Cambodian Reflections Part 1 Siem Reap
Monday November 14,2011 This was day #34 of our journey that already included reunions in Guilin and Nanning with our 2006 University students and 2 weeks in Laos. We flew from Luang Prabang on Vietnam Airlines and when we arrived at Siem Reap obtaining a visa ($20/pp) was easy and quick. One not so smart activity was changing US$$$$ into riel.(If only I had read my notes). Everyone wanted dollars, but we DID get rid of them. HOT TIP: Do not change US dollars into riel!!!!
We were met at the airport by our hotel tuk-tuk and the service was free.We had pre-booked the Atanue Villa Angkor in August and even at that time could only get a standard room for the first four nights. The remaining nights we were in a room at the pool.I HAVE done a review: “Delightful 7 night Stay” 4/5. This location was on the east side of the river,which was what we wanted.
We settled in, and before we knew it Suwan, our tuk-tuk driver arrived to take us to Angkor for tickets and sunset. We each purchased a 3 day pass($40/pp) to be used over the course of a week.
Suwan took us to the area where we would hike the mountain to PHNOM BAKHENG. This turned out to be our 2nd not so smart activity today. We stood in a long line, watching the folks in front of us climbing steep,narrow steps to the top….many on all fours! We were getting close to the steps and decided this iffy activity was really not “up our alley”. We walked down to the bottom realizing our time would have been far more productive if we explored Angkor Wat while the throngs above and below were waiting for sunset. HOT TIP: steep,narrow steps up to the top of Phnom Bakheng: do you want to do this???????
We asked Suwan to bring us to the KHMER KITCHEN for dinner….the original one. I think I had fish amok and DH had loh lak. Enjoyed it enough to go back 2 days later. The bill was $7.50. I HAVE done a review: “Really Good” 4/5.
Tuesday November 15,2011 After enjoying our made to order breakfast(you fill out a sheet the night before),we were ready for Suwan at 7AM. We headed to Angkor Wat and the timing was perfect. Tour buses had not yet arrived and the temple was relatively crowd free. Yes, ANGKOR WAT is special…..here is the largest monument at Angkor and we appreciated its symmetry and spirituality. While I was not about to count apsara….there had to be thousands carved in to the walls of the temple. Decorative flourishes and bas reliefs all added to the enjoyment. Around 9:30 AM the tour groups began arriving and we went looking for Suwan.
The plan was to take us back to the hotel and then pick up us after 1:30 for Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm.
You must be thinking: Why are these temple wimps not going further? 24 hours after landing in Guilin, we developed respiratory symptoms that included coughing and stuffed nose, accompanied by scratchy throats and sneezing. This continued throughout China and Laos and now Cambodia. We had our good days and bad days and it had become more frequent to think: perhaps we just should return to the States. More on this later.
ANGKOR THOM is a definite WOW! The south gate is SO impressive. Then we went to the BAYON: OMG! Those 54 towers w/4 faces on each. We walked the Baphoun, Terrace of the Leper King and Terrace of the Elephants!!! Suwan’s remark was interesting “you see fast”. Answer:”you bet”.
We decided to put Ta Prohm on the agenda for tomorrow and with grumbling stomachs, Suwan dropped us off at the BLUE PUMPKIN. Our bill totaled $13.25 and I have done a review”What is all the Fuss About” 3/5. Perhaps if we had ice cream, we’d feel differently.
Wednesday November 16,2011 After breakfast, off we went to PREAH KAHN. We loved meandering. A “guide” pointed out the library, two wives,etc. We did not hire this gent, but he kept walking w/us and at the end we gave him a tip. HE wanted more! Not our fault, he then found another group to “guide”.
TA PROHM was another button pusher. The trees encompassing the temples are dynamite! The temple itself is in ruins and it would take years and years to restore it.
DH and I had an ongoing dialogue of HOW to get to our next stop: Battambang. Take the boat???? Or take the bus???? Speak to 10 people and get 10 different answers. Suwan dropped us off at a travel agency and learned the boat was $22/pp and the bus was $6-8/pp. Our decision was not made…we kept thinking about it.
I asked to stop at Artisans d’Angkor and while everything was gorgeous we didn’t purchase anything. We felt like we were walking through a museum.
Back to KHMER KITCHEN….again, the original one,We both had “Pumpkin in oven”. One with shrimp, one with chicken. YUM. The bill was $8.00. After some wandering,we walked in the direction of ATANUE. A few hours later, we were back on the street in the direction of the bridge, where we sat listening to music and people watched. Pub Street and the market are always interesting. We stopped for some food at SOUP DRAGON: while their Happy Hour red wine is only $1.50 /glass and not bad, the veggies,spring rolls and papaya drink were just OK. Bill was $12. Back to ATANUE we walked. This is not a scenic stroll. The cars create traffic and noise and the street was broken up at the time. When I asked why and the explanation was the recent flooding, it all made sense. There was always lots of dust and we did not hesitate to wear surgical masks.
