Souvenirs & Sunsets: Siem Reap, Cambodia (Day 1)
With our tumultuous morning behind us, we landed in Siem Reap without incident. While a tiny airport, without jetways, the terminal itself was modern, clean & fairly well run. We waited in line at customs to obtain our tourist visas before collecting our bags and making our way to the cab stand. (worth noting: A two night minimum stay is required & our visa was $30.)
The government runs transportation in Cambodia, so Uber is not an option. A lot of people were hopping in tuk tuks but we opted for a regular cab for the quick ride to Tara Angkor Hotel just down the road.
TARA ANGKOR HOTEL
Upon arrival, our check in was quick & efficient. The staff was friendly and helpful, providing us with information about getting to & exploring Angkor Wat. We headed to our room, which was not extravagant, but clean, spacious, air conditioned & just fine for a two night stay. Our only complaint would be the rooster who lived next door & his tendency to COCKADOOODLEDOO every hour, on the hour. After settling in the room for a few minutes we went to check out the pool & the grounds. All of which were well maintained and relatively quiet.
We headed to the restaurant to get lunch since it was well past our feeding time. The food was very standard & over-priced, but it certainly beat our protein bar diet (when we travel, we pack A LOT of snacks & tend to only eat out once, sometimes twice, a day). After a few beers and paroozing Pinterest, we came up with a plan for the rest of the afternoon. First to check out Old Market and Pub Street, then to the Angkor Wat ticket office to purchase advance passes which also allows you access to the park for that evening’s sunset (this is really great advice & we’d highly recommend purchasing your pass the night before-both for the sunset and skipping the crazy lines in the morning).
Brigette and I have vastly different interests when it comes to sight seeing, which has taught us both the art of compromise! I think it’s within our opposition that we manage to canvas a city thoroughly. What is my main goal for a place is not always Brigette’s first choice, and vice versa, which means we end up seeing both! This is a lengthy explanation for why I wasn’t as excited as Brigette for our trip to Old Market, but fast forward an hour and she had to peal me away from this knick knack heaven. We really loved the vibe in Siem Reap & our tuk tuk driver was SO SO nice to us. He waited for us while we putzed around the market, collecting a few tiny souvenirs (the struggle of packing only a carry-on bag, no space for the giant buddha statue I was yearning for).
Once back at the hotel, we had about 30 minutes before we needed to get to the Angkor Wat ticket office, so we freshened up a bit & picked up our good camera to capture sunset.
The same tuk tuk driver had kindly waited for us & we headed to get our first glimpse of Angkor Wat, but not before a bit of a wait at the ticket office…
Sunset at Angkor Wat
For some reason we grossly underestimated how much cash we needed to bring with us & when we told our tuk tuk driver we would have to go back to the hotel to get more money, he (literally) emptied his wallet to loan us enough to purchase the tickets. This may not sound like a big gesture to some, but in this instance we were grateful that he trusted us enough to not only pay him for all of the transportation he had already provided, but also for the money he so kindly loaned us. We paid him back and offered him a very generous tip that he actually hesitated to take from us. Tipping seems to be a point of contention amongst travelers, but I tip most service providers the same way I would in the States-adding 20% to each “bill”. Whether it is right or wrong, it is what we are a custom to & is just easier for us when we are country hopping and can’t remember what the expectations are in a particular city.
We had read that Pre Rup Temple was the optimal place to take in the sunset. It was very busy and the top of the ruins and stairs leading up and down were packed with people waiting for the sun to set. It almost felt silly that so many people were traipsing around & sitting on the ruins. I can only hope that as tourism increases, humans don’t trample these delicate ruins to the ground.
Anyway, the sunset was beautiful, but if we had a re-do, we would have watched it overlooking the moat of Angkor Wat instead.
Dinner & the Night Market
For dinner, we headed back to Pub Street/Old Market. We sort of thought that the Night Market would be different, but really it is just the Old Market operating under a different name after sunset. In any case, we still enjoyed ourselves, dropping in on a few different souvenir stalls, before we randomly picked a place to grab dinner.
We dined al fresco at Cafe Central and were hungry enough not to really care what they brought us, as long as it was edible, but the food ended up being delicious. We met a lovely couple who had just made their way to Cambodia after a few weeks in Laos. They had us planning a trip there before we even finished our first drink.
We LOVE LOVE to meet new people when we are traveling. The relationships are so fleeting, but so memorable. There are people we met years ago whom we only spent an hour with, that we still talk about often & consider friends. These friendships have had a huge impact on how we view friendships in general. Sometimes people just “get you” & this seems to be more common amongst travelers.
On that sappy note, we ended the evening soon after dinner, but not before Brigette canvased the area for a $13 North Face backpack & a dangly necklace. “OH, YOU LOOK SO PRIITTTTTY IN THAT NECKLACE!!!” finally worked on her & we were soon in a tuk tuk back to our hotel.
Watch out Angkor Wat, these Pinot Grigio fueled tourists are comin’ atcha in the morning!
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