Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Road to Cambodia

What kind of time is 4:45am to get up? I had a McBreakfast at the airport, sad to say (and it wasn't even that nice!).

We boarded our Air Asia flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Two hours, plus lost an hour as Cambodia is one hour behind Malaysia, despite being further east, paradoxically. The arrival hall is gorgeously done out in Khmer style, complete with statues of gods on various transport methods (elephant is the one you see first). It was good they had some nice sculpture to look at as they took some time to sort out your entry visa.

We were met by a driver from our hotel who tried to giveus the hard sell to get him to drive us around the next day. We weren't having it as we wanted a tuk-tuk (see later). The hotel was reached down a dirt track in the heartof the city, but what a gorgeous and idyllic place it was. A lush garden surrounding a swimming pool, with the most wonderfully friendly staff. Though it was little later than 9am we were able to check in straight away.

We dumped our stuff and had a wnader into Siem eEap, having breakfast at a French-style patisserie, dodging the offers of tuk-tuks wherever we went. This is a feature of Cambodia, offers of tuk-tuks, offers of a massage (legit type, often involving fish nibbling your feet), or ragamuffin children trying to sell you postcards or bamboo bracelets. It isn't major pestering, as a simple "no thanks" does the job. After this we wandered further into the city to get an idea of the orientation. We found a couple of wats to have a look around, similar to Thai style, though maybe a little less ostentatious.

Back to the Central Boutique Hotel for a breather then out for some lunch at a small cafe nearby where we had noodles/fried rice. Chatting to the owner, she had a American husband, though we didn't figure out the whole story. I did, however, win a free beer as my ringpull (one of the old fashioned ones you pull off) had a symbol for some competition where you could win up to something like 500,000 riel.

This is something to mention: currency. Cambodian currency is the riel as I just mentioned. However, they commonly use the US dollar such that, when you get money from the ATM it is in dollars. There are 4000 riel to the dollar, and when you buy something that isn't in full dollars, you get the change in riel (so a 1000 riel note is 25c).

We got back to the hotel and had a bit of a swim in the lovely pool. Then, doing a quick bit of research, I also found that there were aerobics classs at 5:30 in the evening which was something I was determined to have a go at, so I set of to look for them, just finding them in time. It was fun, if hard in 30deg heat and very high humidity, but only cost the measly sum of 1000 riel (or about 17p). Most of the clientelle were women, many of them quite old, but that's nothing new as far as my fitness regime is concerned.

I got back, and we got ready togo out for the night, and see what the begining of the weekend had to offer in Siem Reap. There are no shortage of nightspots, with the main drag for nightlife being called Pub St. We ate at a place called the Khmer Kitchen, which did the local specialities, not that there is any shortage of this around teh place as you might expect. The main dish was Khmer curry which was fantastic. Not disimilar to Thai style curries, but less hot, and with less obvious lemon grass and coconut milk.

We drank a few more drinks (mostly beers, but they d a good selection ofcocktails too) at a variety of places. Best of all the place is very cheap, with it being low season, and most places offering a happy hour all the time with draft beer being often 50c a glass. Cocktails too are usually chap to start with or on 2-4-1 offers.

We got a tuk-tuk home. Cambodian tuk-tuks are different from those you see elsewhere in that they are in effect moped-drawn chariots. That is to say, the passenger compartment is a trailer (sitting 4or 5 people) hitched up to a moped. It's a good way to travel, and relatively cheap. A quick one dollar ride home and we were in bed

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