Didn’t sleep in. Packed our stuff ready to board our bus for our very long trip to Siem Reap. Many were not particularly impressed with the quality of the bus – especially considering the cost of the cruise and the quality of other buses we saw at our ‘stops’ along the way. The positive side of things was that we did get to see the countryside, which is always an interesting introduction to an area of a country you have not visited before.
We all parted ways at the Victoria Angkor Resort and Spa, but we didn’t actually get to say goodbye to everyone – simply an oversight as our driver was rushing us. Our hotel is bliss! It’s the Pavillon d’Orient Hotel – another oasis, only this time a little bit out of town (about 10 minutes by tuk tuk). Though this was not a problem at all – the hotel provides a free tuk tuk driver at our disposal from dawn until 10pm. The only negative to this is that I have already booked a 3 day tour with a guide in an airconditioned car, and our little tuk tuk guy could’ve taken us to a whole heap of things. Oh well. Am sure it was the right decision…
The hotel is located on a main road, but behind a high cement wall, so the noise is hardly noticeable. Lush plants, trickling water in ponds filled with koi, warm coloured décor and dark wooden ceiling fans lie behind the wall. Incredibly helpful, nodding staff spring to attention whenever you move in the public areas, and of an evening geckos, and even frogs come out to socialise when the bugs come out to dance with the lights. Our room is on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the pool, the view of which is filtered by large palm fronds that double as a privacy screen and shade provider.
The usual procedure at this hotel is that the tuk tuk driver you have on your first trip is your driver for your whole visit. Our man, Samphors (pronounced Sumpoor), took us into the centre of Siem Reap and we walked from the royal gardens along the river to the Old Markets. We had dinner at Chamkar Vegetarian Restaurant in a narrow pedestrian laneway called The Passage – very delicious and atmospheric. Our dinner was occasionally interrupted by kids selling postcards, or people asking for money, but everyone is ridiculously polite, from the beggars to the shop owners. Nearly everyone accepts the first ‘no, thank you’ and leaves it at that.
Went for a wander after dinner in the area near the Old Markets, where there are loads of little alleys and streets filled with people and restaurants, bars and shops. There was a fund-raising event being held at the ‘Banana Leaf’ bar, run by a bunch of expats. They were selling raffle tickets to raise money to keep the 2 boys who survived the Siem Reap Night Market fire in hospital (without the money, they will be discharged). A week ago today there was a fire in the Night Markets, and 8 people perished who were living on the second floor, and 100 stalls were destroyed. Of the boys in Saigon hospital (they must have been moved to Vietnam for better care), one is 13 and has burns to 30% of his body, the other is 17 and has burns to 80% of his body. The awful, awful thing about this is that the fire brigade turned up and then refused to turn on the hoses until they were paid!!! Criminal – and in Australia, they’d be up on charges. When we asked our driver about this, he was surprised that in Australia the fire fighters DON’T wait until payment to start their job!