We woke up in the wee hours of Monday morning and headed to The Sinh Tourist office in De Tham St. for our bus ride to Siem Reap. By far, it’s the longest bus ride I have ever taken with about four or 5 stops, including the Vietnam-Cambodia border, which is about 2 hours away from Saigon. Immigrations was a no-brainer; the bus conductor collected all the passengers’ passports and handed them over to Immigrations when we exited Vietnam. A few meters further was the Cambodia Immigrations where we went through one by one (they have this biometrics machine for all fingers and camera for photos).
We had to stop over at The Sinh Tourist office in Phnom Penh to change buses and we waited roughly about an hour (and had lunch there). The bus arrived at almost 2:00 pm and off we went to Siem Reap, which was mostly uneventful as we were asleep 90% of the time.
We arrived at Siem Reap at about 8:30 pm where our hotel’s tuktuk picked us up at The Sinh Tourist office for free. We stayed at the New Angkorland Hotel which was probably the best hotel we stayed at among all five hotels that we stayed at.The room was huge, the floors were carpeted and our room had a pool view. The staff were a friendly bunch too.
That night’s dinner was rather amusing as we were too tired to go far from the hotel and just had some chicken curry with stuff we just didn’t like at all at a nearby restaurant. It seemed like Siem Reap sleeps quite early. We called it a night as we had a sunrise to catch the following day.
While we were only building the trip, I had contacted this tuktuk driver at Angkorwattuktuk.com and arranged for a Camry for me and my friends at $30 for a sunrise to sunset Angkor Wat Tour, and when we were in Saigon, he emailed me that he had to attend a wedding and endorsed us to his friend who did not show up on our agreed date and time. Fortunately, the hotel driver (his name was San) who picked us up the night before was around and we booked his tuktuk for the entire day for $20.
It was dark out when we set off for Angkor Wat but it wasn’t unusual to see a whole bunch of tourists coming out to see the sunrise. A one-day pass costs $20. Off we went in the darkness (people sell flashlights there), but a lot of our fellow tourists had flashlights and we let them guide us as we headed to Angkor Wat.
It was rather dark and I was preparing the settings of my dear old Nikon D3000 and when I took a test shot, a translucent Buddha image appeared on my cam! I was caught offguard since I couldn’t see anything where I pointed my camera at that I deleted the image immediately (and later on, when there was daylight, I found no trace of any Buddha image anywhere). My officemate said it could have been the outline of the temples. Now, why did I delete that image? 😦
Anyway, here’s a series of shots from my Siem Reap tour (I could barely remember the names of the temples, I’m sorry).
Dinner at Pub Street was sort of like a Mongolian dish that was cooked right on the table. It was quite alright, but dessert was really yummy–Blue Pumpkin Ice Cream at about $3.00 for a scoop.
By Wednesday, my college friend and I went back to Phnom Penh and my officemate remained in Siem Reap because she was flying to Singapore the following day. I don’t have photos in Phnom Penh as I was too lazy to bring my camera around. I just took photos with my phone but I can’t be bothered to upload them at the moment. We stayed at Circuit Hotel which was a walking distance from Sorya Shopping Center and Central Market.
While we were resting that night, I was searching for stuff to do before our afternoon flight to Bangkok the following day and came across more wats and monuments. And then I found out about Phsar Tuol Tom Pong (Russian Market) which sold U.S. brands at a fraction of the cost. My friend and I woke up a little later than usual, had a quick breakfast and completely forgot about eating lunch because we got too excited at the market (we took a tuktuk ride from our hotel to the market which cost us $3). Tops at $2, short dresses at $3, long dresses at $5! Zara, F21, Gap, Aeropostale, Hollister, Old Navy products abound! These were originals that didn’t pass U.S. standards but you can barely see what was wrong with it. I didn’t see anything wrong with my purchases. Of course, we also bought quite a lot of Cambodia souvenirs to bring home, and knowing we were going to shop around, we already increased our baggage allowance when we purchased our flight tickets onwards. As always, with markets, haggle, haggle, haggle! 🙂
In the afternoon, we took another tuktuk to the airport for $7 to catch our flight to Bangkok. In all fairness, Phnom Penh’s airport was small, but it was clean and organized. Props to them Cambodians.
All in all, the Cambodia was amazing. Siem Reap was the highlight of my Indochina trip, and Phnom Penh was the highlight of the shopping part. No doubt about it, I’m going back there next year.
TRIVIA: We saw a lot of shirts that said “Same Same” in front, “But Different” at the back. Going through Google it seems that this refers to faked brands like The North Face bags or Rolex watches. How we understood it was when shop vendors would ask us where we were from and when we would say, “the Philippines”, they would respond, “Cambodia and Philippines, same same.” 🙂