is the Moab of Indonesia… loosely.
While disembarking from the airplane and leaving the airport (with the coolest looking Cambodian visa stickered nicely inside our passports), we of course encountered many helpful taxi drivers wanting to drive the foreigners to their hotel. We found ourselves one of these helpful chaps who ended up speaking impeccable English. He explained that he was trying to be a certified ‘tourist guide’ and he had a big test coming up, so he was using us to practice. Don’t worry, it was legit. After reading that explanation of how we found our Cambodian friend I realized how very “sucker American girls” it sounded… but like… so wasn’t that way. So wasn’t. Anyway, we decided to use this fresh faced, eager Cambodian, to our advantage (what? It’s how they DO things here… sheesh! We’re just trying to acclimate to the local swindlery… ing… swindling). When he dropped us off at the hotel, he offered to come back the next day and take us all around Angkor Wat and then subsequently, drive us down to Phnom Phen the day after that. We discussed this and I told him we’d be interested if he’d do it for mucho less then what we’d get with a certified tour guide. That way he gets practice, and we get an air-conditioned car complete with native expert for a much better deal. And thus, a deal was struck! We shook on it! And in the end, this chap turned out to truly be heaven sent. If you’re ever in Cambodia, look him up. I kept his card.
We arrived at our Siem Reap hotel around 7:00pm and then ventured out to roam the streets of Siem Reap. It was naturally reminiscent of many of the shopping districts we’d encountered in Bangkok, Phuket, and Phi Phi Island; however, the vendors weren’t nearly as aggressive and the prices were cheaper than dirt… cheaper than dirt on dirt! And what’s more, after exploding our minds with ‘baht to dollar’ conversions – turns out Cambodia likes to accept the US dolla. Holla! Their domestic currency is the “riel” but it’s basically worth more as toilet paper – so they fill their ATM’s with US dollars and prefer to take US dollars. The convenience! What’s ironic is the main body of tourists going through these places hail from England, France, and Australia. I’d say 1 American for every 30 of the afore mentioned nationalities. Go USA. Another nice relief was buying $2 t-shirts that weren’t totally cheesy and ridiculous! They were really good lookin t-shirts! I never thought I’d be one of those t-shirt buying tourists but in Siem Reap, how could I say no? I couldn’t do it! So I bought a handful of t-shirts (one of which featuring a silhouette of a dude on a toilet with Ipod buds in his ears that read “I-Poop.” That gem went to my 17 year old brother. He dug it.), an exquisite turquoise bracelet, an ornate elephant stamp (as in the ink to paper kind… not the mailing kind), and get this, 6 beautiful scarves for $6! What??!?! It was a much more pleasant shopping experience than anything we’d experienced in Thailand. We voted Siem Reap “best shopping ever” – and didn’t worry once that we were giving the title pre-maturely. We knew we’d found the best.
The next day, our helpful tour guide in training picked us up punctually at 7:30am (one thing to be said of these various pick-up and drop of guides, they’re always very punctual… something you know I admire), and we entered Angkor Wat tailing a large bus full of Chinese tour groups, naturally. Now there’s a good time. We proceeded to enjoy the various Wats (here comes the joke… and Wat nots (bwahahahah! Never old!)) throughout the hottest most face melting day I’ve ever experienced in my life; “Not many tourist come during this season” said our Cambodian guide, “too hot.” Holy liquified brain Batman! Nothing gets hotter than Cambodia in April. Nothing. Go ahead and find it… go on, Sahara Desert, and exert your mighty deserty power… I give you Cambodia in April!!! Phhhhheeeeew….
The pics are sweet though… observe: