9 September – Siem Reap
Wake up around 7.30am. I actually managed to sleep through the night! And there were no more mad rushes to the bathroom.
But now, how do I feel?
While not great, I’m actually feeling kind of okay. A little fragile, perhaps, but not too bad.
Certainly better than I thought I might be.
Taking a chance, we head outside and down towards our banh mi lady. Once again politely declining the offer of a tuk tuk, from a guy that has probably now asked us twenty times.
Reaching our breakfast lady, who is back after her day off, Lisa orders her banh mi. Fatty pork in a watery type gravy has about as much appeal to me this morning, as being asked to visit Lisa’s parents.
But I still decide to have one. Just minus the pork, the gravy, and the vegetables.
Yep, just a plain bread roll.
And cost of a plain roll?
500 Riel. About 12 cents.
Which should make the total 4500 Riel, which is $1.12.
But today it’s 2500 Riel. 62 cents.
Overcharged the other day?
Takeaway price versus ‘eat in’ price?
Who knows. But it does make you think, and it does annoy somewhat if it’s the second option.
We walk down to the river, past a banh mi man who has several pig snouts behind the glass of his cart; which doesn’t really help with the way I’m feeling this morning.
We find a small wall that we can sit on in the shade, which we really need as it’s already very warm in the sun.
Lisa enjoys her banh mi, while I force bread into my mouth, and then force myself to swallow it.
It stays down, but I just feel really ordinary.
‘Breakfast’ done, we head over the river for a bit of aimless walking. Past Pub street, and down Sok San road where our Mexican restaurant / bar is. It doesn’t seem to matter where we walk, we seem to be constantly in the sun, and it’s already just so hot.
We head back towards Pub Street, and walking past the market, we decide to try and get some respite in there.
The first section we walk into is the wet area, which, because of how I’m feeling, isn’t ideal.
Normally the sights and smells of a wet market hold significant appeal to me. But not today.
A rather hasty retreat to other more stomach friendly zones, and while we no longer have the heat from the sun to deal with, the whole market area is still hot. As well as really stuffy.
Realising my good idea wasn’t actually a good idea at all, we head back outside.
Round the corner and we find a small bar / restaurant. They do juice, and that seems like a much better idea than my previous one.
A couple of pineapple ones, of course, and we sit, sip, people watch, and just generally try to cool down. It was certainly much needed.
And the price?
75 cents each.
In a glass. In a restaurant. With a straw. Not far from Pub Street.
Did I mention we paid $2 each for juice yesterday????
Juice done, suitably cooled down, but still feeling average, we begin our walk back to the hotel, while keeping an eye out for a laundry place. There’s one opposite Jungle Bar but it’s not open yet.
Head up to our room and they’re still cleaning it, so go back downstairs and sit in the reception area, and almost fall asleep while reading a Siem Reap tourist book.
I don’t seem to be getting any better…..
Eventually the room is ready so we head up and waste a bit more of the day by laying on the bed. This is really starting to annoy me.
At around 12.30pm, and really sick of doing nothing, we make a move. Dirty, sweat soaked clothes bagged up, and we return to the laundry place we passed earlier, in the hope that they are now open.
They are, and with a little hand gesturing; our Khmer is significantly lacking; we get our point across. $1 per kilo and ready tomorrow, apparently. But it’s not weighed, and we’re not given a docket.
“How will they know it’s ours?”, Lisa asks rather worryingly.
“I think they’ll work it out when we come back”, I reply, suspecting, and perhaps more knowing, that we’ll likely be the only Westerners to use their service today.
Chore out of the way, it’s time for lunch. Which concerns me somewhat.
Because it’s only a few doors down, and because it was good the other night, we decide on Tevy’s again.
Noodles with vegetables and egg, and fried rice with vegetables, beef, and egg. All pretty ‘safe’, but still very nervous when it arrives on the table.
And it seemed I wasn’t the only one nervous, with a European couple spending considerable time picking out all the finely chopped herbs that had been added to their meal.
I’m guessing their drinks were ordered sans ice, too….
We get talking to the Irish guy, who I think may be the husband / partner of Tevy??, and we ask him what a ballpark figure would be for a tuk tuk to APOPO. Assuming, but probably more hoping, that the food goes down and stays down, we could perhaps head out there this afternoon seeing as it shouldn’t be too strenuous.
