Siem Reap: one part party town, one part tourist hub, and one part gateway to Angkor Wat. Those are the most common aspects of this symbolic place, arguably “the” Cambodia along with Phnom Penh as far as the general tourist is concerned. And yet there is so much life, so much imagery, throughout the city that it’s important to remember the gravity and depth of the place before making broad assertions. Jason and I spent a few days in Siem Reap and saw quite a bit. We didn’t enjoy it as much as some folks we met on our travels, and we were turned off by the extreme reactions to tourists from the locals–hawkers are aggressive, the beggars are everywhere, and scams appear around every corner. But getting beyond that, walking the streets most don’t see, is one thing Jason and I did do. And our experiences were rich because of those walks. Below you’ll find scenes from our journey from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (a six or seven hour bus ride), and then some of our nightly activities before we abruptly passed out from exhaustion. Let us begin with one of the most blatant branding manipulations I’ve ever seen, at the Mekong Express bus stop in Phnom Penh:
When choosing a bus provider in Cambodia, there are always more problems than you’d expect. In fact, any research in buses in Cambodia will yield results about crashes, scams, theft, etc. People have seen it all. Mekong Express is the company to go with if you want a positive experience. As our trip to Southern Cambodia showed (I’ll get to that later), the difference of a few bucks will truly morph your riding experience in dramatic ways. Below: rest stop halfway between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. I do not remember what the town was called we stopped in.
Above: the sights in the provinces are as exciting if not more exciting than Phnom Penh’s. Below: some type of vehicle had become cinders in a ditch. There were many, many people standing around the wreck.
When you live in a country that floods, you need protection. In the form of stilts:
Why get Pringles when you can get Mister Potato?
Our first hotel, Gloria Angkor:
“Please feed our hungry fish by your dead skin.”
“Dr. Fish Massage. Funny & Happy. Just try it now.”
Good bar name:
Next: The Temples