Me Is Back
In case you guys were wondering, yes, I am back from Siem Reap.
Impressions on the place?
1. Tomb Raiders Wannabe
The temple ruins are the best part of going to Siem Reap, and indeed, the only reason why anyone would ever go there. :p Seeing the ruins makes me think.... If in their dilapidated state, they still exude their ancient grandeur, what would they have been like in their glory?
Not to mention the cities are practically mazes. We whizzed in and out of pillars, columns, nooks and crannies and even got ourselves lost more than once. I tell you, the place is big. :p
There is a kind of solemn air about the ruins though. It could be because of the deathly aura of the place, like the building had already died and only the ghosts of its former inhabitants lived in it, heightened only by the already ruined presence of the place.
There are tons of ruins but we covered 3, Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm in one day, almost getting ourselves horribly sunburned in the process. That's what you get for trying to be crazy tomb raiders in one day.
Oh yes, n can you spot the distinguishing feature of a Cambodian temple ruin from the pix below?
Yup, many of the figurines have been vandalised due to plundering and their heads are sold everywhere from Bangkok to Singapore. [according to one guidebook anyway]
Though the most painful vandalism I saw had to come from this poor lion:
2. Beggars and Sellers
Everyone in Siem Reap seems to have something to sell. Maybe it's because they're poor, that they become either accomplished beggars, or accomplished sellers. Every child who came to us either wanted money, or to sell us something. Can you blame them? Most of them looked pretty poor, but I din't want to give out too much cash either. I could only give so much.
Also visible, but not as often, were the various mine victims. You could tell them apart, because they were begging most of the time, and they had either one or two limbs missing. Some of them found ways to earn a living, like a guy who had fashioned a sort of tuk tuk that he could pedal with his hands, since he had no legs! Another bunch of guys formed a traditional band that was playing outside one of the temple ruins.
More interesting were the kids who made a living by trying to sell something, anything. Like the kid who showed me where the toilet was only to promptly ask me for 500rheul to use it. I think I paid too much because I offered him USD$1 [no local currency] for some change, I forgot how much, n when I paid him and used the toilet, I could hear his gleeful singing all the time I was doing my business. -_-!!!!!
In a way, yes I was probably gullible enough to pay too much for toilet usage. In another way... The pain I felt from being overcharged was probably much less significant to me than the glee that kid got from one miserable dollar. So i'll justify it as a form of charity.
Then there are the other kids who hounded us to buy bracelets, "you want nice bracelet? 10 for one dollar? 20 for one dollar?" postcards, "you want postcards? 2 for $1?" and drinks "cold drink? cold drink? 2 for $1?"
Which brings me to my next point on
3. Handling Street Urchins
We tried 3 different methods when handling the street waifs who tried to sell us stuff.
Do not work. Somehow they take it as a good sign that you have acknowledged their presence and they will redouble their efforts to sell you, hounding you a long distance.
Speaking in a foreign language
Is not quite effective, but produces humourous results. Like when I spoke Hokkien to a girl who tried to sell me postcards. [hokkien is in italics]
"You want postcard? 2 for $1"
"You talking what? I don't get."
"You from Japan?"
"Ha? I'm not Japanese."
"2 what? I don't want."
Girl jumps up and down in frustration. Another friend joins her.
"You from Korea?"
"Ha? Where? I don't understand you."
"2 dollars" thrusts the postcards at me and puts up 2 fingers.
"2? 2 what?"
After a few minutes of going around in this fashion, after which a gang had already gathered around us, the whole lot finally gives up and goes off.
Putting on the right face
Worked without me trying. There I was, hot, sweaty, tired, walking along when a girl approached me, I assumed to sell me her postcards, but before I could even say "no" she took one look at me and fled off to her friends.
Now if I only knew what face I had on that time.......
4. The Misc Stuff
Tips on going Siem Reap?
Save the money and book a room in a guest house in the Psar Chars [Old Market] area. There'd be plenty of food around, and tuktuk drivers for hire at US$10 a day. We made a mistake with ours because it was so out of the way that we couldn't hire tuktuks from right outside our hotel, hence having to hire the guy who did our hotel transfer for the day, whom we paid US$25. -_-!!!! Also, there's plenty of good food in the area!
The USD is king here. Seeing that we are tourists, everyone quoted us prices in the USD. Shopping wise, once you really bargain, you can get some good bargains, even with the USD, but there isn't much stuff that much different from what you can find in Singapore. Unless you wanna bring back Buddha statues and mini Angkor wats, that is :S
Food wise, we had much more luck with the slightly more ex stuff. The cheapo places we went to on the first day had ...Ok... food but not very appetising. When we went to the more ex places, paying about US$4-5 each, we had MUCH better food :P
Some of the better places we ate at:
And I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the drinks menu at one of the menus. Look at the price of my fave Long Island:
That's like SGD5 per cocktail? HOLY COCKTAIL SHOOTER.
Unfortunately, Necroz doesn't drink so I only had one Long Island. -_-!!!
Overall, a good trip ^-^ but Siem Reap itself can be explored in less than 3D2N, depending on how many temple ruins you wanna see.
I'll *try to* post up another entry about the temples themselves, but that's it for now. Now I'm considering my next adventure. Laos or Myanmar anyone? :p