Monday, November 2, 2015

Day 1 Cambodia: Arriving at Siem Reap

21st October 2015

So many people want to be there, including me. Who would forget the ruins of Angkor and the giant strangler fig trees 'strangling' the temples in Tomb Raider? Those were fascinating sights.

Now, after having postponed Angkor Wat for years for other beautiful places, I decided to head to Angkor Wat this time. I had run out of places to go in South-East Asia and Airasia tickets were not too expensive. I gave myself three full days for Siem Reap, including one day planned for Tonle Sap. Unfortunately, there were too many bad reviews about trips to the villages at Tonle Sap such as Chong Kneas and Kompong Phluk.

Moving around Siem Reap should be easy. I read that most people in the tourism industry here speak some English, including tuk-tuk drivers. In fact, while in Siem Reap, many hawkers would speak to us in Mandarin too.

Boarding time was at 12:40 p.m. on flight AK 540 from klia2. I was still at HomeTown Hainan Coffee at 12:35 pm, having just finished my lunch in a hurry. I only remembered that the distant to the boarding gate was a very long walk away at about 12:25 p.m. but I could not leave as I had paid HomeTown already for my Laksa which had still not arrived at that time.

I rushed off to the departure hall. Flight AK 540 was at Gate Q21. I had to run. Gate Q21 was too far away. At the last security check point, there were long queues. I could not make it before boarding time but if I could beat the gate closing time at 1:00 p.m., I would still be safe. I was already imagining myself giving excuses to be allowed to board the plane should I miss the closing time.

I ran and ran. Gate Q21 is the farthest gate. I made it on time. The passengers were still there. Within seconds of my arrival, passengers were asked to board.

On reaching Siem Reap International Airport, CTT wanted to buy a local SIM card to stay in touch with his office. I was not thinking of buying one until I saw "Internet Unlimited 4G" at a cost of $3 only. I have been starved of internet while in PNG and I have unfinished business downloading files while staying at Capsule by The Container at klia2. I was not going to let this opportunity go and I got myself a Metfone card too.

While waiting for CTT to complete his transaction, I walked around the Arrival Hall exit door and a young man approached me asking whether I needed transport and recommending me to go to the transport ticket counter. There was no tuk tuk displayed on the notice there. There were also no tuk-tuk drivers approaching passengers to solicit for business. I knew we were late and probably, all the tuk-tuk drivers had gone.

CTT finished his transaction and we walked out of the building. We did not see any tuk tuk around. On the left of the building was a parking area and we walked over. A tuk tuk was leaving. Another driver was sleeping in his tuk-tuk. I found that strange because over the years in my travel, there would always be drivers around at airports (except Cairns Airport, I supposed). Fortunately, we spotted a few tuk tuk outside the perimeter gate and approached the drivers. One came forward and the deal was done for USD6 to bring us to Old Market (Phsar Chas). From there, we would start looking for our accommodation.

Within 20 minutes, we arrived at the Old Market and were dropped off in front of Khmer Kitchen Restaurant at Street 9. I was pretty thirsty and we went for a drink at Khmer Food Restaurant at Street 9 too.

From there, we walked around the area looking for a hostel but most of the time, we saw small hotels and upon checking, the prices were always USD45 per room. While at Sok San Street, having just being told of USD45 per room at a small hotel, I told CTT that I would use my Garmin to help us find a cheap hostel. Right on the gps screen was the Apsara Centrepole Hotel, which we checked just moment ago. When I looked away from Centrepole, I saw Continental Cafe - Restaurant, Bar and Rooms. It looked cheap so I went inside to check the price while CTT waited outside. It was USD15 per room, air-conditioned and with attached bathroom. We asked the worker there to show us the rooms and we were satisfied.

After checking in, we went to look for lunch and realised that we were barely 100 meters away from Pub Street and Night Market. Continental was a great find with a good location (N13.35419° E103.85288°).

After dinner that evening, I told CTT that we have to arrange with the hostel to get a tuk-tuk for the next day to see Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Phrom and other nearby temples.

A worker told us that he could get his brother to be our driver for the next two days. For the next day, the price would be USD20 and for the following day, we could talk directly with the driver to negotiate a price and the places to visit.

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