He’s not sure, but he says he will find out, and he disappears out the front.
Lunch is good, and it does actually go down okay. Still don’t feel great, but at least there is now something in my stomach.
Our Irish friend finally returns and tells us all the tuk tuk drivers want $25, but we should be able to get it for $20.
While I don’t know exactly where APOPO is, my recollection from looking at a map a few days ago is that it isn’t that far away. And $20 – $25 just doesn’t seem right.
Lunch done, still feeling ordinary, and now rather confused by the apparent tuk tuk price, we head outside.
“So what do you want to do?”, Lisa asks.
“Nothing”, is my fairly curt reply, followed by, “Let’s just go back to the hotel and write the rest of the day off”.
Yep, the defeatist attitude has well and truly kicked in. I’m so frustrated, and Siem Reap is starting to annoy me. And we still have two more nights, which worries me somewhat.
I’m just not sure how we’re going to fill our time, and with the way I’m feeling, I can’t even be bothered doing anything about that.
We cross over the road and enter our shaded street. At least it’s that little bit cooler here.
As we get closer to the tuk tuk driver that continually offers us his services, he approaches us, which is a little unusual. Normally he just yells out from the comfort of his tuk tuk.
“What would you like to do?”, he asks. “Do you want to go?”
Aaaargh, this is the guy our Irish mate has been speaking to! And that means he’s been sitting out here pinning his hopes on us taking up his offer.
Not only do I feel bad health wise, I now feel bad if we decline his offer.
Lisa begins to say no, as she explains that I’m not feeling well. I interject. I just can’t knock him back. I can’t take a job away from him that I suspect he’s really been hoping was coming his way.
“$20?”, I ask.
“Yes, $20”, he replies, his face lighting up somewhat as he does.
Lisa is worried about me, which is nice, but I would have regrets for a long time if we don’t do this.
We’re quickly into the tuk tuk; turns out his name is Kheng; and on our way. Out in the same general direction as the temples and the ticket office, which is good, as that is roughly where I believe APOPO is.
We turn right onto the road that the ticket office is on, along with the night market, which is just starting to be set up. It’s huge!
We keep driving, and a thought enters my mind that we are not going to APOPO. I’m not exactly sure where we are going, but I do have a vague recollection of a landmine museum, out near another temple, quite a distance from Siem Reap.
“Do you think this is the right way?”, Lisa asks.
“Not for APOPO, I don’t believe”, but not totally sure.
“Should we say something?”, she asks, slightly concerned.
“Nah, let’s just see where we end up”, I reply, actually kind of looking forward to seeing how this all pans out.
Now well and truly out in the countryside, and it’s really nice to see it. Lush green rice fields, with some harvesting being done, cows and water buffalo on the side of the road, and dogs. Lots of dogs.
One even deciding to walk out onto the road as we approached. Fortunately our driver seems to speak dog, as when he yells out “woof woof”, the dog made a hasty retreat.
Was rather funny.
On we go, just sitting back and enjoying the scenery. It reminds me a fair bit of Vietnam’s countryside; a bit Mekong Delta-ish; and I really like it.
We get a few spots of rain, but it doesn’t last long. The rather good made road then becomes a rather bad unmade road, with dust being just one of the problems.
The other was the pot holes.
Ridiculously so. It made me think of that car trip we did from Ninh Binh to Mai Chau in 2014.
There was also another thing that reminded me of Vietnam. Some of the driving.
Seriously dangerous. At different times, mostly from people driving big four wheel drive type vehicles, an absolute and total disregard for anyone else’s safety on the road.
Some of it was just disgraceful.
Almost an hour after we left Siem Reap, we arrive at the Cambodia Landmine Museum. Not APOPO, but there are some similarities, I guess.
Entrance fee of $5 each paid, and we head in.
It’s interesting, and a real eye opener. But it’s also very sobering. It makes you wonder how humans can come up with such devices.
A young guy, who I’m pretty sure is the son of the museum founder, approaches us. He says he’s still learning about how to guide people around the museum, but he would still like to show and explain to us what he can. While he may still be learning, he was already very knowledgeable.
He was also just a really nice kid and we ended up spending a fair chunk of our time there with him. He certainly added to the experience, and I think we got far more out of it because of him.
