Siem Reap

I am currently sat in the Angkor National Museum. I just found out entrance fee is $12 + $3 audio tour so I’ve opted for a $1 cup of tea instead. The way I see $15 is two/three nights accommodation and a meal – it could actually be 12 nights in some places. I’m slowly learning that if I want my money to go further I have to be ruthless – I’m considering a cheeky visit to Singapore this month and maybe a trip to Burma at the end of my travels so I need to watch my spending.

So whilst Ellie, Alex and Minna get an education. I’m going write up on my time in Siem Reap, Cambodia as I leave tonight for Sihanoukville, a town by the sea with some sun… finally!!!

So on arrival to my hostel at 7am on December 1st I was looking forward to a good wash and just a relaxing day before 3 out of the 4 Aussie girls arrived at about 8pm – we’d all met in Hoi An, Vietnam (see a few blogs down for info) and it was so exciting to see some familiar faces to perk me up. The hostel booked was called the ‘Happy Tiger Party Hostel’… from the name I knew it was going to be really really interesting. You all know what a MASSIVE party animal I am! But after being shown to my ‘room’ an opened door mental shack behind reception… I was speechless at what I saw. The only living things in this 6 bedroom mixed dorm was bugs and lots of them. I have never seen so many mosquitos under one mosquito net before, the bed was just made out of bamboo with a thin foam mattress so little critters could fly up into the bed! There was no bedding, sheets or pillow. No problem, I am equipt with masses of mosquito repellant, it’ll be fine. So I sprayed the bed and attempted just to sit in reception to just chill out and reminded myself that for under $2 a night you were getting what you pay for. But the mossies found me and a couple frogs – I had layers of repellent on but they didn’t care – they wanted me! Probably because I was the only person at this so called not so ‘happy party’ hostel. I had to leave, I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t stay here. Strangly the lady on reception was not suprised. After checking in at 8am, I was checked out by 8.30am. It was as cut throat as that.

I eventually found a new hostel through the power of the world wide web, reading solid recommendations and walking around desperately in the heat. The $7 a night Downtown Siem Reap hostel was the best decision EVER. There was a pool, air con rooms, food and friendly staff… I’m home!

So on this day, day one in Siem Reap I was feeling my usual anxious self. New place, new people, feeling dirty and still mentally tapping myself on the back on a daily basis for still being alive. After overhearing a young British girl on the phone getting a big telling off from mum because she’d got soooo wasted last night that she’d lost all her money I thought I probably should just keep myself to myself and just people watch for a bit. Tomorrow was going to be a BIG day (Angkor Wat, one of the seven wonders of the world!!) So I was recharging. That evening the Aussie girls came over and after a catch up we played a truly scientific game – a game that installs hope in all 12 year old girls worldwide. The Online Love Calculator. Type in you and your loved ones or random peoplea names and if the result is over 75% it’s a sure thing.

Angkor Wat

A tuk tuk collected me at 4.45 am to pick up the girls from Not-So-Happy Tiger Not-So-Party Hostel. And we were off to see the sunrise at Ankhor Wat. We paid $18 dollars for the day to see 7 temples.

Now there are 3 options of tickets. 1 day – $20. 3 days $40. 7 days $60. After getting recommended that you need more than a day I went for three days. However, I only needed one. Also if I went a second day it would mean paying another tuk tuk so I would really recommend to anyone make the most of a day if you’re on a budget.

But in saying that, the temples did not disappoint. There was so much beauty in the ruins and surroundings of Angkor Wat… but also a lot of ugly. For example from reading up on Angkor Wat I knew there would be many children selling items and it is advised NOT to buy from them. I repeat, do not buy from the children!!! The more money they make, the more kids are needed to make money from tourism and they do no go to school (even if they tell you they do). Also as you get taken from Temple to Temple via tuk tuk there are so many food and clothes stands – all desperate for your custom – you can haggle with them.  For example the menu says $5 a meal and we got this down to $2.50.

In the end we did 8 temples in a day (paid a dollar extra to see Ta Prohm, the one from Tomb Raider) and we were all Templed out. My favourites was the main Angkor Wat site – because I loved the architecture and subtle carvings as well as the wild monkeys surrounding the temple. And also Ta Prohm – these were old temple ruins where trees and wildlife had flourished around them – it was very beautiful and walking around was a maze.

So for anyone going for one day – go at sunrise to make the most of it til sunset. Also consider a tour guide, we didn’t get one but it would have been good to know what we were looking at.

Downtown Siem Reap hostel turned out to be everything and more! That night was a bbq, and oh my, I was in heaven… ribs, chicken wings, corn on the cob and a jacket potato!!!!!!! A jacket potato! Long time no see my friend! Also this hostel was also very close to town and the night market. On this evening the girls also checked out Happy Tiger a night early. After getting no sleep on night one, eaten by bed bugs and mossies they ventures over to my hostel. That night was a Pub Crawl on Pub Street… after playing a few drinking games at the hostel and venturing out it was an early night for me as I was exhausted from the day.

The rest of my time in Siem Reap was spent at a killing fields (I’ll save details of this for my Phnom Pehn blog), markets and general exploring. I am surprised how expensive Siem Reap is in comparison to China and Vietnam but I guess they get what they can from tourists here to see Angkor Wat.

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A cloudy sunrise

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Preparation for a long day!
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Wild Monkeys around Angkor Wat
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Angkor Thom

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We saw a lot of these...
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...so we had our own shoot! YMCA style!

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Ta Prohm 1 - it's just incredible
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Ta Prohm 2
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Tuk tuk!

One thing i do like about being by myself at times is the random  people who strike up conversation.  As I was just sat here typing away I just looked up to see a little Asian man looking at me. He looked about 60 years old and was smiling sweetly, he looked harmless so I said hello. After speaking for a couple minutes I asked him to take a seat and I’m so glad that I did! He’s on a tour of Cambodia with his family, and he’s a pastor from Korea. So after finding this out I was keen to talk to him about God, his view on God and our beliefs. It was really interesting and lovely to hear how humble he was as he spoke of his family and life back home. He has two children (aged 35 and 40) but expressed that he said he felt very sad raising them because they were poor, but rich in the love of God. A story I loved the most was when he spoke of his son in law, he had seen him years before and when he saw him, God told him this will be your son in law… and it turned out to be (I think, his translation was a bit off). Religiously, I am raised Christian but I am agnostic. I believe in something but I don’t know what but I do really enjoy hearing about people’s relationships with ‘god’ because it does instill hope and a positive nature in people and he didn’t force any beliefs onto me. I’m so glad I met this man. His main question to me was why wasn’t I married yet (the question I get asked by most people who find out I’m 27) – good question. Maybe I’ll ask God later. 😉

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