This Is Angkor Wat, Not Angkor What?
Trip Start Dec 30, 2011
25Trip End Apr 27, 2012
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Surprisingly, departing Bangkok wasn't as bad as I anticipated, given the traffic there is generally chaotic most of the time. Once on the motorway out of the city, a few group members were pretty much in sleep mode. Passed out is probably a more accurate description! The effects of too many rum buckets and very little sleep the night before!
I couldn't tell you what highway our driver took for Siem Reap but it sure felt like we were making good time to the Cambodia border. Roughly, it felt like the same amount of time it would take me to cross from the southern neighborhoods of our city, through the construction detour zones, to the northern or western neighborhoods!
We stopped just before the border for refreshments (which provided an opportunity to use up the rest of our Thai currency) and for our group leader Lee and his driver to get everyone's visa applications in order before heading to the Cambodian ambassador's residence for our actual visa's
Upon arriving at the Thai border town of Aranya Pratet, we exited our minivan and only took our most valuable items because all our luggage and bags would be taken from the minivan and put onto a makeshift wagon which one guy would pull from the Thai side, through the border zone to the Cambodia immigration office where it would be loaded onto another bus (but not our minivan) and taken a few hundred meters where it would be taken from that bus and then reloaded back on our minivan. It didn't seem logical but as long as someone knew the process, I guess it really didn't matter. In this case, our leader Lee! I couldn't imagine going through the border without a guide.
Apparently, crossing at this point from Thailand to Cambodia is very popular among Thais for it's gambling attraction since gambling is popular but illegal in Thailand. The strip of casinos and hotels, known as the "special zone", between the Cambodian and Thai passport control counters enables Thais to gamble in Cambodia without needing to go through Cambodian immigration and also prevents Cambodians from gambling. The popularity of the Special Zone was observable as we made our way from one border checkpoint to the other
Once getting through immigration, it was a matter of getting back on the minivan for our 150km drive to Siem Reap! Our group leader, Lee, makes his home in Siem Reap when he's not out on tour guiding tourists around his country. So, he offered loads of history about the region. Apparently, "Siem Reap" means "Thais defeated" owing to the number of times Angkor fell to Thai kingdoms but was subsequently retaken by Khmers.
Our group arrived in Siem Reap late in the afternoon. The French Colonial architecture was apparent along the streets as we entered the town. Check-in at the Freedom Hotel was smooth as everyone had pre-assigned rooms. The hotel had a pool which, after a long, hot day of travel, looked very appealing! A few of us took advantage to cool off and freshen up!
Before diner, Lee arranged Tuk Tuk's for the group to visit the Sunday night market. Tonight's market was very popular among the locals! The crowds of people was evident of that
Our Tuk Tuk took us to the fair grounds were most of us couldn't resist the roller coaster ride. Unfortunately, the roller coaster seemed to be constructed for the stature of local Cambodians. So, for us Westerners, sitting in the roller coaster felt like a sardines being placed in a tin can and the ride felt like the tin can being swung around like a tether ball! Leaning into the corners and periodically ducking to avoid decapitation from portions of the roller coaster structure. I thought a couple loops would've been fine. But then, the ride operator let us go around a third time, then a fourth, fifth, sixth. I lost count! I'm sure he had good intentions and he thought he was adding to our enjoyment and excitement. In the end, I did feel enjoyment and excitement.......when the ride ended! Finally! Upon exiting the roller coaster car, I could've walked directly to a massage therapist not to mention a physiotherapist and perhaps a chiropractor!
After our group re-grouped, our Tuk Tuk's were waiting for us! Then it was off to Pub Street where Lee had suggested a restaurant called The Temple Club! It seemed appropriate, given we're in Siem Reap and the gateway to 632 Temples or so! Why not eat at one too? The menu seemed to have a large selection but we opted for some local Cambodian dishes!
The food was Great! And part of the reason why Lee brought us here......
Tomorrow, we tackle the Temples around Angkor Wat!
Li Hoy (Goodbye), Rick & Elsie!