Thursday November 17,2011 Since we were not meeting our tuk-tuk driver today,breakfast was a bit later and we relaxed at the pool. The Atanue pool is extremely attractive,whether reading or swimming. Since DH was not getting better,we called a contact we had in SR and he suggested we go to the Royal Angkor International Hospital. Before doing that, DH skyped our travel insurance company and 9 pages were faxed to us at the hotel. The insurance company had no recommendation on care, so late afternoon we tuk-tuked to the Royal Angkor Hospital. I shall do a separate post of our experience.
A couple of hours later, we had a driver drop us off at CHIVIT THAI. I’ve done a review” Just Acceptable” 3/5. Bottom line: still on a quest for a green curry as velvety and flavorful as the one we go to in Boulder,Colorado. Bill was $15.15.
Once back at the Atanue, I packed up for a room change tomorrow to a room by the pool and DH went online to check the meds he was given.
Friday November 18,2011 We fortified ourselves with another wonderful breakfast and couldn’t wait for Suwan to show up with a car to take us out today. BANTEAY SREI was the first stop ……oh,oh,oh. A small, but delectable temple and #1 in our book. We can still picture the pink sandstone and delicate fine carvings.
I thought DH would complain about the long ride to BENG MELEA and the Temple. The “old man” loved it and I did too. We hopped over crumbling stone in this jungle environment,really feeling like kids again.
By the time we got to ROULOS GROUP it was HOT and we were pooped. Would have like a different time to appreciate BAKONG and PREAH KO. Lenny, I know, I know: we should have done this first thing a few days ago! Next time, I promise.
Back at the hotel, we were eager to see our new “digs” by the pool. LOVED them and definitely worth the few bucks more. Don’t forget to read my review.!
VIROTH’S for dinner it was! Did not have a reservation, but we were lucky to be seated in an area with much ambience! I did a review” Great Dinner”. 5/5. The bill was $20. We needed to walk off some calories and walking in the dark is not attractive either,but 15 minutes later, we were at the Atanue.
Saturday November 19, 2011 We really look forward to the hearty breakfasts here,served by the friendly and smiling staff. DH filled out the paperwork for our travel insurance company and the hotel sent the fax through. WE MADE A DECISION, folks. The boat to Battambang it is! We obtained the tickets through the hotel.
We each were entitled to a 30 minute massage at the hotel..gratis…and the gal who did them was terrific! Those pressure points worked magic.We tipped her grandly. We timed our visit to the Kandal Market and FATHER’S Restaurant with the BEATOCELLO Concert at 7:15 PM. While I don’t recall what we ate, the food was good. DH appreciated it more than I did. Since it was early for dinner, there were only 2 others tables taken. Father was there, but Miss Personality Plus is definitely the daughter, Miss Langdy. We thoroughly enjoyed our conversation with her.The bill was $13.25.
The BEATOCELLO concert had a filled auditorium. Dr. Beat Richner is 150% committed to his cause of making free medical treatment available to the kids of Cambodia. He runs 5 hospitals in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and while his playing is good, he is not ashamed to beg for donations. By the time he gets finished with his cello playing and videos, you really want to help make a difference and be as generous as possible when you put money in the jar. Bravo!!
Sunday November 20, 2011 Having a lazy morning was delicious! We walked to the Old Market after 11AM. We were on a quest for cashews,dried fruit and other goodies for the boat tomorrow. Much to the surprise of DH, the vendors would NOT bargain on the cashews! It was easier to purchase apples, bananas, taro chips and dried mango.
At a “hole in the wall” directly opposite “AMOK”, we sipped two fabulous papaya shakes for 50 cents/each and I could NOT resist the pumpkin curry ($1.50) It was simply EXCELLENT. The hole in the wall may be called the “Old KK Restaurant. If you pass it…walk right in!
We spent most of the afternoon swimming and reading. We packed for our departure tomorrow AM and then went off to the ANGKOR MONDIAL for a buffet and show. We arrived early, were shown to decent seats and enjoyed some of the enormous amount of hot/cold food . For us the stars were the banana flower salad, fresh papaya,pork satay and sublime mushrooms from a hot veggie dish. Once the tour groups arrived obtaining satay was VERY difficult. The cooks couldn’t keep up. The classical dance portion of the show was the best part for us. We did not respond much to the folk dancing. What I found amazing was that during the dance performance the lights were on, people were talking loudly and many turistas were impolite and just marched up to the stage to take photos, blocking the view of those in their seats! Certainly management could “put their foot down” on this behavior. The cost was $12/pp. I know the classy buffet and performance is $32/pp at the Raffles Grand but for us…didn’t feel that was justified. If someone has been to that one and can comment, please do!
Back at the hotel we paid our bill: $220 for 7 nights. That’s $31.50/night and given what we experienced and the perks….a definite value. Thank you, Helen, for recommending it in your forum posts. We are going to be sad to leave!
Part 1A Angkor Hospital Visit Part 2 Siem Reap to Battambang
Part 3 Our Days with Davy Keo & Phnom Penh