Our last city with treacherous activity… we arrived to Siem Reap and it was toasty! We arrived a bit early and our room (more on this later) wasn’t ready yet, so off to the pool for a nap, sunburn, and a good sweat.
We had a tour guide scheduled, Mr. Try (pronounced Tree), who was recommended by family who founded Caring for Cambodia. He picked us up from the hotel and LOVED Mr. Denny. In fact, he didn’t actually speak to HH or I on the trip for the most part, only talking to Denny, telling Denny to get the great pictures, ‘stand here Denny, it’s a better view, etc. He asked if the 3 of us were related because we were all “big, not skinny like him. He brought us to a small Killing Field where about 350 people had been killed during the genocide in Cambodia. About half of the population had been killed, with the largest killing field in Phnom Penh, about a 2 hour flight from Siem Reap.
During the time at these camps, there would be 12 people who had dig a hectare (100 acres) worth of dirt in the rice fields every single day. If you didn’t finish your hectare, you’d start to lose people in the camp, but despite how many remained, you had to do another hectare the next day, and every day after that. The faster you could complete the days work, the faster you could search for food which included scorpion, frogs, etc. Mr. try kept laughing, asking if we eat that kind of food, which they still eat and sell at the local markets. Mr. Try had been in a camp during the time of the genocide, and had numbers tattooed on his hands, which we believe were an identification number from the camp he was at. Someone had told us earlier in our trip that if you are ever to see someone in Cambodia in their 60’s+, you should stop them and have a conversation because so few older people are still alive there. It was clear how respected Mr. Try was by every local throughout our entire visit. Despite all of the hardship he had been through, he was so jolly and happy to teach us about his country. Being a tour guide was clearly his livelihood and having him show us around these few days meant we were supporting him and his entire family (wife and 4 children).
After the Killing Field, we went to see the town center for a quick walk and then stopped by the ticket building for tickets to the temples the next day. We wanted to see sunrise there, so it would be an early start. Before heading back to the hotel to rest, we drove by a night market that was just starting to be set up. It was very local and not something tourists frequented, but Mr. Try wanted to give us a good understanding of the way of life here. We didn’t stop to walk around since it was still being set up, but as he said “nothing would fit here anyway since your very big”… thanks Mr. Try.
Back at the hotel, we went to the pool and then started to realize we were catfished by our hotel. It was clearly over marketed with pictures of luxury, and instead was an airport type hotel far from town and with loads of flight attendants and captains arriving throughout the evening and early next morning. The room was so small that Dennis got a second room, and while he was fast asleep HH and I started to scheme our exit from this place… more on that soon 🙂
4am wake up call… off to see Angkor Wat for sunrise. We got a few breakfast boxes to bring with us, including one for Mr. Try and our driver, who couldn’t be happier of this gesture. Walking in the pitch black and going the opposite direction of the crowds, we found our spot to get comfortable while we waited to watch the sunrise. The sun never really “rose” but the sky was beautiful and it was worth seeing. Running after Mr. Try (he was a speed walker), we toured around Angkor Wat and then waited to walk up to the highest point in the temple. To stay the stairs were vertical was an understatement. Going up, all I could think about was how on earth I’d make my way down. When it was time to come down I was shaking like a leaf and said multiple times that I couldn’t possibly do it. I’m actually quite surprised I’m not still up there while writing this post. With some serious motivation from HH and a few bystanders, I side stepped my way down. We went to a couple more temples, including where Tomb Raider had been filmed. Then it was back to the hotel to refresh before lunch and the pool.
We decided to go out to town for Lunch (mind you, it was around 11am)… Pizza was on the menu and my immediate choice. Starting to talk Dennis into moving hotels, he said we should at least see about a day pass for the next day to enjoy the spa, pool, and service at the Sofitel. The place was magical and smelled amazing when we walked in. We walked around and fell in love, $23 for a pool pass… HH and I would be skipping the temples the next day and coming here.
Back to our airport hotel we went, and HH and I just couldn’t be there any more. Yes, we were being dramatic, but we’ve been gone from home and wanted to be comfortable. We called the Sofitel to see about switching, and despite the very high price tag, we booked it, texted Dennis that we booked it, and he had 30 minutes to pack up before the car was going to arrive. Best decision ever made!
HH and I spent the full next day at the spa for massages, then the pool, where we had many cocktails (although we told Dennis we only had one, because we’re obviously not drinking on this trip). We met some awesome people on a group tour, then met these little kids while we were sliding down the fisher price children’s slide going into the pool, their version of a water slide. Charlie (6) and Elizabeth (9) followed us around the pool the rest of the day, telling riddles and playing Marco Polo (yes, we participated). They lived in Hong Kong (Charlie stating how he was ‘clearly’ from there). Needless to say they were originally from London but dads job took them to Hong Kong.
With a craving for Mexican (we needed another vessel to get the cheese into our bodies, so quesadillas it would be) we headed into town on a tuk tuk for a Mexican place that was recommended. It was delicious and then we were off to pub street for some drinks. The place was packed and temple bar had the loudest music so we of course stopped in for a $3 pitcher of beer. Next was ‘Angkor What?‘ Where we met an Aussie who became our new friend. We followed him to another bar, despite HH and I being weary of the fact we were following a complete stranger to who knows where, where he got us a few drinks and he and Dennis played beer pong until past midnight (they lost by one cup). My favorite moment was when our new friend (who is now my friend on FB so may be reading this) turned his head and HH put her entire hand in both of our drinks to get the ice and limes out, because we only drank Evian and didn’t have ice or fresh vegetables at the advice of our extremely cautious travel doctor from back home. With nowhere to put the ice, HH was throwing it down onto the street a floor below us. Around midnight we called it a night and back on a tuk tuk (that had trouble starting) to bed for our 6am wake up call. Next stop, Koh Lanta, an island in southern Thailand, to do nothing.
#travel #southeastasia #cambodia