OK, this is officially a ‘catch up’ post. I’ve been derelict for a few weeks, but a lot of travel has happened, so I want to get it all in quickly. I’ll try to be succinct.
Last we talked, we were Shanghai’d and put on a bus from the Vietnam/Cambodia border to Phnom Penh, much to my frustration and chagrin. The minivan ride was dusty and hot, and I guess I have to admit that I took it in a quiet seethe.
We arrived in PP safe and sound, and did a little walk around to find a good, cheap hotel. I always feel a bit bad for Hollie during these ‘walkarounds’ as her pack is quite large and it get VERY hot (around 100°F), so we went for a nice cheap backpacker hotel right next to the Foreign Correspondents Club (a landmark in PP).It was dirt cheap, and good enough.
We celebrated with a few libations at the FCC.
The next day, we did a little tour. Explored Tol Sleung (S21), the notorious ex-middle school where the Khmer Rouge sent their political prisoners to be tortured and killed. I’ve been there several times, and it’s always a very sobering experience.
Then we hired a tuktuk to take us to the Killing Fields. There were hundreds of these sites around Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge times, but this particular one has been well preserved and has become a must-see when you are in PP. It comes with one of those headphone things that provide a guided tour, and it is absolutely excellent! I listened to every word at every stop, and even played some twice. Some of the testimonials and artifacts even move you to tears. Such a traumatic time in Cambodian history that is even now poorly understood.
Then we got bus tickets to go up to Siem Reap so Hollie could connect with her daughter and visit the temples at Angkor.
We bought the tickets from a little booth right in front of our hotel, and amidst the promises that it was a ‘5-hour Express Limousine Tourist Bus’, we were hopeful for a nice comfortable ride up. I’ve taken pretty much every mode of transport between PP and SR: public bus, tourist bus, taxi, plane and boat, and by far my preferences run in reverse order of that list. But unfortunately the boat was not running (the river was too low), so we resigned ourselves to taking the bus.
And of course, we got snookered again.
After getting picked up and shuffled around a few times the next morning, we found that “5-hour Express Limousine Tourist Bus” was a euphemism for the “10-hour, 20-stop, seats don’t recline, no a/c, overpacked local bus”. Of course, I seethed all the way to Siem Reap.
After arriving, we went looking for a nice little guesthouse with a pool, and after many trips around town with our patient tuktuk driver, we eventually settled on some fleabag backpacker hostel near the red-light district.
The next morning, we did a better search and relocated to the Tanei Boutique Villa, a place so fantastic that I don’t think I’ll ever stay anywhere else in Siem Reap! For only 500B a night ($12), we both got a very nice and clean room, AC, TV, swimming pool, a great view over town, and within walking distance of lots of restaurants and the downtown area. Fantastic!
I introduced her to my friend Mongkheang (who runs Angkor Grand Adventures tour company, and who can arrange anything you need in SR), and Jeff who owns a local bar called Boptha Phsar Krom (who is always up for an adventure or a beer, or both). The four of us had a great evening in Jeff’s bar, drinking cheap beers and hearing Mongkheang’s stories about his family surviving the Khmer Rouge.
This brought our travel time together to an end, as I only had those two nights in Siem Reap because I had arrangements to fly down to Thailand to meet up with Lauren and the family, while Hollie was going to meet her daughter and her daughter’s friend in Siem Reap for the next leg of her travels.
So the next morning I headed off to the airport for my flight to central Thailand to connect with the family for a week of fun on a white sand beach. I was not disappointed, and it was great to see the family, but getting from Siem Reap to their resort on Koh Phangan proved to be an adventure.