16 – 18 August 2010
Atrie & Mik
16/Aug/2010 Bangkok (Thailand) to Siam Reap (Cambodia)
17/Aug/2010 Siam Reap with Angkor Wat as our main agenda
18/Aug/2010 Siam Reap (Cambodia) to Bangkok (Thailand)
After went through several series of intense moment during our arrival to Siem Reap (refer to my post: Thai – Cambodia Border Crossing by Land via Poipet), we arrived in Siem Reap around afternoon. Our taxi driver dropped us in tuk-tuk central station. Again your awareness still needed here. Do not give your paper (passport, VISA, etc) to anyone since you have passed the immigration. Be sure and firm about this matter. If you pass this scene, they will transfer you to one of their tuk-tuk. The tuk-tuk will take you to your hostel with condition you reached the tuk-tuk terminal before night come. The tuk-tuk is free anyway, IF you use their service for your next day in Siem Reap; either to go to Angkor or else.
So, yes we arrived in our hostel safely. We book an air conditioned room in Siamreap Rooms Guesthouse, located in Wat Bo road. Got a welcome drink and warmth welcome from the owner. Consider our day back then, our hostel welcome treat was awesome! And the nice treat from Siem Reap people continue during our stay in Siem Reap.
Since we only have 1 full day there, we did not plan anything except our visit to Angkor Wat. Luckily, Wat Bo road located near the famous Pub Street, Old Market (Phsar Chas) and Night Market. So the place is really recommended. You can go by foot to all of places mentioned. Our agenda would be (which become my recommendation if you have very limited time like me):
1. Visit the night market near Wat Bo road
If you are looking for cheap and nice souvenirs then night market would be the right place. We visited it every night during our stay there 🙂 . Our guesthouse informed us that the market open starting 5 PM to 9 PM. The price was cheap (with a little haggle of course). For example, I got 10 good keychain+fringe magnet only with 1.95 USD back then. A pair of long Cambodian trousers would be under 5 USD. You will find a lot of variation of Cambodian handy craft there.
At the back of the market, there was a stage where you can see Apsara dance; danced by kids with colorful costume. And it is free. You can give donation if you want.
2. Spend a day at the Angkor Wat
What can I say more about it. It is the largest Hindu temple in the world and it is a UNESCO heritage list. It is certainly things that Cambodian proud of. Thus you can see it everywhere there. It is their nation symbol and part of their national flag, a lot of place using ‘Angkor’ as part of its name. Not to forget the famous Angkor Beer 🙂
3. Drop by to Blue Apsara bookstore
If you are looking for pirate or 2nd hand cheap English book, then it will be the right place. We saw this store coincidentally and found its collection was quite complete and good. My highlight would be on its lonely planet section 🙂
4. Also visit Old Market (Phsar Chas) for more option of souvenirs
It is a traditional Cambodian local market. As a local market, other than souvenirs you will be able to find fruits, vegetables and much of interesting local spices. And for the souvenir section, you can almost find anything such as carvings, silver, handicrafts, post cards, bags, I love Cambodia tshirts, bookmarks, statues as well as musical instruments.
My insider tips would be you need to bargain quite hard in the market 🙂
5. Dinner and hanging around in Pub Street (street no. 8) is a must!
Pub Street/Bar Street or street no. 8 is a tourist ghetto.It is not all about Pub or Bar, you can find a lot of nice restaurants here. Some of them are using the old French-colonial building style, so yes it is an interesting-must-see part of Siem Reap.
For me, the most unforgettable thing about Siem Reap (other that the Majestic Angkor Wat) would be Cambodian people.
Before our arrival in Siem Reap, known Cambodia from Khmer Rouge story which actually one of the most horrific history I ever heard. I thought that during my stay there I will heard that story often, but I did not. Maybe because of all the terrible things done to these people, once we did try to ask about it but they prefer to said a little about it. My impression would be, Pol Pot is like Voldemort for these people – He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. People seem want to leave it all behind and forget which is very understandably.
Important thing to be noted about the Cambodian that what we have gone through in Thai – Cambodia border (all the scam, all the tout, etc) did not depict the real Cambodian people. My confession: I did have my own prejudice on my day 1 at Siem Reap. Feeling afraid of the scam and the tout, enforced me to ignore strangers who tried to talk with us. Until we meet this tuk-tuk driver who consistently talked to us; even though we directly say No, stated that we would not hire him. Then he said, no it is okay, he only want to talk with us. He was curious where we came from since we look like Cambodia but we were tourist, then he asked what Indonesia looks like and so on. He did wish us a pleasant stay in Siem Reap and said thank you for talking with him. Well, personally I thought it was a very genuine expression and it made me stop ignoring and start absorbing all the experience. We met several people later on in the market and found similar experience with them. In the end, those were one of the travel experiences that I treasure the most.
“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see – G.K. Chesterton”