The next phase of the out-of-the-country adventure with Gel started at the Bavet International Border, the gateway from Vietnam to Cambodia.
The bus ride itself to the border was a challenge since we were unable to book seats in one of the better transportation firms. The bus conductor and most passengers don’t even understand English, so we were technically on our own — guided by our survival instincts.
It took us just a couple of hours to reach the border and another hour to exit to the other side. We didn’t know what to do and nobody was there to answer our questions so we just went with the flow, clueless and lost.
Probably one of the most challenging parts of the travel to Cambodia was the lack of food. Gel and I had some snacks in tow, but we weren’t able to secure actual meals. We thought we would be able to have quick meals. We arrived at Phnom Penh’s bus terminal at around two in the afternoon where we transferred, after more than an hour, to another bus to Siem Reap. And that, ladies and germs, started the almost endless road to our destination.
We stopped by another province and we didn’t know why until we went down the bus and saw the driver savoring a hot soup on a hot afternoon. We felt like we were in the middle of nowhere because the place looks like one of the most rural areas in the country. That was after 12 hours and the hours kept on coming…
It took us nearly five hours more to reach Siem Reap, which still looked like some usual province at night, but with more paved roads. Took us a while if we’d hire a Tuktuk to the place where we’re staying and eventually, we did. We didn’t have any other option and we paid around $4 for that short trip.
I almost wallowed into self pity but slightly thankful that I didn’t end my birthday inside that uncomfortable bus. (Although I technically spent the whole day traversing the path to Siem Reap). At midnight, Gel and I were so hungry but we didn’t have enough energy to go out the streets and look for a place to satisfy our growling stomachs. So we just slept. It was crazy. I almost cried because of exhaustion.
Since our itinerary was DIY, we didn’t have any specific plans for the next day. While we originally intended to wake up early and arrange tours, our exhaustion and disappointment took over. We went up late the following morning.
Spent the first half of the day roaming around the city; checking out the Old Market and savoring our best meal. Their dishes are so good they made our tummies very happy.
After lunch, we went to Wat Preah Prohm Rath which happened to be the town center’s main pagoda. Well, we didn’t have any plans to visit it but we saw it while riding a tuktuk so we looked for a way to visit the place. It was so colorful and beautiful, and very well-maintained.
After this visit, we continued to walk around again and found ourselves inside a commercial building that houses Swensen’s! A quick refreshment on a hot hot hot day.
We went back to the guesthouse to rest for a while before we went to the Pub Street. It was so alive at night. We even witnessed a wedding proposal. Anyways, we tried this Cambodian barbecue place. We had street style shabu shabu for dinner. Tried grilled crocodile and the usuals bacon and beef. We were not adventurous enough to try the snake!
After dinner, we tried the famous fish massage along the streets and had some really good back and feet massage. So “sulit” for $3… plus the massage came with free beer! The must-visit Pub Street is so alive at night… it took all our exhaustion away.
We explored the smaller alleys near Pub Street as we were searching for a coffee shop. Most of them were already closed but we were lucky enough to chance upon this bookstore-inspired cafe. The khmer coffee was good and the magazines/newspapers contain really great articles. Even wanted to take some home! 😉
The next day was our last in Siem Reap so of course, we went for the tour to Angkor Archeological Park — named as one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites. Didn’t expect that the entire stretch was that big. One needs more than a day to explore the entire place.
We hired a tuktuk to fetch us just in time for the sunrise and while it was an extra challenge to wake up early, it was worth it. It felt good to watch the place comes alive. We only went for the most famous temples — the Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom (where the Bayon Temple is located) and the Ta Prohm. We didn’t expect it to be that tiring and while we wanted to visit the smaller temples, we didn’t have enough time and energy.
The Angkor complex brought the idea of walking to a whole new level. I swear, I’ve never been so tired in my life but never wanted to stop anyway. But I can only take so much. I just had to stop every now and then and take quick naps. (Some of the roots of the trees were accommodating enough.)
The tuktuk brought us back to our guesthouse early afternoon where we decided to take a bath (even though technically, we already checked out). The people in the guesthouse were nice enough to let us use the bath. So after cleaning ourselves up, we ordered food and stayed at their quasi-living room. And trust me, the place has a homey feeling, because we even watched a movie and took an afternoon nap. We never heard anything from them (maybe because we ordered quite a lot of pizza or maybe we just don’t understand them).
We left the guesthouse late in the afternoon for our evening flight and I restrain myself for commenting further on their airport. Along the way, though, we saw lots of beautiful hotels… so the trip felt like an ocular for accommodation (except that we only considered the facade).