Siem Reap, Cambodia

Before we start blabbing on about Angkor Wat or just bore you with photos, we thought we would share a trusty ten point plan on how to cross the Loas-Cambodian border from 4000 Islands to Siem Reap. Sure crossing a board isn’t difficult, but we hate schemers, so if we can help someone save some money and stop a greasy-haired, long finger-nailed gent lining his pockets every day, then it’s worth it.

  1. Book a transfer from either Don Det/Don Khon to the border only.
  2. In advance, book a seat from the border to Siem Reap through AVT
  3. After the boat ride to the mainland, avoid the greasy-haired, long finger-nailed gent who will demand you give him your passport. (Never trust a long finger-nailed man, unless he plays the banjo!)
  4. Do not give him your passport or any money.
  5. When eventually at the border, you will be greeted buy the rep from ATV. Grab your bags and head straight to the Loas border, pay the border guy and stroll on through to the Cambodian side.
  6. Ignore the “doctors” who want to do a “medical” and charge you for it. Just walk on by.
  7. Get your visa from the shed, yep shed, around the back of the border office, pay the fee, and get your passport stamped.
  8. Wait at the restaurant while the rest of the bus comes in very very slowly. In our case, a couple of Germans told us that Mr long-nailed greasy-hair took $5USD from every passport and slid it straight into his pocket.
  9. So far you have only saved $5USD – not much you say – think of it as beer money! The rest of the group who were told they would have a direct bus all the way from 4000 islands to Siem Reap are now in their second van. You are too, but your ticket to the border plus AVT actually works out $10 cheaper. After a quick change in the nearby town, you head off on the new road to Siem Reap. The other group were promised such things, yet you arrived into Siem Reap at 7pm, they arrive at 2am and need to pay for a taxi into town.
  10. When you get to Siem Reap, you will be given a free lift to your hostel. All they ask is you hire them to go to Angor Wat. That’s your call, we said we would let him know the following day and asked for his number, he refused to give it to us, so we refused to hire him.

The following day, we headed to cooking class from Beyond. Unique Experiences. At first, they take you around the corner to meet a local family to see how they live and cook. The people they take you to are living in poverty and part of your payment for the cooking class includes 5kgs of rice to give to the family, which made the cheeky little girl very happy. We wandered back to the hotel to start our class under a thatched roof in the garden, beside a beautiful pond and a family of chickens. The class was great, and the food was absolutely incredible. We made fresh spring rolls, an amazing Khmer Curry and finished it off with a sweet coconut biscuit for desert. All washed down by an icy-cold beer.

For dinner we hit the main hub of town. Basically another version of Khao San road in Bangkok, it consists of bars, restaurants, clubs, massage parlours, street food stalls and exotic food such as grasshoppers and snake. We opted for a small restaurant on the first floor and perched ourselves on the balcony drinking red wine, eating Khmer Curry Pizza while watching the drunken men dance in street when they weren’t flirting with prostitutes of both genders.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs people reading this blog know, we like temples, we just don’t love them. This means we would choose to spend only one day seeing them rather then say, three days that people advise you to spend in Angkor Wat. On this basis, we decided we would book one tour with a respected company called Happy Angkor Tour, and would go from Sunrise to Sunset on one day. We had booked this a few days prior, but when it came to the 4am pick up, we were very exhausted an unprepared. The trip was long, but very interesting. If we weren’t so tired in between temples, or during our guides informative talks, we would be able to to fill you in with some interesting notes. That said, we were way to tired. At one point while our guide was explaining the intricate carvings on the wall, and as the intense sun heated our weary bodies, we both strategically put our sunglasses on so we didn’t insult our guide when our eyes blinked for a longer length of time time than usual. Maybe a minute…maybe two.

Therefore, here are some of our photos.

Angkor Wat was great. Well worth it, but for us, we were happy we just did the one day. Three days of following the flags of Chinese Tour groups and having a great photo opportunities ruined by either Russian ladies posing like models (when they were not models) or by a Go-Pro on a selfie stick creeping into the shot, would have been a nightmare. But we still decided to see one more temple Beng Mealea.

Not many people hear about Beng Mealea, or bother heading out the 70 odd kilometres to visit it. But we had heard whispers about it and decided to give it a go. We looked around and saw tours for $60 each but asked a tuk-tuk driver if he would take us. He said $35 total, so we were sold. That trip out on the Tuk-Tuk was worth the money itself. The wind rushing through our hair and keeping us cool, yet it was slow enough to that we witness Cambodian village life first hand. But the temple itself is definitely the draw. It is what Angkor Wat used to be before the restoration and before the tour groups.

As we walked past the sign stating we were to stay only on the wooden decking, the guides and guards beckoned us towards a collapsing window frame. Of course, we went in. From here we climbed, crawled and jumped through the tumbled ruin engulfed by trees with our trusty guide by our side. It was a true adventure and we wished we had packed our costumes – Sarah’s Indiana Jones outfit and my Lara Croft. We were having more fun than the little kids who were with us in the beginning. That said, their imagination was better then ours, as we never did find the Red Lizard Bird the girl had seen.

The other plus was walking through the photos of the go-pro stick wielding tourist groups who had turned up. After almost an hour and a half, we were sweaty and happy – we had enjoyed a temple! Our guide who never spoke a word of English, but made sure both Sarah and I were safe waived us goodbye with the biggest smile. We heard you should tip so gave her a figure we thought justified. It was clearly justified, as she looked at us with disbelief, put it in her pocket and headed home for the day. It was $10.

We spent another hour walking around the outside of the temple before a quick lunch. We then waited for our driver for 20 minutes as he was nowhere to be seen, but it didn’t matter, as we had just spotted the biggest pig in the history of the world.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stretched out in our limousine Tuk-Tuk reflecting on our great day when the driver stopped suddenly. He started rolling down the plastic curtains in a panic as we looked out to see a massive storm heading our way. We started to complain that it was so hot in the plastic bubble when the rain poured and we noticed our driver had no cover. He got tipped too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur last night was spent down in the main party area of Siem Reap. We had a craving for some western food (technically the pizza was Cambodian) so opted for the familiarly named Rising Sun Hotel. The main reason was actually the two for one cocktails, but when we bit into the delicate ravioli we where happy. When we bit into what could be one of the best burgers we have ever had, we were very very happy. We had a bus booked for midnight to Phnom Penh, so we only had enough time to throw back a couple of beers at the affably named Angkor What?

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