A Khmer Anniversary

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Love and I decided that we were going to do something more for our anniversary.  Last year was our 15th anniversary, and we had no money to go anywhere or do anything.  I made Love a card and also got him small little gifts, but for our 15th anniversary, it should have been more.  It just wasn’t.  Both of us were struggling with different things at the time.  I think we did end up getting dinner, but it was at the food court in one of the malls.  It really wasn’t anything worthwhile.  I felt like I really needed to do more for him than him for me at that point because of the way things were going for us.  So yeah, last year was a sort of dark year for us.  I wouldn’t change it for much because it got us to now, but it was a pain in the bum to go through at the time.

Anyway, as our anniversary was nearing this year, I asked other teachers around me where their favorite places to go were.  Some gave places like Bangkok and Vietnam and China.  Love and I are planning those places to visit at some point, but I was looking for easy to navigate and cheap.  We did have to purchase visas ot enter the country, but it wasn’t that hard at all.  It has been the one country so far that has required us to have a visa.  I think they require everyone to get one though.  It doesn’t matter the country or origin.

Cambodia came up.  Siem Reap to be exact.  The draw of that for me was the temples.  Angkor Wat.  All of the history.  I also learned a ton about the history of Cambodia.  It is something else.  It is not something that most people would know.  I also know it is not something that is taught to us in the US.  The whole thing was fascinating to see how it came about.

So after much research and booking of flights and hotel, that is where we were headed off to.  Four days of kid-free exploration of a foreign country.

We took the bus from near our home in Hong Kong.  We ended up on a HKExpress flight.  I will say, they weren’t half bad.  The worst part of it was that we had to pay to bring a bag.  We only brought one between us, but that was because we were only going for 4 days.  We arrived in the airport in Siem Reap.  It was not like any other airport we had been in.  It was so small.  We exited the aircraft on the tarmac and headed into the airport.  Immigration was very quick and quite informal.  They didn’t really ask us much.

From the airport, we took our first Tuk Tuk ride to our hotel.

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It was an interesting experience.  We had been in a few different countries where road rules are not quite developed to what we are used to in the US or in Hong Kong.  Cambodia was similar to this.  There are very few traffic lights and even less crosswalks.  You just sort of cross the street and hope for the best.  We survived by some miracle.

Our hotel wasn’t very far from the airport.  The Golden Temple Hotel.

We were greeted with a tray of drinks, snacks, and jasmine scented cold towels. We were to wait until our room was ready.

Did I mention it was hot in Siem Reap?  It was 90 degrees F with the sundown.  We walked off the plane, and it was like being blasted with a hot air dryer.

We were finally taken to our room.  I had booked one of the rooms next to the pool.  There was a place to put in any special requests.  All I had said was, it was our anniversary, and I was excited.  I didn’t really ask or expect anything.

Well, it turns out they did do something special.  We were greeted with the bed covered in flower petals and a special tray of wine and fruit.  It was so special, and we absolutely loved that they took that extra time to make it special for us.  We sat for a bit in the air con as it had been quite warm.  Then Love and I made our way to Pub Street.

We checked out the night markets as well.  The night markets were a lot of clothing, knick-knacks, scarves, toys, etc.  Most stalls in the markets had at least a variation of the same things.  It was still interesting to see.  The stall owners were much pushier than in other places we’ve been to (ie Hong Kong, Thailand, and the Philippines).  Most times in the other places, they really didn’t push too hard.  In Siem Reap though, there was constantly pushing to get you to buy things.  Always, they will give you a special deal.  One thing Love read about shopping in Cambodia is to haggle until you’re embarrassed.  Only then will you get a decent deal.  I am not big on haggling at all.  It’s just not how I was raised.  There were only two times when I did, and that was because I just didn’t have the money for what they were asking.  I went to walk away, and the shop owner accepted my offer of what I had and sold it to me.

The next day (on our anniversary which was also the Khmer New Years Eve), Love and I went to the Angkor National Museum and the Cambodian Cultural Village.

We took a Tuk Tuk to the museum.  The driver took us to a travel agent before we went to get our tickets to the museum.  It was sort of a strange way of doing this.  Any sort of thing you want to attend, you have to go to an agent to get tickets.  You cannot buy them at the venue.  Or you could, but maybe you had to be Khmer.  I am a little foggy on those details.

Anyhow, we got our tickets to get into the museum.  It was really worth seeing.  There were quite a few videos that explained the history of Angkor Wat and the history of the Khmer people.  There were many of the statues that had been removed from Angkor Wat in an effort to preserve them.  You were able to come to this museum to see them.

We wandered a bit through Siem Reap after that.  Every time we came close to the Tuk Tuks on the street, they were yelling at us that we need a ride.  It was constantly telling them no because we wanted to walk around.

The Cultural Village was less worth seeing.  We didn’t get to see the whole thing because we got there kind of late, but it was not well kept up or well organized.  The audio tour could do with a makeover as well.  Each place on the tour had at least 10 minutes of audio to go with it (if not 20+ minutes).  There is only so long you can stand and stare at a wax statue.  After about 5 of these, I abandoned the audio tour and just looked at everything on my own.  I’m sure I missed quite a bit of the story with it, but It would have taken us hours to get through there with all of that, and there just wasn’t the time.

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The next day, we hired a car to take us around the Angkor Wat temples.  For $40 USD, we were able to get a driver and an air-conditioned vehicle.  It was probably the best decision we made.  A friend suggested that we hire a Tuk Tuk for the day, and that would be only $15 USD.  I’m glad we didn’t do that.

So at 6:30 AM, we met our driver outside to take us to the temples. First he had to take us to get our passes.  We had to pay $37 USD per person to receive a photo pass to get into the temples.

We saw quite a few of the temples.  The first was Angkor Thom.  We also saw the one that was used in The Tomb Raider.  Ta Prohm.  It has the trees growing through it.  We saw a few others I am not sure of the names and of course the main temple at Angkor Wat.  That was the last one we saw that day.  It was so hot.  It was over 100 degrees F with full sun and not a cloud in the sky.  Love and I were trying to determine a gameplay of how to attack that last temple.

At the opposite gate, they had the festivities for the New Years festival going on.  Love wanted to see it.  Our driver said it wouldn’t work to drive to the other side.   He said it was too crowded.  So Love and I went through the center of the temple to the other side to check things out.  We watch the dancers practice and walked around to see what sort of activities were going on.   We passed back through the temple to get to our driver to head back to our hotel.

By the time we were done, we were so tired.  The heat and sun really do take a lot out of you.  We ended up getting dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe in Siem Reap.

Our last day there was spent at the markets picking up little odds and ends for the kids and helper.  We really enjoyed Siem Reap.  It is one of our goals to bring the kids back here to see everything.  It was a cheap flight and cheap airfare.  It was easy to navigate.  While there were times we knew we were paying more than we needed to pay for things (ie at the market and with Tuk Tuk drivers), we were not particularly upset about it.  It was only a few extra USD for most things.

We made it back to the airport with little to no effort.  The hotel provided us with a lift.  Then going through security and immigration was pretty easy.

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