! About 15 minutes later, we pull up to a "tire store"...more like a house with a whole bunch of recycled, bald, split, tires out front. We seriously thought they were going to try to use one of them...lol...but in reality, we had a spare! So we were only stranded for half hour...amazed at the organization and ease of changing the tire...you can tell that it happens quite often! Once we had all the tires in place, we were off!...at DOUBLE speed! We now had an extra half hour to make up for! The ride was a little crazier, but we made it.
Our tuk tuk driver in Phnom Penh arranged for his friend to pick us up in Siem Riep, for no charge. Sweet! So we had a special tuk tuk, with our names on a sign (something we're always proud of), waiting for us. He took us to our hotel...no charge and we made arrangements for him to meet us the next day to discuss our Angkor Wat trip. Our hotel is nice...the Angkor Star Hotel...even has a nice pool! We spent the evening walking along the main street, scouting restaurants and snack shops.
In the morning, we were doing some research and discovered a tour company, Tara River Boat, that offered trips to the floating village and a sunset dinner cruise...so we booked! They picked us up at 3pm. We were sitting in the lobby when the hotel guy comes up to us and says our ride is here...we look out the window and see this 1970's beat up white lemans and quickly inform him that he is incorrect
. He continued to insist that it was our ride...but there was no way! We were being picked up in an air conditioned mini bus...that's what the website said. So we went outside to have a closer look. Sure enough, you could just make out the letters on the side of the car...which were wearing off with age and rust...Tara River Boat! OMG...what have we done this time. Our driver explains to us that we are the only guests booked for the evening....great...what are we getting ourselves into??!! I was almost ready to back out..but thought...hmm..maybe that's a good thing...just the two of us...like a private tour!
The drive was interesting...seeing all the houses and stores that are built on stilts...probably 5 metres high; however, our guide then continued to inform us that it is dry season...so this part of the "floating village" isn't floating right now...haha...just our luck! It was dried up, so the floating houses were on the ground. We drove a little further until we reached what was suppose to be a jetty...but looked more like a man made canal in the middle of a construction zone. There were bulldozers digging out the middle so that the boats could actually float down the canal! Apparently China has built a dam on the river, so less water is flowing down to Cambodia now. I'm not impressed and not looking forward to our dinner. We get on a boat that is falling apart...with chairs sitting in the middle...not boat chairs...dinner table chairs...with cushions half on them...lol. I'm re-reading the website in my head...I'm SURE it said a nice, private boat with life jackets for each tourist. No life jackets on the boat...none...and of course...it's a 15 year old and a 7 year old driving it! Sigh...why do we do this to ourselves??!! haha. We drove for about 10 minutes down this man made canal...and I'm thinking this is it...wow...unbelievable...when we approach the actual lake
! Amazing! This lake is home to 4000 people...all living in floating houses! The school is floating, the restaurants are floating...hair salons, welding shops, and even floating satellite dishes! It was amazing. There were churches, and even the homes had pets! Not sure how good that is for the dogs, as they only have a couple feet to walk before they end up swimming! haha...but the cats would be sitting on the roof....the children all wave at you and yell hello...amazing. We toured through the "village" and then ended up on a large boat (which wasn't floating since the water was so low) for dinner. It was only us and the staff, so we choose our own meals. Fantastic! This has turned out pretty good after all. It's all you can drink...for free...but we kind of lost out since Jay only had 2 beer and I'm not a big drinker! We enjoyed the sunset as we waited for our meal. Finally, starved, and our meal comes! MMM....it's pretty good. We dish out some of each plate...all saucy dishes of course. I went to bite into a green pepper when I looked down and saw an ant on it...crap...must have crawled into my plate. So I put the piece aside...have a couple more bites...then I look again...what the heck??!! That's NOT pepper!!! UGH>..the dishes, all three of them and our rice...were COVERED in dead ants! It's like they sprinkled them on for flavor. We turned over more veggies, and every time we moved something, there were more dead ants! There were more than 15 ants in one dish! How does that even happen??!! So I tell the guy that I want some money back for the meal...but he had already given the money to the "company" at the jetty. He was really nice and continued to tell us how his boss, an Australian guy named Peter, refused to buy them ant spray. They'd been asking for some time now, but he wouldn't buy it for them...he also wouldn't buy them spoons to serve with the coffee. We continued to talk about his life and how tourism improves the lives of Cambodians and creates jobs for them
. It was a really interesting conversation. I asked the guide for the owner's e-mail address...as I had a few words for this Peter guy. The staff begged us...I mean begged us...to write to Peter and tell him how badly they need ant spray...as they said it would make things so much easier for them! We felt so bad that this foreigner was treating his staff in this manner. I got back to the hotel and wrote quite an opinionated e-mail to Peter....not expecting any reply from the way the staff made him sound! However, he replied quickly and promptly...he was very kind and considerate in his reply. He offered us $10 back for the cost of the food (which was a joke considering we paid $27 each), I was impressed with his reply and he stated that he was not made aware of the ant issue on the boat and that his manager goes out there every second day and hasn't advised him of any issues. He also stated that he would take a trip himself to check on the status of the boat and to make sure everything is in order. He did leave the money at the hotel for us. So, as for our opinion on Tara River Boat tours....we don't really have one. It was great, the tour guide was fantastic!, but the dinner...was crap...absolute crap. The thought that the staff actually served that food to us (and giggled when we pointed out the ants) is scary....to me, it fore tells the cleanliness and care put into the food that you are eating. Would we do it again?...not with dinner included!
Our awesome tuk tuk driver surprised us at the bus stop. We had just boarded the bus when we saw him waving at us through the window! During our day trip with him, he had stopped and paid a photographer to take our photo with him...and he wanted to give us a copy of those photos! He paid with his own money and even bought us a copy...that says a lot for the guy...considering how tough it is to make a buck in Cambodia!...so we gave him a dollar for the photos...made us feel better. The Mekong Express cost $11 each for a 6 hour ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Riep. Driving along...maintaining a good speed...then BANG!! What the heck was that??!!! We blew a tire! And of course, we were sitting right over top of the tire, so we got a little 4D action...sound and feeling...lol. So, here we are...all you can see for miles is red, dusty, roads...and they say...when in Cambodia, don't go off the beaten track because of all the land mines! The driver got out, they surveyed the situation, got back in, and kept driving!! We couldn't believe it. We were going slow, but still driving