The tourist trail - Siem Reap
Trip Start Oct 18, 2006
117Trip End ??? ??, 2008
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I paid a friendly looking moto driver his one US dollar to drive me into town, to a "cheap" guesthouse. We chatted nonchalantly about life in Cambodia as we whizzed and weaved through standard pandemonium-dancing-style traffic, his head turned towards me most of the time
Siem Reap is a city. Those who know me are aware of just how much of a city person I am, so I really can't do it any sort of justice. The markets here are large, unventilated, and sweltering - some of the smells nearly made me throw up, and I generally have an iron stomach, so I can attest that it was fairly bad. There are quite nice areas of the city, especially the river walking, and there are plenty of expensive hotels and western delights for those tourists who don't try to live their entire vacation in small, boxy, stuffy guesthouse rooms. There is still a lot of French influence - many French touristes, and a profundity of French text and architecture about town, very much like some places in Lao
At this point, I have given ye olde noodle carte a pass in favour of cleaner, more expensive restaurants in light of the trauma faced by my bowels almost a month ago in Lao. One bad meal will change your guts for life. I have heard it said before that some coliforms can permanently change one's digestion, and it has been true with me and mine insofar. I am slightly ashamed of my lack of 'cultural engagement' in this matter, but I don't really feel like spending more time in my sick bed than in town checking things out. It's certainly misleading of me to scare people away from noodle carts and street food however; it was at a local's home that I got sick, and I have never had a problem with street vendors - I generally can stomach these things, but I got just a bit of a kick, and am still reeling from it. I would really hate to take away the opportunity from other travellers by telling them to stay away from street food. At any rate, it's good, just not for me right now.
Food in town is really good, restaurants really cater to the tourists, and there are a number of western food places - 'happy' pizza, Italian, Khmer fusion, French, and so on down the line. As usual, the fruit shakes flow like wine, and I am hugely indulgent.
At this point, I am wondering about the harmfulness of using a different country's currency instead of one's own for daily transactions. American dollars are quite regularly the standard currency here, and Khmer Riel is usually given as change. I could even use Thai Baht quite regularly for daily business. So, isn't this harmful to the economy of Cambodia? Doesn't it erode the national identity? It seems quite counterintuitive to me that the ATMs spit out American, and one gets a funny look if one uses Riel for any large transaction.
Tomorrow - on to the true tourist attraction, despite my best efforts to check out 'lesser' Siem Reap.