I never imagined that I would fall so deeply in love with Siem Reap, but I have. I’m already planning to go back next January, if not sooner. I did expect to be inspired by Angkor Wat and the sheer largeness of it all, and it WAS amazing, to say the very least…but what tugged at my heartstrings and pulled me deep inside, wanting more, were the smiles of the people that live there.
I can’t say that I got to experience too much of the town, so I’m not sure how
the infatuation grew so quickly. I only know that when my wide eyes glanced around at everything I saw as we drive by on our Tuk-Tuk, I wanted to take in every color and every smile from people passing by on motorbikes or bicycles.
Our Tuk-Tuk driver’s name was Gordon. He was so kind and genuine. I’m pretty sure he thought we were ballers because of our hotel choice. On the last day, we decided to do some shopping and instead of taking us to the old market right away, he took us to some high end boutiques that were way out of our price range. It was a kind gesture though.
We had lunch with Gordon on our second day in Siem Reap after touring Angkor Wat. We asked him about his life and he told us he was 31, newly married, with a baby on the way. He is the oldest of 12; his youngest sibling is five years old. Every day, $10 of what he made the day before goes to paying for his siblings education. He has been driving his Tuk-Tuk for five years, and we were his first customers from Chicago. We ended up paying around $45 each for his services for the whole time we were in Siem Reap. It was really only $8 a day, but we hooked him up on the last day because he was the best. If you plan on visiting Siem Reap, let me know and I’ll give you his info.
Today was a very long day. We booked a ticket for a bus from Siem reap to the border of Cambodia and Thailand. The bus was supposed to pick us up at 8, but rolled up around 9:15, completely full. Tosh and I got to sit on plastic chairs in the aisle, while Lucas sat on his bum on the floor in the aisle. You can imagine the irony…the bell hop from our five star hotel rolled our bags out to a discount bus full of backpackers, who I’m sure got a laugh at us going from luxury to the floor of a smelly, hot bus. We got a laugh, so I’m sure they did. A guy from Switzerland that I was wedged next to thought it was pretty hilarious. Oh well, all in the adventure.
So, this portion was supposed to take two hours and instead took four. Once we crossed the border, we were conned into taking a minivan instead of the train. They said it would take three hours, that the van would take us to our hostel, and that it would leave at 1:30. After we paid money, It ended up being a bus that left at 2, that took six hours, and dropped us off at a train station on the other side of town. I got on that bus, mad as hell, but I refocused my energy into thinking good thoughts. There are some Thai people target and scam the hell out of tourists like us, but not all of them are bad. I needed to remind myself that we are new at this and strayed from our original plan, so shame on us. Word for the wise: When traveling in SE Asia, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We finally landed back on our Soi in Bangkok at 9pm. I am tired and smelly, but full of gratitude for the things I’ve experienced on this trip.
It’s strange to leave a place and then come back two countries later, feeling completely different about it. I loved Bangkok so much when we left and I couldn’t wait to get back. Now all I want is to be back in Siem Reap. I also wonder how I will feel coming home to Chicago, four countries later. I don’t want to think about that right now. Im sure I’ll be full
of love and happy to see my kitty, my friends and my family, but the snow is putting lots of anxiety in me. But again, I don’t want to think about that now, tonight all I want is to get some sleep. I hope I do.