Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Siem Reap

Cambodia is so beautiful. And poor. Very poor.
-steamed, fluffy pancakes with palm sugar coconut filling-
The Dutchman and I had a great time there- despite my MIL complaining about the prices. Cambodia is cheap. Cheaper than Malaysia so that just annoyed me. It's like that in every country- if you eat in a nice place, it will be expensive.
- fish amok-
We decided to buy a package from the resort. It turned out to be a pretty good deal- we could have probably arranged it ourselves and saved some money but we really didn't feel like figuring everything by ourselves as Siem Reap was only a small part of our holiday and in any event, arranging for 4 completely different people can be a pain. We paid USD$300 per person for 4 days/3 nights. It included accomodation at Boutique Villa Sojourn which I can't recommend enough, breakfast, packed lunches, a few excursions, a driver (and a van), guide, a massage each and a few other small items.
The resort was pretty- we really wanted to stay there because it's quite small (only 10 villas) and costs a little more than average (ie. no screaming children in the pool- I don't hate children but I don't want them around me on a quiet, tranquil holiday unless they belong to me- or loud, iritating people).
Service is amazing but I would probably advise you not to bother with the massages. They don't have a spa so they had to call 2 ladies from their other resort who would massage you in your room. Well, these girls... my masseuse was terrible. I was in pain and trust me, I'm quite used to painful Asian massages. I was counting every second til she left because I'm too chicken shite to embarass her/them by saying omfg, this is the most awful massage ever! Not only did the massage itself suck, the girls constantly gossiped and laughed with each other, mine burped loudly a few times and worse still, sneezed on me. She also had a cold and sniffed constantly. I half-expected snot to drip on my back but luckily, nothing like that happened although I am pretty sure she wiped her nose with her hands and continued massaging after that;)
-outdoor shower. There's also an indoor shower and a double bath-

All the other resort staff were great though. Malaysians should really learn from them because they get paid a fraction of what Malaysians get (average: US$80/month) and yet, they don't feel entitled to all kinds of rubbish unlike similarly educated Malaysians (or Dutch people for that matter...). We visited a 5-star resort in Malaysia which is in the RM700/night (180 euro) range and the staff were not only inefficient, they also bitch about people. I find that unprofessional.

On the first day, we went for a private boat tour to watch the sunset at the Tonle Sap lake. We were provided with 2 bottles of wine, olives, cured meats, chicken satays, sweet potato chips and so forth. Along the way, we passed many floating houses. According to our driver, the people living here were originally from Vietnam. The kids were playing in the dirty water and everyone basically lived off the lake. There were goats/ducks in cages floating over the water. It was interesting to watch but I felt a little like an insensitive visitor at a zoo.

On the 2nd day, we visited Angkor Wat and Bayon (the Angkor pass is US$40 for 2 days). That's really more than enough as the temples were quite large and it was blazing hot. It's amazing how people back then managed to build such magnificent structures.
-Angkor Wat-

We got back at Sojourn at about 4pm. That sounds like a short day but we were quite tired with all that walking. We ordered some cocktails and chilled on our verandah til about 7. Then, we went to Amok restaurant in the center (it's a very small centre) for dinner. You know what so visually beautiful about Siem Reap? It's basically poor and this poverty is the cause of Siem Reap being different to what I'm used to. That means, no electricity (except in the very centre and as mentioned the centre is like 3 streets) and not having electricity means no ugly electricity poles and so forth. Most of the roads are still dirt roads, there are few cars (it's also not crowded), people still plant paddy with their bare hands and with the aid of water buffalos... Perhaps life is difficult for them but I won't deny it is bloody scenic for a tourist.
We woke up at 3a.m. the following day to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. It was pretty but honestly, it gets old after a while. There's only so much standing one can take and after one sees the orange rays, that's enough. No need to stare at the thing for an hour:-P
After that, we drove to Ta Phrom (where Angelina Jolie shot Tomb Raider). That was very popular with the Dutchman who took about 100 pictures of trees growing out of the ruins...
As gorgeous as all those temples were, at some point, they just started to look the same. Our final stop was Banteay Srei which is a 20-30 minute drive from Ta Phrom. Yes, that's YET another temple! Don't remember much of this place- just that there were some very persistant child peddlers. We were told to never buy anything from them as it encourages begging (and thus takes them away from school). All said and done though, in Siem Reap, the peddlers were a lot less persistant and iritating compared to places like Bangkok or Turkey so it was no sweat really.

Food in Cambodia is yum. Some of it was SLIGHTLY bland for me because I love my chillis but some like the porridge was pretty good. While the amok was OK, I didn't really like the chewiness of the freshwater catfish (tastewise, kinda boring as well but the Dutch PILs and bf loved it).

I would definitely go back to Cambodia again. 4 days is just not enough!

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