Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cambodia Travel Guide - Siem Reap

What I did in two and a half days:

day one:
visit the rulous group
had dinner khmer traditional restaurant (chicken amok+ palmtree wine)
good nice hike intro to the temples

day two:
sunrise, small circuit bayon, tam prohm etc dinner with roy traditional khmer BBQ
lost driver

day three:
big circuit, angkor wat but no sunset

After a while the temples and ruins start to look the same even for the trained eye.
Angkor Wat - DOs and DONTs -- a short travel guide

- PACK LITE: you can get t-shirts and other crappy touristic stuff to wear for 2-3 $ a piece; you can wash clothes (no undies) for 1$-2$ a kilo/24 hrs return

- Search HOTELS: deals run from 3-4 $ to XXXX...but i am talking backpacking stuff and budget...for a whopping 13$-15$ you should get something decent clean and good service. i paid 16 and had to share it with a tiny gecko for a couple of hours until i successfully hunted it with my slipper.

- do not trust blindly your hotel reps, or tuktuk drivers; explore..while it might seem risky but there are many GOOD places where you can grab a bit to eat and a beer and for a fraction of the recommended places. Obviously it comes with the usual warning to do your homework and have a trained eye for such things. But for example, all the "recommended" places charged me 8-9-10 $ for a meal with a drink, while a traditional khmer kitchen meal (w kitchen) at a regular place should not surpass $5 probably, and I had dinner at one place with 2.5$ out of which 1$ was the Angkor beer. it even came with a tiny desert!!!! all was the same quality as the recommended places, for which probably the owners have agreements with hotels and tuktuks (btw social networks are far more advanced here than facebook, once you get there people know most things about you, they remember them and mulage themselves after it aka your behavior, typing schemes etc)

- do not go for the sunset at ....; it is a huge tourist trap with people climbing and getting down desperately the pyramid to see the sun set ...not even AW but the SR plains. So, still if you like type type of adventures/events... go there at least around 4:30 pm and leave before 6 so that you don't catch the rush hour on the steep steps of the pyramid. anyways, all your pics will have much more than the sunset and yourself in them so might as well think it through.

- DO the sunrise at Angkor wat; although is crammed with tourists you should do it. it is a grreat view and totally worth your while getting up at 4 am. Also, do the Angkor Wat ( a bit) aftewards, although your guide / book tells you to come back in the afternoon. i did it (not enough) and it was my only chance to see it in the warm colors of the sun (the next day it was cloudy all day) and I regret not spending at least one hour over there.

- DO not get "instant" guides. poeple will glue to you and then ask a lot of money. i got two of these guys..students or not I felt that 10$ would be enough for their 30-40 min tour of AW but apparently they felt that only the police bribes would sum up to that, so although they took the money, not sure how happy were they. either way, that's how much i felt it was worth it (to get a full day guide is somewhere 27-30$, so you should do that if you must) myself I tend to move in my own pace..what i like i gave it 2-3 hrs...others I skimmed through. with a guide you will spend probably a decent amount of time in your visits.

- Tuktuks (15 a day max). Get a good map. Deal the tours if you can. They will again skip some temples, saying that they are closed, too far or who knows what. Be inquisitive. BTW, get the best english speaking driver if you can. Although Cambodians have a funky way of pronouncing English (i couldn't get 50% of what they were saying) you might get lucky. Guides on the other hand seemed great. Profi ones that is. I even saw Russian speaking ones (/??) damn..

- BETTER YET: have time? aka 5-7 days to roast it in SR? Go for the bike man..there are regular bikes (sometimes free from your hotel courtesy) or electrical ones (for people that have less than the required will to bike around for 20 km or so a day, which in Netherlands is next to nothing btw). Most temples are not as far as your trusted new friends let you know. you can easily do them.

- Another myth: heat. I had no problem walking around and climbing the temples in a scorching 30 C. to be honest I was expecting something more humid. But again, I went there in November almost....so yeah, might be very different in the season (April-July). Moreover, I didn't feel that I need to getaway at noon (do people actually do this?? you loose then an extra hour to get back and forth + the time to have your siesta or whatever...:):..)

- Fun: night market and pub street. both loud cowded with gringos and people trying to sell you stuff from t-shirts and other take-home-crap to fish massage (no happy ending there) and coke and meth (was offered many times during my short 3 hrs interlude on the pub street) --could be the can of mirinda i was holding in my hand :))??

- pack extra picture cards (SDs, CFs, etc) and AN EXTRA BATTERY. I will surely drain out, especially in the day you do the sunrise.

- bring an laptop or better yet, a smart phone or an Ipod. would be great to relax yourself on the flights and transfers etc. Moreover, would provide a light way for you to stay connected with your friends and family and let them know that ALL IS GOOD here in the Kingdom of Cambodia an that the KHMER ROUGE are no longer around. :) nothing to laugh at here, but the people's ignorance. But again, NOBODY has heard of, or meet a Romanian before, so it is a two-way street ("MANIA.., wat?? ROMANIA/// RUMANIA...you know...Hungary, Poland..etc..ROMANIA"

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