Siem Reap, Cambodia- Day 5, Dec. 27 – Ta Prohm

Our flight from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia was at 8am.  We needed to meet our ride to the airport at 5am, so we needed to wake up at 4am.  Unfortunately, my cell phone didn’t auto adjust to Thailand time when we arrived in Thailand and Bangkok is one hour earlier than Beijing.  We went down to the front desk of the hotel and checked out only to have the clerk inform us that is was 4am and our shuttle wouldn’t arrive for another hour.  She was nice and let us return to our room where we spent the next 50 minutes playing/reading on devices.

The flight between Bangkok and Siem Reap is one hour.  B spent the entire flight filling out the immigration forms and visa applications for Cambodia.  The one hour flight also included a full meal (we’d just eaten at the airport).  Thailand doesn’t require a visa for tourists for under 30 days because were were American.  Cambodia requires a visa so after landing we finished filling out our forms and waited in line. In Cambodia, we dealt in US dollars.  For change smaller than a dollar, they’d give us Cambodian money, but most places quoted us both currencies or only US dollars.From B: We got to the front of the line and the man looked through our papers, then said, “One hundred eighty dollars.” A guy from church had said the Cambodian immigration agent had tried to charge them full price for their kids but after some arguing, he had relented. I gestured to the three littlest kids and made a “they’re small” hand signal (hands close together), and the man said, “Ninety dollars.” So Buddy, Little Guy, and Squirt went from being full price to being free.

We’d arranged with our hotel to be picked up and to store our luggage until check-in time.  There were two tuk tuks waiting for us at the airport.  I spent the ride to the hotel taking in everything we went past as well as worrying that our tuk tuk driver had lost B’s tuk tuk driver and who knew if we could trust these people.  Luckily, we all ended up at our hotel where they presented us with orange “juice” and an ice cold wash cloth.  They let us take our stuff up to our room (shoes off in the lobby, no elevator, 4th floor).  Then they arranged for the 2nd tuk tuk driver to be our driver for the day and he took us out to the sites.

The tuk tuks in Cambodia are a trailer being pulled by a motorcycle and have two benches (instead of the one bench and a little step that the Thai tuk tuks have).  This was much more comfortable for our entire family to ride in one.  For $15-20/day, you have a tuk tuk driver to drive you to the sites and wait for you while you get out and walk around the temples.  We had the same driver both days, his English wasn’t perfect and we sometimes had to explain things in different terms, but it was pretty good and he was very nice.

From B:  We got our visas, then our luggage, then exited the airport. A man was waiting for us, holding a sign with my name on it. He had a friend with him, but it seemed the friend knew very little (perhaps no) English. They had the Cambodian version of tuk-tuks, which are two-wheeled trailers that attach to the back of motorcycles. They have two benches, one facing forward and one facing backward, so they can seat six pretty comfortably. We only needed two to get out of the airport because we had our luggage with us. Anyway, I went with Buddy and Little Guy and a suitcase and two carry-on bags, and N went with PS and Squirt and the other suitcase and two carry-on bags. We drove down the highway from the airport to Siem Reap, past giant luxury hotels and tiny hovels. Eventually, we got to our hotel, In Miles Boutique. It was down a small driveway from the road between Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. (Sometimes I feel like Jay Gatsby, always on the wrong side of the harbor. N and I like the things we see and do, but they are always slightly off from the version that everyone else does. A woman from church told us some fabulous hotel in Siem Reap that we HAD to stay at, but instead we ended up staying at kind of a weird retrofitted hotel that no one visiting Siem Reap would even see by accident.)

We started at an entrance gate where we showed our passports and PS, B and I paid (12 and up, $40USD for a three day pass) and got these tickets which we had to show at the “entrance” to each site.

Our first stop was Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm is famous from Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider movie and is a favorite among tourists because it is very much still in ruins (trees growing through the buildings, etc.). People selling stuff to tourists in Cambodia is a bit annoying.  They follow you and walk alongside you for a very long time trying to sell their souvenirs/water/postcards, etc. Their English is really good.  It was really hot and humid.  I was happy to see that in our pictures, you can’t see that we are completely drenched in sweat.

This map should give you an idea of where we were traveling:

From B:

We started at Ta Prohm, which I guess is famous for being the site left most in its “natural” state, with giant trees growing all over it. It was in the “Tomb Raider” movie, evidently. I was very frustrated by the constant picture taking. Instead of coming to Cambodia to see things, everyone was there to take pictures of things. And everyone expected the other visitors to get out of the way of their pictures. One group of tourists wanted a picture down a long walkway, so they were holding up large groups of people to get the walkway empty.
Lots of the people were French. Almost none of the tourists were American. Outside each site was a gathering of locals selling bottled water, trinkets, clothing, guidebooks, and food. When we got back to our tuk-tuk, I bought some water and a pineapple (which was so delicious, like the one in Thailand), and a magnet from an adorable little girl who was probably four years old and just kept saying, “You buy, one dollar.” Of course, as soon as I bought anything, I had a giant crowd, so we had to make our escape in the tuk-tuk pretty quickly.
Squirt got in a “smile for the camera” mood, so I took advantage of it:
We bought water bottles, pineapple, mango and a magnet from street vendors.

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