Travel Notes from Tonle Sap, Cambodia
Five years ago seemed already an eternity to me. Going back to Cambodia is a trip of a lifetime. One year in the making. But a lifetime figuring how come i stayed too long last time i was here. Exploring century old temples, eating fried egg noodles and drinking the tasty Angkor beer were some of the things i can never forget about this country. And of course, there's so much more.
I am right at this very same hostel were i once stayed. The Siem Reap Hostel changed a lot, with more rooms to boot and a bigger compound at that. I could have stayed at a fancy hotel now, especially since i can afford it, but i reckoned it would be sick to stay here again for ol' time's sake. And so i did. Sorted out a bunk bed at the mixed dorm room for almost a week here. I am staying with two Americans and one Spanish, and i am here looking weird. Weird because i look like everyone else, yet again. I am the ultimate Asian boy. But it's fun. I loved Cambodia then, i still love it now. 5 years ago, i stayed for about two months roaming around Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. This time, i don't know for how long.
On my first night, i got a room at another hostel called One Stop. Fair enough as i paid 6 dollars for a night because they mixed up my booking. The Siem Reap Hostel is about 11 dollars a night, but i like it here more because of the ambiance.
I have to tell you about the flight also. The flight from Manila to Siem Reap was turbulent. And i am not exaggerating. Paying about 80 dollars for the round trip ticket is cheap, but the experience was out of this world. Good thing, i arrived safely and the new airport here is huge and beautiful. Totally different when you go outside, and you could see that Siem Reap, the city, remained the same.
I got out of the airport, and tried to get a tuk-tuk from the outside, but i didn't know where to go. Everybody was pointing me back to the transportation counter, and so i did. Paid for about 5 dollars for a one way trip 8 kilometer easy breezy journey to Pub Street. There i met Bun Nak who would be my guide for the the whole duration of my stay here in Siem Reap. Pretty cool guy!
He was waiting at the airport from 4PM looking for the next customer he would drive to the city. At 11PM, i arrived. Imagine, he's been waiting for about 7 hours. Too long! Unbelieavable. You have to understand Cambodia is a very poor country, and minimum wage is way lower.
Relatively, i had no plans at all. I did most of the nice stuff to do in Siem Reap before, so i am left with some ideas for an excursion that I've never done. Three days have passed and i still don't know where to go. I love sleeping in Cambodia, and i find it hard to wake up earlier than 10AM. So right now, as i type this at the bed, i am thinking whether taking a nap or going out to eat.
After i was convinced to go out and explore the rest of Siem Reap, i scheduled a sunset cruise by Tonle Sap. Together with Bun Nak and his family, we were on our own private boat watching the sun set while drinking my Angkor beer. The water in the lake was calm except for a few bumps when a bigger boat passes us by. Paid 35 dollars for the whole boat which ran for about four hours. And i bought 24 cans of Angkor beer for a mini picnic. That cost me 13 dollars, too. But the experience was whirlwind, and it was such an ideal experience because i went away from the crowd of tourists all doing the same thing. Drinking with Bun Nak, my boatman, we munched on fried fish with salted tamarind sauce, and steamed shrimp together with fresh vegetables. So yummy! We were all so carried away by the experience that we forgot it's already dark. So at around 8PM, and being one of the few boats still by the lake, we headed back to the terminal. We actually cruised with only the moon as our guide light. Before returning to the hotel, i met Bun Nak's mother in law whom we gave rice for gift, and passed by a local wedding. Did you know that during a wedding, the husband and the wife starts of far from each other - like a block away, and as the night progresses that's the only time they will get close and see each other? I Still have about 5 Angkor beer cans left from the picnic. And Bunnak lent me the cooler for now. Bunnak drank about 3 and my boatman 3 also. I was so drunk. Jol moi!!!