6 September – Kuala Lumpur – Siem Reap
As scheduled, we arrived in Kuala Lumpur around 4.30am. Landing on time is always a good thing when it’s a relatively short stopover.
And the sleep thing?
Actually managed to get a fair bit, which was nice.
Maybe it was because there was a vacant seat between the two of us.
Don’t get me wrong, though, it wasn’t like I slept through the whole thing. Geez, I don’t even do that when I’m at home in my own bed.
Hmmm, maybe there’s a positive in having that bit of extra space…..
Anyway, the flight was good. And it felt like it went quickly.
Off the plane without too much delay, and then walked. And walked…..
At least this time I had some vague recollection of where we needed to go, after our 2017 trip.
Downstairs and through security; belt taken off in advance; and then the familiar sight of the Living Room café / bar. The place where I began my 2017 trip with a coffee and an average donut, and where we both finished that same trip with expensive beers before our flight back to Melbourne.
Seriously, it feels like it was just a month or two ago. Scary….
Before what feels like a really early breakfast comes into the equation, I need to know where we need to be. And as it turns out, it ain’t down here.
Our flight is leaving from one of the ‘L’ gates, and they appear to be upstairs. So, up we go. And as luck would have it, there’s a quite a few food shops up there.
We ignore the food places for a minute, much to Lisa’s chagrin, and head off in the direction of where we believe we should be. Just to get an idea of how far away it is, and how long it will take us to get there.
As we walk it looks mildly familiar, and I’m pretty sure we walked this corridor when we left KL for Melbourne in 2017. Having a vague recollection of how long it took, and suspecting food places may be a little sparse where we’re heading, I send Lisa back to get something for breakfast.
“What do you want?”, she asks, no doubt knowing what I’m going to say.
“Don’t care”, I say, which is exactly what she thought I would say.
The eat to live thing, again….
“But see if you can get some sort of iced coffee, as well”, I add, seeing as we’re fairly close to Vietnam, and I’m already thinking of caphe sua da’s.
She heads off, while I walk a bit further to see exactly where we need to go. I find the ‘L’ gates, and then head back to see what food awaits me.
Walking past all the food places, and running out of options rather quickly, I can’t find her. I actually start to get a little concerned. But please don’t tell her that.
Then, finally, I find her. My slight concern is replaced with relief, as well as disgust, when I find her standing in McDonalds.
“Of the ten or so other places, you chose McDonalds!?”, I say.
“Well it’s just easy”, is her response.
We find a seat and ‘enjoy’ our sausage and egg muffin, a hash brown, and our coffee that looks like a caphe sua da, but ain’t no caphe sua da.
‘Food’ done, we begin the rather long walk to our gate with the hope that it might be a fairly empty flight.
It’s not, and it’s actually a bit difficult to find a seat at the gate. Lisa heads back to the toilet while I stand around hoping all these people might be catching a different plane.
A few minutes later a familiar face walks past me. And keeps walking. She seems a little away with the fairies, and I’m not sure I can blame any medication.
This could be a long five weeks….
We eventually find a couple of seats and do that waiting thing.
Finally onto our pretty full plane and we take off on time at 7.00am. The sun is only just coming up, which is always nice to see when you’re up in the air, but the smog is impacting the view somewhat.
Oh well, the Cambodian visa and customs forms are quickly handed out, so that takes my focus away from the window.
After the best type of flight; an uneventful one; we begin our descent into Siem Reap. The view out the window, which is now minus the smog, grabs my attention. There is so much water down there, and it reminds me a little of the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam, as you fly towards HCMC.
We land on time, just before 8.00am, and what a great little airport Siem Reap is. Only small, but the buildings are full of character, and I don’t know, very tropical looking?
Not sure that’s the greatest of ways to describe it….
Anyway, out on the tarmac, and then inside trying to decipher all the signs so we get to the right queue do get our visa on arrival sorted out.
An official looking guy just to the left approaches us, and asks if we’re doing visa on arrival.
“Yes”, I reply, to which he responds, “Okay, $40”.
Now it’s at this point my senses become much more aware of where I am, and what I’m doing.
I know that the normal tourist visa is $30USD. I actually have two $20 notes and two $10 notes ready for it.
Now this guy is telling me $40?
Perhaps I misheard him?? But then that would mean that Lisa also misheard him.
We look over to the right, and there’s the visa desk. And Lisa actually spots a sign stating the standard tourist visa on arrival is $30.
Hmmm, she does come in handy sometimes….
I turn to the official looking guy and say no, $30, while pointing in the direction of the VOA desk, and then head over there.
He gives up without a fight.
Was he trying to scam us? I’d like to think not, but it’s hard not to think that way.
Over to where we need to be, and the usual interaction with the usual gruff type visa / immigration officials, takes place.
Passport, forms and money handed over, and we’re told to wait around the other side of the desk.
Of course we wait in the wrong spot and our error is duly corrected in the kind and caring manner you come to expect.
