Not In My Wildest Dreams: Arriving in Siem Reap

I’m writing this from my suite – my absolutely palatial suite – in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I’m in Cambodia. Still really trying to wrap my brain around that. So let me start out with this morning in Hong Kong. Very early this morning in Hong Kong. Back when I still had some cash.
My flight left at 8:00, but the earliest shuttles weren’t going to get me to the airport on time, so I had to take a taxi all the way to the airport. I woke up at 04:45. That was not my favorite part of the day.
The taxi cost about $350 HK or roughly $50 US give or take. Most places in Hong Kong take credit cards, but transportation is strictly cash or Octopus card, and the Octopus card is cash-only. So I’d spent a lot more cash in HK than I’d intended. That would be all right, but Cambodia is almost exclusively a cash culture. I’ll probably have to get some cash out tomorrow. But that’s not really what you want to read about.
This is what you want to read about. The flight to Cambodia from HK was short – two hours. Cambodia is on hour behind Hong Kong, so I got here an hour after I left. I took a taxi from the airport – And I ended up hiring my driver as my tour guide for the whole day. His brother drives a tuk-tuk and he will be my guide and driver for the next two days.
Mr. E. Took me to my hotel – btw, the Best Western Suites and Sweet Resort – holy cow! It’s just a little outside of downtown, but so peaceful. I have my own villa with my own private swimming pool. Seriously. I have a private pool. It’s very relaxing.
There is a sign right in the bathroom saying that the water isn’t potable just in case you didn’t know that already. The hotel provides bottled water. Safe drinking water is definitely a problem here, and not just for tourists. When we visited the floating village (more on that in a bit) I saw that there was a USAID drinking water project for the people there. But despite the drinking water, the room is heavenly.

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(The bedroom of my suite)
My room is huge and much cheaper than in HK. Space isn’t at a premium here. Drinking water, maybe. Bet there’s plenty of space. I didn’t get much time in my room today, though. I dropped off my bags, and Mr. E. And I headed out first to the Lady Temple (so-called because people thought that the work was too fine to have been completed by men). It was exquisite.
The temples I saw today are no longer in regular use, so it wasn’t strictly necessary to be in ling sleeves and ling pants or skirt, but it will be tomorrow when I go to Angkor.
After the Lady Temple, he took me to the temple where Tomb Raider was filmed. I hired a policeman as my guide there, and he took me all over. This temple was actually a combination palace and temple. It’s about 1,000 years old and was Hindu. My guide pointed out the carvings of many particular gods including Vishnu and Shiva. There are trees growing on and through the rock. It’d truly spectacular and I can understand why someone would want to film a movie there. There are wooden walkways, and they’re a big help in getting around. They were built by the film crew.
In between the two temples we’d stopped for lunch at a roadside place that Mr. E knew. It was pretty good. Sorry foodies, I didn’t take any pictures of my lunch.
We then headed for Tonle Sap, the biggest lake in Southeast Asia, where the floating villages are. We hired a boat that took us through the village. People live on floating houses. They’re built on pontoons or boats and they all live side by side on the water. Truly, people never have to leave the lake if they don’t want to. There’s a school on the water, a clinic, police, government office, a church, a Buddhist monastery, a spirit house, and several merchants. The villagers are mostly fishermen. We saw one couple returning home with threat hand-made shrimp trap.
Then it was time to go from the sublime to the ridiculous. Mr. E had suggested I go to see the Angkor Smile show. This included a dinner buffet (meh – it’s a dinner buffet). The show itself, well, um, you can skip it. I will say that the traditional dancing was lovely. The overall show itself was Cambodia meets Las Vegas. And not in a good way. More like in a back alley for a quickie and they have an awkward love child. But it was certainly a spectacle. Oh my.
I’m exhausted. Tomorrow, Mr. E’s brother is coming for me in his tuk-tuk at 9:00. I’ve already discovered that I don’t care for Cambodian public toilets, but the people are so very friendly and polite. How can I not like it?
More adventure awaits, but for now, that’s my mite.

Update: one problem with trying to do this in real time is that I’m so wiped out at the end of the day and I forget things. I forgot to mention the fish farm at the floating village. They were raising catfish and crocodiles. Crocodiles are an important business in Siem Reap. They use the meat and the leather is sought after by tourists. There are crocodile leather shops all over downtown Siem Reap where a body can get handbags and all sorts of things.
The crocodiles in this little crocodile farm looked perfectly content. They were fat and big – one was clearly very old, and had water, sun, and shade. These folks are enterprising, because everything is on pontoons. There is some industry, even among people who, at first glance, might seem to have nothing. They even have a small museum display that includes information on the fishing industry and endangered fish as well.
OK, that’s an extra mite.

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