I have started a new thread for the last report of our trip with Kampot and Phnom Penh on a separate one.
We flew at 3pm from PP to SR with Cambodian Air and do not regret paying the money for the 1 hour flight. Easy, easy and we can afford it.
Organising a taxi from the airport for $7 was simple and we instantly noted the change in scenery after coming from PP. Lush and green were the 2 words that sprung to mind as we drove towards town past large resorts lining the road. Quite glad we didn't stay in one of these.
Thanks to the many recommendations from Travelkat, we had booked Casa Angkor hotel in the old French quarter and the lovely Suwan as our tuk tuk and car driver. I have reviewed the hotel all ready which is a good and cheap place to stay.
Just had to have a cocktail near the pool before leaving our hotel looking for a feed. Lovely pool at the hotel and a pretty good Mojito too. A 10 min. walk to Pub street to see lots of restaurants, bars and massage places. Locals calling out if we want a tuk tuk or massage every minute with a polite 'no thank you' in reply. Terrific people watching while sipping a Tiger beer at a bar before settling on eating at Blue Wave off of Pub Street. Good and cheap.
As mentioned, Suwan picked us up the next morning for our first day of touring the temples. He is a recommended driver on TA and is polite, honest, funny, knowledgeable and hard working. We highly recommend him. I had spent hours researching hotels and activities but didn't plan the temple itinerary at all. I'm glad I didn't waste time doing this as Suwan knew what to do and had it all sorted. As he had arrived with his car that day, we toured the outer temples first which I recommend be seen by car. I'm not going to name them all as plenty has been written about them. I guess the first one you see is where you gasp the most. For us that was Preah Khan which was sensational as was East Mabon. Spectacular sights and real 'pinch me, am I really here?' moments.
It was HOT! Oh my lord. We are Aussies but the heat and humidity without a breeze is brutal. You do what you can manage and then retreat to the hotel.
The second day we opted for a tuk tuk to take us to Angkor Thom and Wat and more. This proved a good decision as the breeze was cooling as we moved around. We took up the offer of a guide while walking around Angkor Wat for $10. There are plenty as you walk in and we were glad to listen to explanations of the buildings. He could speak 5 languages!
The constant hassling of children selling postcards, men selling guide books and women selling scarves is daunting. One step out of the tuk tuk and it begins. Saying No does not cut it. Just have to keep on walking but at the end of the day, you've had enough.
Two days was enough of temple touring so we had a break and used Suwan again to take us to some shops. One important stop was to visit the lovely Paruth at her pottery centre and home a little way out of the town. Angkorlad had recommended her and while we couldn't buy much, we wanted to see her business and support her in a small way. She is a resilient and intelligent woman who was keen to talk to us about her story including Cambodian politics. I purchased a lovely pair of clay earrings and 3 pottery geckos to adorn an outside wall back home. She packaged them up in bamboo containers for us to carry. We had a lovely visit and she was very generous with her time.
We still had 1 more day on our 3 day pass ($40) and were unsure what to do. We decided on visiting Bang Mealea which is 1.5 hours away by car. You have to pay an extra $5 to see it but it was well worth it. Suwan picked us up at 7am which meant very few people were there when we arrived. Oh bliss, not to have crowds around. This sprawling temple is full of blocks of stone that have collapsed but amazingly you can walk all around them. A guide shows you the way which is super helpful as despite his limited English, we learned a lot. It was more spectacular than Ta Prohm with more roots growing towards the earth. We really enjoyed clambering around and compensated our guide accordingly.
That night as we were walking past Pub street I heard an English accent ask a local woman carrying a baby "so your baby needs milk?". Yes the scam was happening right in front of our eyes. Hubby and I looked at each other weighing up whether to follow him into the 711 store and warn him or not. So we did. The young fella had just seen that it was going to cost him $20 for the milk and offered money instead. The mother was saying no no, I need milk. I called out to him "it's a scam, just walk away quickly". That was all he needed and we briskly made our way out while I summarised what I had learned from Tripadvisor. Needless to say, he was thankful.
We ate twice at Khmer Kitchen (thanks Travelkat) and really enjoyed their fish amok and fresh rice vegetable rolls. Yum.
Our 10 days were over and while our holiday continued in Thailand, we were sad to say goodbye to Cambodia. Yes we had some funny tummies but nothing too bad. More importantly, nothing bad had happened to us. Our money was safe as were we. I had been a tad worried about safety and yes, we had been very careful with our wallets and purses when out at night. I didn't use the iPhone much to take photos even though I would have liked to.
Thank you to Angkorlad, Travelkat and AnnG62 for their replies to my messages. We have had a wonderful time and now understand what draws travellers back to this intriguing country.