Wednesday, 14-01-2015. Day 147.
Travel day: Vietnam to Cambodia.
We had a Noon flight out of Ho Chi Minh Airport to the Siem Reap Airport in Cambodia. Catching a taxi from the apartment complex was simple, due to the taxi stand, and for once the driver knew exactly where we were going. I'd really wonder if a taxi driver couldn't find the airport.
Our plane was right on time, but going through security was a major hassle this time around. Vietnam wants you to take all of your cameras and computers out of your bags, and I had to run mine through a few times, unpacking the whole thing, before they were satisfied. It's those moments where I'm afraid I'm going to lose something: all my stuff is spread out over a table and the security officer is grabbing my bag and running it through the scanner again and again.
Then it was in the air and back down into Cambodia in less than 60 minutes. These hour-long flights are weird—we spend more time in the airport than we do on the plane.
Since we were entering a new country, that meant more immigration forms, and Cambodia I had to fill out 12 different pieces of paper. Yes, 12. To get into Cambodia, each person has to fill out three forms: one for immigration, one for customs, and one for health. It took me the whole flight to fill out ours.
Once we were on the ground and off the plane, we found that one of the Cambodian Immigration gents was a little pushy and grabby. He kept trying to pull the passports out of my hand as I matched up the immigration documentation with the right person's passport. He also were quick to push my daughters around to make them go into the line he wanted to go into. It wasn't the best introduction to Cambodia, but once we got past that guy, the immigration process went pretty quickly and we were officially in Cambodia.
Our hotel, the Soria Moria, sent a driver for us, so we took a short drive from the airport (refreshing to not have an hour drive to our hotel after flying), past the big tourist hotels near the airport, and into the center of Siem Reap.
We didn't see an ATM at the airport, and all we had were a few dong notes, so after we got our stuff settled into our room, we went out for a walk to visit the Old City (where the infamous Pub Street is) and find an ATM.
Here's a funny thing about Cambodia—even though they have a currency called riel, the official currency everyone uses is U.S. Dollars. With the exception of the visa-on-arrival for Bali, we hadn't had to use dollars since Panama. But even funnier, they don't use U.S. coins (or $2 bills); instead 4,000 riel is equal to $1 U.S. on the street. If you buy something for $3.50 and pay with a 5-dollar bill, you'll get a one-dollar bill and 2,000 riel as change. So after you've bought a few things, you'll end up with a pocketful of low-value bills that no one else in the world really wants.
Tuk tuks are little chariots pulled by motorcycles that drive people all around Siem Reap for a dollar or two and even into the Angkor Archaeological Park for between $12 and $18.Everyone wants to know why they're called that. I have no idea, really, but I like to say it's because that's sort of the noise they make as they putter about town.
Anytime you walk down the street, you're pelted with the queries of "Tuk tuk?" Unlike Bali, however, it always seems to be don with respect and once you say no, they let it go. We saw some really great branded Tuk Tuks, including Batman Gentleman, a Lamborghini, and even a deluxe number with the Land Rover brand. We didn't take a tuk tuk on our first day, but we took plenty during our two weeks here.
We hadn't had anything to eat since Vietnam, so we stopped in to Viva, a hopping Mexican joint at the corner of Hospital Street and Street 9. Siem Reap has a lot of restaurants that cater to foreigners.
After lunch we wandered around the historic core (the Old Market, they call it) of Siem Reap for only a few minutes before we were hit up for our first street scam, the notorious Baby Formula Scam. Fortunately we'd read up on this and there were signs posted for it everywhere, so we were on guard—and after being hit with a minor street scam in Hanoi, we were on high alert. Here's the set-up for the Baby Formula Scam, from TripAdvisor:
A particularly nasty scam that happens in Siem Reap is the ‘baby milk scam’ Bedraggled ‘mothers’ or ‘sisters’ holding a baby ask visitors passing a convenience stores to ‘buy milk powder for baby’ and those with a kind heart cannot bear the thought of a baby going without food.
We hadn't yet encountered the equally notorious Cambodian Street Mafia, but give it a little time; it was bound to happen.
After checking out the Old Market pretty fully, we went back to the hotel and headed up to the rooftop bar where we were set to meet Dani Jump of Bees Unlimited. We had a tour scheduled for him the next morning's tour, and he likes to meet all his clients ahead of time to set expectations. He was a great guy, and we really enjoyed meeting him.
After Dani left, we went down to the Fusion Kitchen, the Soria Moria hotel's restaurant, where it was Dollar Night. Yes, that's right, everything (food and drinks) on the menu in the Fusion Kitchen was only a dollar. I think we spent $16 and left stuffed.
- Taxis taken: 1
- Planes taken: 1
- Cars taken: 1
- Street Scams: 1
- Tuk Tuks taken: 0