Time for Siem Reap, and oh boy – we were excited. We jumped into a tuk-tuk with Mao (who would become our newly-found pal) who dropped us at our hostel – Garden Village Guest House – we thought we had signed up for a 25 bed dorm, but we were luxuriously given a 3 bed room to ourselves. Not surprisingly, it was inconveniently located on the top floor. We headed down the road for lunch – we found a little place where fried vegetarian noodles were only $1 and positively delicious. That evening Mao came and picked us up from our hostel, where we went and bought our temple passes (from 5pm they can be pre-purchased for the next day, with early access allowed to watch the sunset the night before the designated day) before heading out to Phnom Bakheng to watch the sunset. It was a bit of a climb, and the requirement of wearing cardigans and long pants meant Summer and I both worked up a bit of a sweat. Sure it was beautiful, but the extraordinary amount of tourists meant it verged on unenjoyable. We wanted to maximise our time up there after the sun went down so we headed over to where the elephants were tied up, as riding them was something James still hadn’t had the opportunity to do. Unfortunately these elephant rides cost $20 for a one way trip. Regardless, James befriended an elephant by the name of Sambo, and as we were about to leave, three Asians arrived with a spare ticket –and James managed to score himself a free ride down. Summer and I left him to begin making our own way down; a ranger who was clearing the grounds spotted us and accompanied us down. He took a steep short cut down the side of the hill – it was now dark, and the ferocious pace set meant Summer and I had to concentrate so hard just to avoid rolling an ankle or worse. Mao was waiting for us at the bottom, where he then drove us back into town and dropped us Pub Street. The streets and shops were alive with colourful lights, excited people and delicious smells. We wandered around for a while before settling on somewhere for dinner. Realising my time in South East Asia was coming to an end, I was taking every opportunity to have spring rolls and/or rice paper rolls. Needless to say, this attitude resulted in a lot of rolls being consumed over these few days.
An early start for ANGKOR WAT. One day, three day or five day passes are available. We decided we’d get a one day pass and just make a huge day of it (to save on both money and time). We arrived bright and early and grabbed spots for ourselves next to the pond – although we seriously regretted not bathing in insect repellent first. We had brought our own breakfasts to avoid the expense of the food on site. The ironic thing about the morning was that the sun never actually rose; it just got light. After a while we decided it was time to move on and we started to explore our surroundings. The temple was out of this world. The detail on the walls was something else; the place was so incredibly old, yet so beautifully preserved. We tried to take a jumping photo, but the guy trying to capture it failed miserably. We spent a few hours wandering around before locating Mao, who then took us to Angkor Thom – basically a village of temples. Our first stop was my favourite – a temple called Bayon, which consisted predominantly of huge faces carved into the rock before playing a forced game of “Lava” (hopping from rock to rock in order to avoid the heated ‘lava’ on the ground). We saw a lot of temples that day; lots of walking, stair-climbing and sandwich breaks. The Elephant Terraces were definitely a personal highlight. The last stop of the day was Ta Prohm, also known as the Tomb Raider Temple: Lara Croft, watch out. Overgrown with trees and fighting off jungle, this temple was definitely the most fun to explore. After purchasing some artwork we were templed out, so Mao drove us home and helped us move to Downtown Siem Reap – a notorious party hostel. That night at dinner Summer rapidly deteriorated into a state of sickness and had to leave, so James and I decided we’d go to the circus – our spontaneity meant we had to move fast. Unfortunately, two tuk-tuk rides later we learned it was sold out – instead we went and had blind massages; from people that weren’t even blind.
We awoke to James’ day of birth – his day to be spoilt. We considered doing a day trip to Kompong Pluk (a village on stilts) but were advised it wasn’t worth it at this time of year as the water was too low). We had a luxurious breakfast next to the pool before we went shopping and explored the town a little further, before having our feet nibbled by fish and heading home to pack for our early morning bus. Once organised we headed out to partake in the “Official Siem Reap Pub Crawl”. It started at X Bar, and to our surprise (and delight) it was run by Kiwis. After putting on our pub crawl singlets we moved around a number of bars throughout the night. From flip-cup to beer pong, sex move competitions and water fights it was a great night. James got extremely drunk, and we recorded a hilarious video of him eating a lime and getting more “vitamin C than vitamin D”. The last stop of the night was Temple Bar – I didn’t last too long, it was just too busy. Summer came home a bit later; and in the early hours of the morning in crept James – approximately 30 minutes before we had to get up for our Bangkok bus.
Feeling awfully dusty, James left behind both his wallet and his iPod. We were picked up by a bus and dropped off to climb aboard another bus. We arrived at Poipet a lot later than anticipated, only to be warned there was at least a two hour wait ahead of us through customs. One queue led to another and next thing we knew three hours had passed and we still weren’t out the other side. I don’t know how James and Summer survived, given their hangovers. Finally we were through, and were ushered to a tuk-tuk to get a ride to the bus station where we then had to wait for a minivan. We then officially began the worst journey of the trip. Summer and I were crammed so tightly into the front seat, where Summer could control the air conditioning dials with her knees. The driver was relentlessly ruthless on the road – paid no heed to the speed limit, overtaking etiquette – in fact, to any road rule whatsoever. Somewhat miraculously, we made it to Bangkok alive where we stayed at a hostel called Link Corner Hostel with Abby and her boyfriend, and Alex (other James’ girlfriend). It’s main plus was that they offered bag storage (and its proximity to airport access) – perfect for mine and Summer’s venture to Phi Phi the next day.