Well, the flight was OK (even landing an hour early) and the company was good. The airport was a lot nicer than I was expecting with incredibly friendly staff (OK, except the immigration staff who were as stony as ever) and $1.50 beer in the bar. I got talking to Amy from Wisconsin and Jason from Philadelphia. We shared a taxi town as my airport pickup didn’t show, neither did Amy’s and Jason hadn’t arranged anything.
The driver dropped Jason and I off first and then whisked Amy away. We exchanged numbers so I could ring her to arrange dinner, drinks and the like for later.
My room hits the main points I require for the night – lock on the door, bed in the corner, no UXB’s in sight. Other than that, it’s a little ramshackle but for $2 a night I’m not going to complain. Jason forked out $12 a night for a much nicer room with aircon and we later found out that for $10, Amy had TV, a fridge and free breakfast. Ah well. Pays to shop around!
As I showered, the heavens opened. It’s rainy season here in Cambodia, though at least it rains heavily in phases rather than constantly for days at a time… for the moment.
I called Amy, finally got hold of the hotel and waited for them to find her. I tried again and was told she was not available. As I did this, the chap at the counter recognised the name of the hostel I was calling. “Is my cousin’s hostel – is over the road. You can see it.” We’d thought it was the other side of town! So I gave up on the phone and walked over.
Amy and Jason sat around while I stitched my rucksack again and then we wandered into the center of Siem Reap. It’s quite a small city but busy and full of shops, bars and people wanting to get you into their tuk-tuk. Typically SE Asia, basically. It’s also one of the cheapest places I’ve been. Food varies in price and quality, but you can get a decent local meal on the street for maybe $1.50 or have the same in a nice restaurant for $4.
We settled on the Khmer Kitchen and picked our dishes. I went for a chicken, chili basil option with delicious spring rolls. A bottle of wine was shared and good conversation flowed. During the meal a woman pulled up outside with a cart full of books. Jason haggled for a while and ended up with a copy of The Life Of Pi for $5. He wanted to pay $3, but the woman wouldn’t budge and the child she had “working” for her was so adorably cute that he was prepared to give the extra for the “aaaaah” factor.
From there we walked to the Red Piano which has a gazillion Angelina Jolie posters up because she had a meal there when making the first Tomb Raider film. On to the rooftop Bar X for another beer where Jason left us for the evening, slightly more tired than Amy and myself.
The remains of out tiny group wandered round the rather small night market before checking out the Dead Fish (complete with gators you can feed for 50c) and hitting the internet, dodging raindrops and finally returning to our respective palaces / hovels.
I’m getting a good vibe from Siem Reap. It’s almost a shame I only have two full days here but at least that should force me to appreciate it!