Arrival in Seam Reap

It’s time for a new adventure! This time I’ve set my sights on Thailand, although first I’m gonna cross one big item on my bucket list by finally visiting the Angkor temples in Cambodia. I have the impression that most people see them when visiting Vietnam, but I didn’t find the time then, so this time around I built my two-week itinerary specifically to make time for Angkor.

The way it worked out, I had to fly into Bangkok first, from where I then caught a flight to Siem Reap, which is the Cambodian city that is closest to Angkor. Since the temple compound is a natural reserve, when you come visit, you’ll stay in Siem Reap and you’ll have to figure out transport to and from the temples (I will expand on this tomorrow as I experience it firsthand!). The 11 hour flight from Paris to Bangkok was fine, really -mostly I spent it all chaining one movie after another like the junkie that I am- but it was the 3 hour layover in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport that killed me. Because I had to book the two flights separately, I had to pass Immigration, pick up my bag, then drop off my bag again, then pass Immigration and security again. By the time I got to my gate my eyes were closing and I could barely walk straight!

Then we boarded a tiny propeller plane all painted over with cute animals and took off towards Cambodia! I fell asleep immediately and, even though I slept only for half an hour (so half the flight) I woke up completely restored. Miracle! My metabolism will undoubtedly crash and burn anytime now, but let’s enjoy the present!
When I got off the plane in Cambodia it was a balmy 33°C when not under the scorching sun. Whereas everybody at the Bangkok airport was polite and smiling, the welcome in Siem Reap was considerably frostier, as I had to do the visa and passport dance again with government officers who spoke no English, made no eye contact, and communicated exclusively through dismissive gestures. I couldn’t wait to be cleared and continue my journey!
I’m staying at the Central Suite Residence, a fantastic if generically named hotel in central Siem Reap, and like many hotels here it includes airport pickup and dropoff in the price, so there was a car waiting for me when I made it out. The roads and houses on the way here reminded me of those in Vietnam: not all roads are paved, sidewalks are inexistent, and there’s lots of construction going on everywhere. Belying its location off an unpaved alley with parked cars, the hotel is beautifully designed, with an open lobby and a small pool with a swimup bar. My room is spacious, the bahtroom enormous, although I didn’t spend much time there… I’m writing this from a chair on the side of the pool as if I was an insufferable Instagram influencer!

After my leisurely swim and rest, I ventured out into the city to find an early dinner so I can catch some much needed sleep soon (I am so sleep-deprived I may not remember any of this tomorrow). At six o’clock it’s already dead at night, but that’s about the end of the similarities with Versailles nights; even at night and with some wind it’s still very hot. It’s super weird to feel hot while it’s dark out!

I walked a bit around the area surrounding my hotel, which is where all the action is: there is one main avenue nicknamed “Pub Street” with all that tourists want, and what tourists want is apparently a metric ton of Italian restaurants. I mean, I get it, I could eat Italian food forever, but it’s not like Italian restaurants are an endangered species in the West. Some of these are enormous two-story enterprises! To be fair, there were also some khmer restaurants that looked good -at least to my untrained eye!

There are also night markets, or bazaars, with souvenirs or food, and lots of street food vendors; my favourites were two teenagers who sold photo opportunities with fried scorpions: as in, you gave them a dollar to take the typical picture of “Oooh I’m about to eat a grasshopper” without actually having to do it. These kids have vision!

I am drawn to the English advertising in these places. One shop had a sign that said: “Clean water – we speak no fraud”. There’s a restaurant whose menu said “We don’t serve dog or cat”, which isn’t as reassuring as they may think, and then they had cages with bunnies and parakeets… only as pets, I hope!

I ended up settling for a restaurant right next door to my hotel which, if nothing else, was much cheaper than the fare in the main road: I had khmer chicken curry with a side dish of rice for $2.50! Although the official Cambodian currency is the riel, in practice all businesses (from shops and restaurants to the visas or the Angkor tickets) operate with American dollars. This is definitely convenient for knowing how much you’re paying!

That’s it for today! It’s time for me to get some rest and get ready for tomorrow’s discovery of Angkor!

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