A few minutes later we receive our newly Cambodian Visa-d passports back, and we head off for round two with the immigration guys.
They actually weren’t too bad, so things were looking up.
Just a few minutes there and then it was off to retrieve our bag which had been waiting patiently for us on the carousel.
Walk towards the exit; checking the exchange place purely for research purposes – $1AUD = 62US cents (app says rate is ~67cents); and then out to do something I’ve never had to do before.
Yep, a sim card in an old phone I have.
Just outside the doors there are several providers to choose from. Deciding to go with Cellcard, I approach the friendly girl. Rather than writing it all out, here were the options.
Being in Cambodia for just eight nights, I decide to spend up big for a $5 sim.
While the girl sets it all up, Lisa heads off to see if she can find our hotel supplied tuk tuk driver. She returns with good news just as I get my phone back.
So how long did all that take?
I can assure it was quicker than it took me to write it.
From stepping off the plane, to getting into the tuk tuk, it was a fraction over half an hour.
Quickly out onto the roads of Siem Reap, and while I’ve obviously never been here, I kind of feel like I’m back. It very much reminds me of parts of Vietnam, but it’s also different. The phrase you see and hear in Vietnam, ‘Same same, but different’, seems very apt.
We get to our hotel, the Oriental Siem Reap, around 9.00am, and as expected, our room isn’t yet ready.
No problem at all, we head out to do a little exploring. As well as try and make arrangements to catch up with someone I’ve spoken to a lot over the last four years or so, but never met.
Trinity had messaged me through Trip Advisor: yes, like me, she spends far too much time there as well; not long after our first trip, asking a few questions about an upcoming trip she was planning with her family. In the end we actually spoke a few times on the phone, and then over the years we kept in occasional contact. She then also helped us with our 24 hours in Kuala Lumpur on the way home from our 2017 trip.
So yep, I was really looking forward to finally meeting her. Even if she was from Queensland….
WhatsApp on my old phone, with the newly inserted Cambodian sim card, is quickly utilised, and the plan is made to meet up now over in Pub Street.
We head off with a vague idea of where things are, which could make things interesting, and already carrying and using two phones is annoying me.
Didn’t take long….
We get across the river, which was the easy bit, and then it all becomes a lot more difficult. Trying to follow on Maps.me isn’t proving to be as simple as I’d hoped.
I’m not sure I can blame Maps.me.
We end up in the general area, and then walk past where we need to be. Lisa then rectifies the situation which both surprises me – directions not being her strong point – and annoys me.
We walk down Pub Street and soon find Trinity and her Mum, Myrene. Although I think it was more Trinity who actually found us.
It was great to finally meet her and put a face to the phone calls and all the text messages. We then went off in search of a place to sit and chat, while enjoying a drink. Seeing as Trinity and her mum had been here for the last few days, we pretty much left it up to them to choose somewhere. Being just a bit too early for a beer, we settled on rather expensive freshly squeezed fruit juices. Oh well, at least they were nice.
But next time, I think I’ll pick the place….
We sat and chatted for quite a while, and it was good to hear all about the time they’d spent in Vietnam prior to getting to Siem Reap. It was also nice to get a few tips on where to go, and what to see. Including where to get $1.50 cocktails, of which, and judging by the photos she’d sent me, I suspect they’d both spent a reasonable amount of time doing.
With their time in Siem Reap fast running out; they were flying out in a few hours; we bid them farewell.
On the way back to the hotel, and in between the countless ‘no thank you’s’ to the countless tuk tuk drivers offering their services, we passed a money exchange place. Having only brought the bare minimum in USD, mainly just for our visas, we took the opportunity to change lots of Australian dollars into considerably less US dollars. At 65 cents it was better than the airport rate, but it still hurt.
Back to the hotel for a nap, which was sorely needed, and then out again around 12.30pm. The realisation then hit me that we didn’t get a photo with Trinity and her mum. A quick message, but they were already waiting for their car to arrive to take them to the airport.
We made an attempt to get there but the traffic, the inability to work out the most direct way there, as well as the rain, quickly put an end to that endeavour.
I am absolutely spewing we didn’t do it when we were at the café, and just really annoyed I didn’t think of it at the time.
Hopefully we get an opportunity down the track to rectify that.
We do a bit more exploring of Siem Reap’s streets, stopping at one stage for several minutes as that steady, but fairly light, rain became not so light anymore. Fortunately we were walking past an awning as it really started to come down hard.
Ended up at a fairly touristy looking restaurant for a rather average lunch, not too far from Pub street, around 2.00pm. Made another attempt at an iced coffee, in the hope it would be something like a caphe sua da, but that ended up being about as memorable as the meal.
I really need to stop looking for Vietnamese things in places that aren’t Vietnam….
Bill of $9USD for the two meals, which didn’t include the two coffees, was painfully paid. And it’s around this moment that I’m struggling a little with the cost of things. Well, more struggling to understand the prices, is probably more accurate.
