I love it here. I had some reservations about what we were getting into as I navigated the visa requirements and read several blogs about crossing the border, but Siem Reap is wonderful. The roads are well maintained, the food is good, fruit smoothies are delicious, WiFi is decent, the tourism industry is well developed, and alcohol is practically free. Beer is $0.50 and cocktails are $1.50. Neither are any good so we aren’t in danger of hangovers. Also, it is absurdly hot both day and night, but something has to stop us from moving here.
Siem Reap is home to the Angkor temple ruins and the famous Angkor Wat. These are spread out over 20 miles so I hired a tuk-tuk driver for two days to take us around. We felt like Indiana Jones as we sped along the road and explored long-forgotten temples. Most were built between 950-1200AD, then abandoned with the fall of the Khmer empire in 1431. The jungle hid them until they were rediscovered between 1880-1915.
We saw ten temples over two days, and it was awesome. It was so much fun to climb over the ruins and feel immersed in history while wishing we could start an epic paintball fight. You can’t sit on the balustrades, but you can climb the steps, hop through the corridors, and pose in windowsills.
Sunrise over Angkor Wat was a bit underwhelming. We got up at 4:40am to arrive slightly before the nation of China.
I don’t think it was worth it for the sunrise views, but exploring the interior before the crowds was nice and the morning glow was lovely.
Our day in the sun completely drained us. We got back to our hotel and napped for six hours. We woke up for a late dinner then easily slept through the night.
In addition to temples, our driver brought us to his family’s house to celebrate his sister’s engagement. We chatted with the family and compared American and Cambodian engagement customs.
My negotiation skills are getting better. It helps when you are willing to walk long distances in the hot sun or skip a meal rather than overpay. Breakfast near the temple was listed as $5 a person when it was $2 in town. I respect their right to charge more at a tourist site, but I could contain my hunger until food was more affordable. We left the stand and they chased us down and offered the meals for $2. I didn’t know restaurant prices could be negotiated.
Everyone here prefers USD to Riel, but they don’t have US coins. That means we get Riel to make up for coins. It amused me when a vendor didn’t have change and offered me four bananas instead. I love bananas so it seemed fair to me.
I am writing from a restaurant, and they have just played Ed Sheeran’s Perfect six times in a row. Despacito may have been overthrown.