So, another Visa run and another flight out of Bangkok! This time I decided to take my lovely girlfriend Gift with me to Siem Reap in Cambodia. I’d heard so much about it from fellow DC’s and co workers that I decided that I must see it for myself! And off to Don Muang airport in a Uber black we went, and then I realised that Gift had never flown before! She’s got her new passport and was a bit nervous. Even being in the airport had her trembling. Not many Thai people have a passport, let alone fly so this was a big deal for her, and the fact that she was leaving her 16 year old daughter behind with her sister. She was a tad distressed.
We got on the Air Asia plane which was all very normal for me being a frequent flyer, we taxi’ed along the run way and I held her hand as we picked up speed and took off.
I saw for the first time the earth’s shape. I could easily see the shores of continents, islands, great rivers, folds of the terrain, large bodies of water. The horizon is dark blue, smoothly turning to black… the feelings which filled me I can express with one word — joy
YURI A. GAGARIN
It was a quick flight from Bangkok, only 45 minutes! We passed over Gift’s home city of Burriram which is almost on the Cambodian / Thai border. Cool thing was that getting out the airport was a breeze! $25 for a Visa on arrival and we were picked up by the hotel taxi service.
We stayed at the most amazing hotel! 5 star and everything you could ever ask for. It wasn’t cheap but it was worth every penny.
I booked online through Agoda into the Belmond La Residence d’Angkor.
In there own words: “An intimate retreat on the banks of a tree-lined river, Belmond La Résidence d’Angkor beautifully captures the region’s rich history while offering every modern luxury“. And they weren’t wrong. Gift had never seen luxury like it before and felt a little overwhelmed! Me, I’d seen this level before but have to say, this was a cut above. The room was amazing, all done out in teak and marble, the bathroom was sheer class and the four poster bed was like laying on a cloud. Yeah, we both really deserved this and made the most of it.
That evening and after a sumptuous traditional Cambodian dinner, we headed out to Siem Reap town centre! This was a disappointment to be honest with you! It just one of those clone tourist-trap backpacker meeting points. Full of weed smoking hippies on a gap year all wearing elephant print draw-string trousers and hooded Mexican tops, flip-flops and un-washed hair. We ended up in the inspirationaly named Beer Street! We could have been in Ko Shan Road in Bangkok or Backpacker Street in Saigon or even Camden High Street in London for that matter! They all sell the same tat and garbage that adorns every backpacker you meet anywhere in the world! The house music was blearing from the various drinking establishments, all trying to out-do each other with the volume level, the beer was cheap and nasty and on top of that, there were pissed up westerners making absolute fools of themselves, fighting amongst each other and the local hawkers. There was one massive saving grace however! Gift…! She’s was born in Burriram as I mentioned and looks to the locals in Siem reap as exactly that… a local. This meant that no Hawkers, taxi Drivers or scammers tried to fleece us, they didn’t even talk to us. We were immune from their badgering because they though Gift was Cambodian and would see their scams a mile off. It was almost like being invisible.
One of the emerging traits you see in Asian city centres is that they are gradually loosing their cultural identity! They are over-trying to cater fro the backpacker and thus have become clones of each other. Its really quite sad that what was only 10 years ago as a unique meeting point for a gap year student and travelers has taken on the essence of an airport duty free shopping zone. Everything on sale is the same wether you are in Goa, Bangkok or Siem Reap.
It was good to leave Beer Street and get an early night as we wanted to get to Angkor Wat nice and early.
Next morning, we got up early, got blessed by the local Buddhist before breakfast and made our way to Angkor Wat on what I can only describe as the most bizaar form of transport I have ever experienced! It was basically a Honda moped with a seated trailer attached! Like a form of TukTuk but far more scary.
I have to say that it was an amazing journey! We passed relics of the Khmer Rouge and the ravages the country suffered in the 70’s. Still very evident. It is a strange juxsta position to be a free westerner and witnesing the history of so much suffering on the way to a world herritage site that out-dates all of the 20th centruries wars. It made me think that going back to a world without electricity and with only a ox and cart as transport would be a far better way to live than what has become of south east Asia…! And the world for that matter. Dream on..
Anyway, our contraption of moped-come-trailer made its way along the straightest and longest road I’d ever expirierneced! Me, I’d have been doing a ton on a Harley down this highway but we hd to just sit back and take in the 35 MPH view! The poor contraption was really strugling but the driver was a fine man and kept us entertained with stories about the old days in Cambodia, his family and how hard it is to make a living. He was a really cool driver and was very intrigued about Gift being Thai and looking Cambodian.
I could see the temple in the distance! The long road was coming to an end and the ancient city was rising up in front of us! The sun was at 45 degrees and lighting up the south face of this amazing vista of ancient temple towers. As we approached further, we could see the surrounding lake which was reflecting the citidal in such a perfect light.
It’s so hard to actually take what you see in through your eyes and process it as real! It was the same experienece when I stood on top of Sigiriya in Sri Lanka. Some sights you just never forget and for this one, I was truly humbled. For once, I was lost for words.
To be continued…