I've made some really bad decisions here in Cambodia, starting with getting the time of my arrival wrong by two hours! I walked out of the airport, after a real circus act of getting the visa and all, and there were about 25 drivers holding signs, but not one with my name on it.
The first mistake was I should have just paid $7 for a taxi ride. Instead I let the hotel know (via email) and ended up waiting anxiously for over an hour and a half! So stupid! Part of the reason I had to wait so long was the idiot driver they sent went to a different airport building. One where no one was arriving at all. He apparently just sat there for almost an hour until I finally got through to hotel again (very spotty internet) and said "WTF?".
I also made a mistake choosing this hotel. I found that out right away. It's way the hell down a dirt street that leads to a rubble street. The tuk tuks here are like wagons that hitch onto underpowered 125cc motorcycles. They look really quaint, but their suspension is terrible. That was another mistake, not taking time to go pee when the driver finally showed up. My poor bladder was really put to it!
So the hotel is fancy, but the staff are very unprofessional! Some want to engage you in conversations, or show you every detail of the DVD player in the room. They're sweet, and really proud of the place, but I had to use the toilet and it took forever to get the dude out of my room!
I picked a place that I knew to be out of the way (not expecting the rugged Baja 500 to get there) because I'd heard that downtown Siem Reap was a bit of a zoo. But last night I took a very bumpy tuk tuk ride over to the "Pub Street" and discovered it's my kind of zoo. I was enchanted by the big, luxurious open are restaurants, the mostly closed off streets, the whole feel of the place. I've never seen anything like it. Although I did get hassled by one or two pesky tuk tuk drivers who were sure I wanted to go whoring. Actually at least ten of them offered to take me to sexy girls for sexy massage, The last guy was just awful. They all would come up and say it all sneaky-like, psssssst, you like sexy girl massage?
What I really wish I'd done (thought of this later) is pretended to be very hard of hearing and shouted out "Sorry, hard of hearing, ARE YOU OFFERING TO TAKE ME TO SEE PROSTITUTES? ARE THESE GIRLS DOING IT OUT OF THEIR OWN FREE WILL? ISN'T THE HIV RATE 40% HERE?". I think that would have done the trick very nicely.
Aside from that bit, i loved walking around, even into the Night Market where the vendors have a bad reputation of being very aggressive. I didn't see or experience that at all. I also had a real (non-sexy) massage for a mere $3! And it was really really good! I gave the girl a $2 tip which I think is pretty big here (?), After temple touring all day, which included climbing and descending countless very steep steps, that massage saved me from big trouble today.
I had a really awesome pizza for dinner. Maybe because I was starving by then it seemed like one of the best pizzas ever. And that leads me to my really big mistake....food.
I had the runs in Chiang Mai and fasted, took all my probiotics, ate bland foods like you're supposed to. I was good. And it worked. It was mostly cleared up by the time I left. Key word mostly.
So my first meal in Siem Reap? A bowl of Tom Yum soup. Very spicy. Way more spicy than I expected. Ow. The next day, near the end of temple hopping, my driver took me to some roadside place and I had greasy, mildly spicy noodles. There was no Western food on the menu. I should have just left. Then pizza to finish it off and I was up at 3am with the most terrible runs and was up all night and all morning. It's been awful. I got so dehydrated at one point I was starting to hallucinate a bit (nice ones though) but asked the hotel manager to get me some special rehydration salts, probiotics and a fresh coconut. I'm feeling a lot better, but missed a whole day here.
In Chiang Mai it was so easy to get yogurt and sticky rice and such. Here not so much. I may have to lay low again tomorrow. I hope not. I want to see the temples! But that's my story, sad but true....
Oh yeah, I did spend 8 hours yesterday at Angkor Wat and other temples. Here's some photos.
Sunrise over Angkor Wat. This is THE photo people come here for. Here are the people:
What a mob scene! People from all over the world come here, but I'd guess that the majority of the tourists were Chinese, Japanese and Korean. An easy trip for them.
This place is HUGE. And gorgeous.
And there are monkeys! Just like in Bali.
And miles of carvings. I tagged along with a tour group and the guide was showing us what the carvings were about. Basically Hindu tales with lots of gods and demons. There are stones lying around, here and at all the temples, and what you come to notice is that all of those stones have carvings on them! It's overwhelming.
This is the South Gate which leads to another famous temple Bayon. The gateway was pretty narrow but accommodated tour buses and elephants with passengers.
Bayon is famous for these Buddha faces looking out in four directions. They are all over the place. It's in much funkier shape than Angkor Wat, even though it was build 80 years later. Apparently Angkor Wat got all the primo stone and Bayon got stuck with inferior building materials. Sheesh. It's only been like 800 years and the place is falling apart!
This just about sums it up for me today.
Hopefully I'll be back out there soon, getting more photos. But in the meantime, I've got about 70 all together on my Flickr page: SE Asia 2013:http://www.flickr.com/photos/robbibaba/sets/72157637785869115/
You gotta go to the second page, about halfway down to see Cambodia.