Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cambodia Trip: Day 1 Siem Reap Town

You might not know Siem Reap, but you definitely heard about Angkor Wat, right? Yes, Angelina Jolie's Lara Croft was filmed here in 2001. Apparently I had been fantasizing about visiting this ancient ruins for more than 10 years. I had no idea why Cambodia is an hour later than Malaysia, although we seems to be situated on a similar latitude. 

Read more on our first day exploring Siem Reap town, the place with buzzing night life.

Here we were at Siem Reap International Airport. Our pick up from the Empress Angkor Hotel was already here. The man was holding up Mr. B’s name on a card. The nice fellow greeted us and helped us carried our luggage. With only less than 10 minutes drive, we reached the Empress Angkor Hotel. The front desk staff were very professional and served us with a big smile on their faces. I will talked on this marvellous hotel in my Empress Angkor Hotel review.
Empress Angkor Hotel's lobby
After we settled in our room and unpacked our clothes, we channel surf the extensive programmes available on their TV. With gazillion number of channels to choose from, we were spoilt by the choices. However, we ignored those Thai’s, Cambodian’s and some other foreign sounding languages channels. I can’t believe we came across the classic Kevin Costner’s and Whitney Houston’s ‘The Bodyguard’ on air in Fox movie during the noon. I've heard some raved reviews about this backdated movie. Although, the story was a bit cliché, I bet it was a hit back then. Who doesn't like the young Kevin Costner with his smouldering and innocent look?

When we were done with Kevin Costner, I finally bother to extract my lazy self from the bed. Geared up with our camera, sunnies and my sunscreen, off we go to explore Siem Reap. Our hotel is situated at the National Road #6 and along the stretch of road we can see many hotels and resorts (all with the middle name of 'Angkor') on both sides. Is totally accurate that someone once said Siem Reap now has more hotels than temples. The Cambodian Cultural Village is directly opposite our hotel. But with their exorbitant entrance fee at USD$15, we decided to give it a pass. There were countless of tuk-tuk drivers who drove by and offered their service to us. Tuk-tuk? Tuk-tuk? We flashed them our most charming smiles, lifted our palms and kindly said no. We passed by some hawkers, groceries stalls, some restaurants and lots of hotels.
Street along Airport Road
The sun was crazily intense here in Cambodia or maybe I spent too much time being indoor back in Malaysia. If you were to crack an egg on the street, I’m pretty sure you get a sunny side up in seconds. Armed with my sunnies and hat, I’m still hyperventilating. About 500 metres later, we finally gave up and stopped at a local restaurant (I don't know how to read the name) for lunch that pretty much looks like a local Chinese restaurant with red plastic chairs. There wasn't a menu in sight and upon enquiring the waiter, he told me they only have noodle with beef and rice with either beef or pork. With the limited choices available, Mr. B ordered noodle with beef and me a plate of rice with pork. When our dishes arrived, they didn't looked that appealing but I’m sure my generous tummy won’t make any protest. I was caught by surprised that my plain white rice with pork was quite yummy especially when added with their home-made chilli sauces. Mr. B commented that his noodle was just okay. He was a rather picky eater I must say. Together with a canned of coke (it seems all they have are fizzy drinks), our lunch only cost us USD$5.

With another 500 metres gruesome walked, by the time we reached back our room, we were soaking wet with sweat. I am more than happy to spend the rest of my day lounging by the bed watching TV, while Mr. B went to have a swim by the pool and also checked out the gym facilities. Oh, did I tell you that we bought USD$5 worth of snacks and cup noodle on our way back? So obviously, I’m now busy munching them.   

At 6.05pm, we caught the free shuttle to town offered by the hotel. We were the only two souls on the van and I deduced that we were the only smart travellers who know how to make use of free services. The Siem Reap town was buzzing alive with tuk-tuks, tour buses and motorcycles and the pub streets and stretches of night markets were all lights up. There were countless of stalls and shops selling souvenirs, clothing, local snacks, restaurants, spa and massage and paintings of Angkor Wat.
Free shuttle service to Siem Reap Town
Siem Reap Town
Aided with my DIY map (actually it was a 9 pages of A4 paper that was being cellophane tape together), I figured out our location and started walking towards the pub street. If you were a party girl (unlike me), you will enjoy yourself tremendously with cheap draft beer going as low as USD$0.50 and buy 1 free 1 cocktail. As for us, we settled for dinner at sedated Happy Herb Pizza Restaurant without ordering any pizza. Their menu comprised of food from western to Cambodian and Thais. Mr. B ordered a Chicken Schnitzel that cost USD$5 (don’t ask me why) and me a Tom Kha Soup with rice that cost only USD$3.50. As it turned out, Mr. B dish was a tasteless chicken with a big pile of a much tasteless mashed potatoes, while I had myself a mild Thai flavoured soup that was not spicy and sour enough. But we like the USD$1 mango shake and USD$1 Angkor beer. With a side dish of French fries (Mr. B just can’t live without ordering something totally unhealthy) for USD$1.50, our dinner cost USD$12.
Happy Herb Pizza Restaurant
After our non-too-satisfying dinner, we continue to walk around the pub street and night market scouting for souvenirs to buy. There were so many things for me to shop, from T-shirts, painting, home decor, and many other handmade products. I want them all. I reluctantly kept my insanity in check and decided to scout the prices first before falling into a shopping frenzy. Our shuttle from hotel came precisely at 9.00pm to chauffeur us back to hotel safely. Although we didn't do much on our first day at Siem Reap, I felt totally exhausted and knocked myself out after just 5 minutes of TV time. 

Siem Reap Night Market