I guess we just need to get away from the places that everyone else that looks like us, are frequenting.
We head off and find a market around the corner. And like all good markets, you can pretty much buy anything you need. A bit of a look around, and once again, it doesn’t disappoint, before heading back outside and onto Pub Street again.
I’m actually looking forward to seeing it tonight, and I know it won’t look anything like it does now, but I’m not sure it’s going to be my favourite place.
Across the river towards the hotel, a quick pitstop, mainly for beers, at a convenience store around the corner, and then it’s back into the street the hotel is in. Which, incidentally, I love. It’s lined with trees, and must be at least 5 degrees cooler than every other street we’ve walked down.
Drop Lisa, and the beers, off, and then head back out to see what’s in the opposite direction to the main part of Siem Reap.
The street becomes very local, very quickly, and I love that. While we’d already found the Cambodians extremely friendly, as with Vietnam, as soon as you get a little away from the main tourist areas, the friendliness increases markedly. Lots of smiles and acknowledgements, along what had now become a very dirty and muddy road. Around the corner and judging by the noise, as well as the number of people about, not to mention a couple of ‘school buses’, it appears school is about to finish for the day.
Back onto one of the more main roads, and a guy on a motorbike pulls up beside me. When in Vietnam, this type of thing usually puts me on guard a little. Being approached often means the person is trying to make money out of you, either by some kind of scam type thing, or occasionally selling not quite lawful goods or services.
Initially, I wasn’t sure what he wanted, but in the end, he just wanted to chat. He was interested in where I was from, how long was I here for, and where else we were going. He was just a really friendly guy, and after all his questions, as well as a handshake, he was quickly on his way again.
It was nice, and it just seemed to confirm what I had already thought about the Cambodian people.
Onto the road that runs alongside the river, and I can see some street vendors setting up their carts on the other side. Hoping, but perhaps more praying, that some of them might have beer as well, I head over to have a look.
They’re all doing various foods, but some of them do have beer in their eskies. Picking one, I quickly find myself seated on a small plastic chair between the river and the road. While the beer wasn’t terribly cold, the location, the friendly locals, and the people watching more than made up for it.
Two Cambodia Lagers at $1 each, and then it was back over the bridge towards the hotel. Passing a pizza / burger / bar place, and now having a fairly strong desire for a slightly colder beer, I dropped in to check it out.
Draught beer at $1 each, and yep, much colder. Few more tourists than I’d like, but pretty happy none the less.
Back to hotel to get cleaned up, and back out to a restaurant just up the road that we’d been recommended; Tevy’s Place.
And it didn’t disappoint. Really good food, cold beer, and prices far kinder than what you’ll find in Pub Street. Even with the beers, it came to just $8.50.
I know where I’m now not eating again…..
Over the river again and into Pub Street for our first look at it at night. Yep, it now looks vastly different to a few hours ago.
It’s colourful, it’s vibrant, it’s crowded, and it’s noisy. Each place seems to be on a mission to make their music heard well above everyone else’s. Which doesn’t really work.
We continue walking and come across a tourist market a bit further along. Being a tourist market, I don’t have a huge amount of interest in it. And being our first night of the trip, I have very little interest in lugging trinkets around for the next 5 weeks.
Back to Pub Street; still constantly, but politely, declining the many offers of a tuk tuk; and mainly just so we can say we had a drink there, we end up at Paper Tiger. A few beers at 50 cents each, and some cheap cocktails for Lisa, while the ridiculously loud music works on impacting my hearing ability.
Eventually the music, as well as the really long day with limited sleep, conspires to end our time in Pub Street.
Back across the river, and then a quick visit to what is now ‘our’ convenience store, for supplies. With help from the very friendly girl behind the counter, I manage to pay with a mix of dollars and Riel.
I think I’m slowly getting used to it…..
Into our tree lined, but now much darker, street, and then onto the bed to fight the urge for sleep just that little bit longer.
Another beer, a catch up on Trip Advisor, and a little note taking to help reflect on what we’d done today.
Pretty much the usual way I’d finished just about every other night we’d previously spent in Vietnam.
And now, after not much more than 12 hours in Siem Reap, what do I think?
I like it. And I already love the people. Pub Street is pretty much how I thought it would be, and I’m pleased I’ve now seen it. But if I never sit in one of it’s bars again, I’ll be more than okay with that.
Again, that’s perhaps more about me, than anything. Probably age related, too. But then again, even when I was much younger, I’d never been a fan of really loud music that impacts your ability to think.
So yep, I like what I’ve seen so far. Still subconsciously comparing aspects of it to Vietnam; and really wishing I wasn’t; but being neighbours, it’s hard not to.
First look at the temples tomorrow, and that’s something that both excites and worries me. The plan is for two days, and while I expect there will be some real ‘Wow’ moments, I’m just not sure if they’re going to hold my attention for the whole time.
I’ve never been a big temple / pagoda / church fan, with just the occasional one here and there generally being more than enough.
Yep, excited, but slightly worried….