Siem Reap and Tonlé Sap

January 12, 2009 - 7:53 pm 2 Comments

In the morning, we settled the bill with Paul and talked photography before getting a list to the airport. After arriving at the airport, I was relieved to find that the Vietnam Airlines flight does in fact exist.

Doug Says Goodbye to Laos

Take-off on the Fokker 70 was quick and smooth. The stewardess announced that we would be flying at a cruising altitude of 70,000 feet. What is this, a U-2 spy plane?

In the air, we were given a “Refreshing Tissue,” a cold, wet napkin wrapped in single-serving plastic packaging that I guess you’re supposed to use to wipe your face and hands. We’ve had them on all of our Southeast Asian flights. For lunch, we were served a sandwich filled with what I found to be extremely sketchy meat. I don’t know what part of what animal it came from, but it was cut like salami, and each slice was perfectly edged with a ring of fat. I peeled the fat off each piece before eating the sandwich.

The haze cleared as we descended, revealing the flat, brown, watery landscape of Cambodia below. After we landed, the captain come over the speakers.

“Laze and tulman, welcome to Cambodia.”

Doug prepared our tourist visas online, so immigration was a breeze. A tuk-tuk driver was sent from Bousavy, our reserved guest house, to pick us up. He was there holding a sign with my name on it (Doug loves that). His name was Voy, and he was all smiles.

We hopped into Voy’s luxury tuk-tuk and headed into town. The sun was warm and the air was fresh on the way to the guest house. Felt good to be done with the chilliness in Laos. As we left the airport, we passed some magnificently decorated hotels.

Orientation in this town is pretty easy. The airport is west side of town, and there’s a main road into the city center. Our guest house is on that just off that road. A road north from the city center runs to Angkor, and a road south takes you to Tonlé Sap (TAWN-lay SAP), a huge lake in the middle of Cambodia.

Bousavy Guest House

At the guest house, Voy checked us in, got us each a milkshake, gave us maps, and helped us lay out our itinerary for our stay in Siem Reap. Very helpful fellow.

The room at Bousavy is pretty good. Doug and I have separate beds (thank goodness). The shower is the same as all the others we’ve had, but the wooden bathroom door has buckled and split, giving the other guy a peep show if he sits in just the right spot (the left side of Doug’s bed).

Had quick traditional Khmer lunch. Despite the hair in my meal (and only the third hair I’ve found in my food on this trip), the green amok fish in a banana leaf was quite delicious.

On request, Voy drove us into town to visit the outdoor markets. The roads are noisy, dusty, just as chaotic as Bangkok. Scooters and tuk-tuks and cars and trucks and vans fight for lane space. Intersections are a free-for-all. I read that lots of people are injured or killed on the roads, but I’m surprised it’s not more. Craziness. Stray chickens and dogs everywhere.

Alley in Siem Reap

Busy Streets of Siem Reap

Buddhas for Sale

The market was filled with table after table of all the crap souvenirs you’d expect to find. All Cambodian men and most women wear long pants. Like Laos, the majority of tourists here are English and Australian. Mostly families and couples.

Then down to Tonlé Sap, where villages of families live in floating houses on the water. The drive through Siem Reap took us out of the city and through bright green rice fields.

Lonely Tree on Highway 63

Voy and Doug in the Tuk-Tuk

Our boat was one of many waiting to take tourists to the floating villages. Doug and I had a boat to ourselves.

Boatman on Tonle? Sap

The floating village was our first look at traditional life that seemed at least a little bit authentic. Photographically, it was fantastic. Kids waved and giggled as we cruised by, others in houses and boats looked at us in curiosity. The people who live in these villages must see a ton of tourists going through there, but they don’t seem jaded or bored with it. And they weren’t hawking souvenirs. There was a natural beauty to that place.

House on Tonle? Sap

Cigarette Guy

Boy at Tonle? Sap

House on Tonle? Sap

Happy Boy at Tonle? Sap

Fisherman at Tonle? Sap

Mouth Full of Food

After the village, we headed out to the open sea to watch the sun set on the water. The ghostly sun disappeared in the haze before it ever touched the horizon.

Boats at Sunset

Sunset Boat Ride

Golden Waters of Tonle? Sap

Glowing Sun Over Tonle? Sap

Boy on the Boat

Family at Tonle? Sap

The Boat Ride Home

Voy seems like a pretty stand-up guy, and his prices seem in line with what people have been paying for similar services on the Internet. He’s offered to be our personal driver for our stay in Siem Reap, and I think we’ll take him up on his offer.

We picked up the Cambodian basics today:

hello : soo is sidai
thank you very much : aw kuhn chih doan
very delicious : chingon na

Off to Pub Street, seemingly the center of nightlife in Siem Reap. Tomorrow, we’re up very early for a day in Angkor.

    2 Responses to “Siem Reap and Tonlé Sap”

  1. Sissi Says:

    If you ever come back to la, I will show you a safer version of that Vietnamese style sandwich without the sketchy meat. It’ll have some fat in it, but it will be a bit more edible.

  2. Jeff Says:

    Sounds great… Although it will probably take a lot for me to come back to LA. 🙂

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