A little more informed than we had been an hour ago, we headed back to find Kheng, and were soon on our way back to Siem Reap.
And yep, back along that bumpy and dusty road.
Once again, so bad in spots that it was actually funny.
The realisation then dawned on me; isn’t it amazing how things can pan out.
A few hours ago, feeling like crap, I was prepared to give up on the day. Spit the dummy, so to speak.
Due to a conversation that neither of us knew about, a lost in translation one as it turned out, here we were now having just seen a place that we would never have visited, enjoying scenery that we otherwise would not have seen, and dealing with an appalling road that was actually making us laugh.
And, I might add, now feeling much better than I had been earlier.
Yep, the day had certainly turned out far different than it had started.
With the sky looking ominous, and with a few spots of rain falling, Kheng quickly pulled over and rolled down the screens on the tuk tuk.
It was good timing.
Fortunately it didn’t last too long, and we once again made a short stop to roll up the screens.
While Kheng was doing that, he mentions that he caught a snake this morning in a trap that he had set overnight. It’s still in the trap at home, and while he is prepared to kill it for food, he doesn’t really want to.
And now, because of this job, he doesn’t have to. He actually says he will let it go when he gets home tonight, and he seems very happy about that.
He describes it as a kind of karma / ‘thing from the Gods’, type of thing.
It takes a moment for what he’s just told us to sink in. And when it does, it completely blows me away. It’s like a sliding doors moment, and I think about all the things that have occurred over the last 18 – 24 hours for the three of us to now be at this point.
It just astounds me, and again, it really is amazing how things work out.
Eventually back on Street 60, life feeling just that little bit nicer and brighter, and we reach the night market. It’s now set up, and yep, it’s huge. It seems to go on forever, and the range of stuff that is available is amazing.
Back into Siem Reap about 5.00pm and we say our goodbyes to Kheng. Leaving Lisa at the hotel, I head off to try that beer thing.
Being the closest, Jungle Bar is the choice. And surprisingly, especially after this morning, the beers actually go down alright. Life is once again back on track, and while my preferred beer place is a bit more local than Jungle Bar, I actually don’t mind it for a change. Although it is patronised by a few more people that look like me, than I’d normally like. It also seems to be a bit of an expat hangout.
Oh well, at least the beer is cold.
Beers and life contemplating done, I head back for a shower. Soon out again, and back over the river to try and make a decision on which food cart.
Grilled chicken and pork with rice and cucumber ends up being the choice. And while it all looks very simple, the chicken is quite possibly the best I’ve ever tasted.
I’m not sure what the Cambodians do to their grilled chicken, but after lunch the other day, and now dinner tonight, I like it.
Which is pretty high praise from an eat to live person….
We get chatting to a young German girl who is currently up to week seven of a ten week trip through Thailand, Cambodia and eventually Bali. She’s travelling solo while she’s on a break from university and it was nice to hear about what she’d been up to. Some people are just really easy to talk to.
We then talk to the young guy who runs the food cart. He’s very passionate about his country, but he also has concerns about some of the things that are happening to it. Namely foreign investment from a rather large country to the North.
He’s a little guarded with what he says, but I get the feeling he’s quite frustrated and angry about some of the issues. He seems to be doing alright for himself, but I suspect he has to work pretty hard at it. Probably like most Cambodians.
Again, just a really nice person, and it makes me realise that we’re yet to meet a Cambodian that hasn’t been nice.
Dinner and two beers ($5.50) paid for with a $10 note, and I receive my change of $4.50 in Riel, which is 18 000. Hmmm, interesting, that’s the first time that’s happened.
Off to our Mexican restaurant in the drizzle, for our usual beers and cocktails. As well as some Khmer language lessons, which, while really enjoyable, don’t seem to be sticking to the part of my brain I need them to.
Drinking beer while learning may not be the greatest of ideas. Maybe that’s why they don’t let you drink at school….
Eventually it’s time to head ‘home’, stopping at ‘our’ convenience store along the way. The girls there really do feel like friends, now.
Onto the bed for the usual, as well as trying to come up with a plan for our last full day in Siem Reap. Tentative idea is to hire some bikes, and see if we can avenge today’s disastrous attempt at visiting APOPO.
That very same disastrous attempt that ended up being a wonderful afternoon, with a memory or two that won’t be forgotten for a very long time.
Yep, amazing how things work out….