Onto Cambodian Soil!
So we found out that heading to the Cambodian consulate, about five minutes from the border, was a little bit cheaper than just going to the border to get our new Visas. But it was a pretty simple process. And there were guys there to help you the entire way through.
When we got to the actual border, Ryker and Gatty went first. Gatty wasn’t over his 30 day limit in Thailand so he got through fine, and luckily Ryker went right through as well, but the guard lady noticed that Rush and I were over, then realized she had let Ryker through without fining him. She made me go through and bring him back. He did not want to return with me; understandably. So we paid the 1,500 Baht ($45) surcharge and were on our way.
*Also, if you throw a little cash at the border guards, you can skip lineups. Just saying.
Then we got a ride to the ‘bus station’ where we were told to convert our Baht to Riels. The exchange rate there was actually worse than anywhere else! Alas, we were conned. Then we got in a cab and headed to Siem Reap.
Our taxi driver took us to a new taxi driver, who then took us to Green Banana. So we’ve had a personal Cambodian guy with us since arriving at the border. It’s like they’re all working together to get tourists in and settled somewhere. It was a little strange to us. Their practices were… how do you say… foreign to us?
We were shown a pamphlet of Green Banana once we crossed the border and it looked like a good little hostel (obviously). Once we got there however, it wasn’t nearly as nice as the pamphlet had made it out to be. Also, our taxi driver was aggressively trying to get us to sign up with him to see the temples and stuff. We wanted to get settled in town near the bars for a few days before deciding on activities but he was charging about five times too much. We were fresh tourists in a new country, I guess that’s what his plan was. He showed us to our room but didn’t want to leave without us signing up first. Knowing better than to accept the first offer, we told him to come back tomorrow. Then we looked up reviews online of Green Banana, and they were all awful. So since we hadn’t signed up to go see the temples and hadn’t put any money down on the hostel yet either, we snuck out the window of our room and ran off without having to deal with any more pressure.
*And thus began the term Green Banana for us.
We just don’t trust anybody around here. Everyone is working together, and it doesn’t appear to be in the best interests of the traveler. So we grabbed a tuk tuk downtown and found a nice hostel near Pub Street (exactly where we should have gone).
Pub Street & Night Market
So five minutes from our hostel was Pub Street and the night market. The night market was exactly what was expected. But Pub Street was cool. Just a ton of bars and restaurants. The notable ones were Temple Bar and Rooftop Bar. Loud music, sports on TV and pool tables (we’re starting to get pretty good at pool now). On the hunt for dinner that night, we noticed a restaurant with a dinner platter we simply could not refuse:
Awesome Animal Platter
They bring out a table top frying pan thing, along with raw beef, prawns, frog legs, snake, and crocodile. When the grease runs off the meat, if falls into this drip tray thing, where vegetables are stewing in water, turning it all into a ridiculously delicious soup. This platter was $8 and fed four. Score! (We still had room for dessert).
A good price for a draft beer is 50 cents, or you can get a pitcher for about $2. Some bars go up to $2 a glass (depending on the quality and reputation of the beer), which is a huge rip off. But all-in-all, still totally acceptable.
Sightseeing: The Temples
We met a really cool tuk tuk driver under the alias “Batman”. He wore a batman shirt, and his tuk tuk was painted black with the batman logo. Clearly, we had to hire this guy to be our driver. Plus he offered us a good rate, he didn’t screw with us. (Some drivers will charge you as much as they can get away with, this guy was fair.)
You can go see the temples any time during the day, but it’s recommended that you go to Angkor Wat for sunrise because the sun rises over it beautifully. That’s what we decided to do. It never dawned on us just how many other tourists go see it everyday at sunrise too. There was a bajillion people there!
So we took our photos of sunrise, took a stroll through the massive temple, and took off to the next temple.
We were really stoked to see this one because it gained a little fame after its appearance in Tomb Raider 2. It’s so ancient, it’s got a massive trees growing through and around it. It was quite a sight to see, but when it came down to it, it was still just another temple.
We weren’t super keen after the first two temples, we sorta had that mentality of “you see one, you’ve seen ’em all”. So we messed around for a little while then headed back to Pub Street.
Shooting Range Before Class
The next day we had no plans so we went and found Batman and made some. After a short chat, he convinced us that the shooting range would be a lot of fun. So we hopped in the Batmobile and headed to the range.
There was a good selection of weaponry, but it was the semi-automatics that caught our attention. They also had some really cool ‘war-machines’ so we took lots of pictures with them.
After we had our share of firing guns, we hopped back into the Batmobile and started home. En route we passed an elementary school, and asked Batman to stop by. I’m not sure how we decided on it, but we went to visit the children in class. Totally on the spur of the moment.
The teacher was very welcoming to us and after some brief introductions, gave us charge of her class for a bit. Honestly, I don’t know how this all came about so casually, but it was amazing! We aren’t very shy guys, but we weren’t exactly trained in teaching children in Cambodia, so we started with some light mathematics. The kids did a great job answering our questions and writing on the board. We kept up the math session only for a short while, then it was time for games. We taught them “Heads up, 7 up” and had some arm wrestling matches. The kids we adorable and were having a lot of fun with us. We thanked the teacher for letting us take over for a while and said goodbye to the children. This was an experience we’re not likely to ever forget….
Cambodia: Through Our Eyes
*I am comparing it to the first two countries we visited: India & Thailand.
- Cambodia is pretty much a mix between India and Thailand (poverty/development-wise). It’s similar to Thailand, but not as nice. The buildings and huts were in worse condition, roads were more gravelly than cementy… but much, much cleaner than India. No dead dogs on the side of the road, garbage isn’t everywhere…etc.
- Cars drive on the right hand side again. Driver is on the left side of the vehicle.
- There are many landmine amputees here begging for money. A lot of missing limbs. It’s very sad and took some time to get used to.
- Bargaining is still required. Don’t pay a tuk tuk his asking price. Cambodians are the nicest people, but they’ll swindle you out of your money if you let them. Like anywhere I guess.
- People’s names are much easier to learn/speak/remember: Mr. Toy, Mr. Wii…etc.
Special Happy Pizza
We heard about it, we craved it.
We found it, we downed it.
Not only does the pizza have weed all over it, it tastes amazing too! So many flavours, decent prices (sm-$6, lg-$13) and cops don’t do anything about these places. So it’s worry-free. However, you must consume a rather large quantity to really feel the effects.
*We don’t advocate the consumption of marijuana, but of course we would at least try it out. When in Cambodia…