Sunday, February 16, 2014

Siem Reap (Cambodia): Day 2

You know how sometimes you're watching a movie that takes place in a third world country and suddenly the camera focuses on a naked little boy on the side of the road, I guess to really drive home the setting of the place? Those movies aren't lying. I think I saw at least 10 completely naked toddlers throughout the day (the vast majority were little boys, but not all).

So my day starts, again, at 5 AM. Except this time my body feels like it's 7 AM due to the time difference. I was meeting my guide at 8 AM, so I had like 3 hours to kill. Once 8 came, I finally went to wait outside for the guy, who did show up not too late. We would be taking a car today because we were going quite a distance to this particular temple. I was thinking maybe 30 minutes. No... it was about an hour or more out. But it was worth it.

But on the way there, I saw much more countryside and cultural scenes, a lot of which I didn't manage to get on film. It was all quite fascinating, but I'd have to say the most memorable was a particular motorbike. You see, as I said before, the majority of people here either ride bicycles, motorcycles, scooters, or Tuk Tuks. And on the motorcycles, you'll often see up to 3 people (of all ages) on one motorbike (I even saw 4 once). But one in particular caught my eye--there were 3 on this one, but the girl in back was holding up an IV bag which I believe was attached to the person in the middle as they were riding down the highway. It was quite a sight to see.

Anyway, on to the temple.


I really wanted to see this temple just because of how cool it looked. It's ancient temple ruins overtaken by nature! And sure enough, it was a pretty cool place. It's apparently nicknamed the Indiana Jones temple for tourists, despite the fact it has nothing to do with said franchise. But it's fairly recent, as they just finished clearing out the surrounding land-mines around 2008 or so, I think, and then opened it to the public.

I was actually afraid, due to all the stories and warnings, how hot and miserable it would be. But it's really not. More than anything, it's just really humid. So I did sweat, but it really wasn't hot or uncomfortable.

The place was great. We were in the compound for about an hour or so. There were tons of stairs--rickety old wooden things and very narrow and steep. These were the kinds of stairs you barely got a foot hold on as you went at an 80-degree angle while the staircase and handrail wobbled with every step. But I made it fine throughout. I even climbed a stone pile for a picture moment (the picture only gets me near the top, so sadly you don't see how high up it really was that I had to climb).

And speaking of pictures, let's show some, shall we? (As is usually the case, I'll add all of them to Facebook, but I'm gonna be picky here since there are so many. You can click on any picture to see a larger version, as well.)

A boat in a moat.

Other side of the moat.

You can't tell from the angle, but I'm a good ways up there.

You can see some falling leaves.


After that was said and done, our next stop was Tonle Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in all Southeast Asia. After about an hour-and-a-half drive, including a seemingly never-ending dirt road (that also included ox-drawn carts), we arrive at the boats. I give my ticket, and we're led to our particular boat near the end of the line. The owners were a father-son duo, and the son (who was I'm guessing about 10) was our primary driver. And so we headed down the lake towards the "floating village" to see how they live. And I'm just going to let the pictures do the talking here.

Tour boats

My young driver

The expanse of the lake past the village

On the way back, the only real thing of note was that we ended up getting stopped by a traditional Cambodian funeral procession, which was pretty interesting. But then finally we made it back to the Villa by about 2 PM.

After a bite to eat at the villa, I chilled for a while before deciding to head for the nearby Night Market, which is a popular tourist spot. I've decided I don't want to pack a whole ton into my days after what happened in Beijing (exhaustion and over-stimulation due to nearly 12-hour tours 3 days in a row). And I need to pace myself--I have a week to go on this vacation. So I figured an easy, simple trip to the Night Market would be good enough for the evening.


Well, it was bound to happen--it does everywhere I go. It happened the first couple times I went to Seoul. It happened every single day in Shinjuku when I went to Tokyo. It happened any time I tried to find my hotel in Beijing. That's right... an "I'm lost and can't figure out how to get back!" adventure. Though I was fairly certain I knew this was going to happen this evening, I wasn't really worried about it considering there are Tuk Tuks everywhere and more than willing to give you a lift, even if they have no clue where to go.

Anyway, the story starts out rather boring. I head for where the Villa's map of the Night Market is... except it doesn't seem to exist in the location on that map somehow. So I just wander back to the Villa and decide to try the opposite direction, because I knew there was a market that way, even though it was a ways away.

First I find an Arts Center Night Market that's across a river area. I wander around there for a while looking for any potential souvenirs. But the shirts are too small, the knick-knacks too lame or tacky, and the best paintings way too big. But the atmosphere was nice. After a while, I leave this place and cross the street again to the Old Market area, which is pretty much more of the same.

Sidenote: I learned the delicate art of crossing the street during this adventure. In Siem Reap, much like driving, if there's even a minuscule opening... make a run for it. If you have to, cross the street halfway and wait for another opening in the second half. Traffic is nonstop and there are no stop signs or traffic lights (seriously). You just go when you can and only stop if you have to, and maybe not even then.

Anyway, after the Old Market, I find myself back on Pub Street. I go down that for a while until I stumble upon a place called the Blue Pumpkin, which I had read a little about earlier. It's a bakery and ice cream shop (and lounge). So I got me one incredibly delicious vanilla and brownie cone and ate that. I soon came to realize, however, that the ice cream and the greasy lunch weren't sitting well in my stomach together. I wanted to get back to the Villa soon. So I started going back the way I thought I needed to go, since I'd been this direction before (you see where this is going).

So I end up far, far in the opposite direction... down an area tourists don't seem to come often. There was also an alleyway of massage parlors (I read before coming here that two of the most annoying things here are the constant barrages of people asking you to either get a ride in their Tuk Tuk or to come get a foot or back massage). Two young woman literally ran out into the middle of the alley and blocked my path, hounding me to get a massage. I kept telling them no, but they wouldn't let me pass. If I tried to go through them, they'd push me back. I'd try to go around them, and they'd grab my arm or shirt and wouldn't let me go. It was really annoying, and it took at least 2 minutes to finally find my way past them (which is a long time when you're talking about just walking around two women). I also walked past a few little kids who were rather friendly and told me hello and waved as I went by.

Long story short (too late), I find a highway where I figure there have to be dozens of Tuk Tuks here. But I suppose because there was a lack of general tourism in this area, all the drivers were focused elsewhere. I do eventually stumble across a group of guys on motorcycles and a couple Tuk Tuks in the near background. One guy asks me if I need a ride (on his motorcycle, which is another mode of public transportation here), and I'm wary but mildly desperate at this point. But one of his friends jumps in and asks if I want a Tuk Tuk, so I took him up on that. His friends seemed to jeer at this, that he jumped in and got the sale (so to speak), but I didn't care. (A similar thing happened last night during the onslaught of guys trying to get me a hooker when I took a ride from the one guy who didn't offer me a nice girl.)

He also had no idea where to go. After a while, he ended up taking me towards that same sister hotel the other guy from the night before had taken me. Except he goes past it to another place with another similar name to mine. But I show him my map, which doesn't help that much. So we turn around and he asks another driver where to go, and he's able to give him solid directions. He eventually gets me back to the Villa, and I give him $5 for his trouble (generally Tuk Tuks cost 1-2 bucks, but he went a long way and through a lot of trouble, and I wanted to be nice to him for that).

And that was my second day! Now to get ready for a long day of the major temples and whatnot tomorrow, and it's another rather early start.

1 comment:

  1. wow, what an adventure! The temple did remind me of Indiana jones type places for sure and it also looks like it s a mosquito/malaria rich environment...hope your bug spray is working. and the floating city was amazing. Reminded me of waterworld a little bit. keep the pictures coming.