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Friday, October 19, 2012

Entering the Kingdom of Cambodia

For me, this was the highlight of this backpacking trip. I've been dying to see the Angkor Wat. It was one of those places I have in my bucket list. I was introduced to Asian History when I was in high school. We discussed all the magnificent and significant historical places in Asia. From then on, I told myself I will visit them all someday. More than a decade later, I am setting my foot on them one by one. :)

From Aranyaprathet, Thailand we get in to Poipet. It is a large town hosting the main border crossing with Thailand. Entering Cambodia was a breeze. Everything had been pleasant. We also had this nice experience in the border. While we were being wowed by the huge casinos surmounting the border town we suddenly realized we were missing one piece of luggage.

woohoo! Angkor Wat here I come! :)

Yes, casinos are making the scene in this town. We were surprised too. It turns out that gambling is illegal in Thailand. So the casinos in this part of town isn't really for the Cambodians but for the Thais. They flock here to gamble legally. I wasn't able to take photos anymore because we panicked about our missing bag.

A man approached us while we were rushing back to the immigration office where we suspect we forgot about the darn bag. He said they noticed when we left it and they tried to run after us to return the bag but they lost us from the crowd. It was quite a walk to go back there so he offered my Beau a ride on his bike to retrieve it. I was really touched by his kindness. That bag had our shoes and other travel stuff. It wouldn't matter to us big time even if we ended up losing it but still, they were so nice to run after us and try to give it back.

One of the things I very much appreciate when traveling are those random acts of kindness from strangers. Those are very heart warming. They make our world a better place to live. I considered it a good sign as we enter Cambodia. I took a mental note then that Cambodians are kind and honest.

After thanking them we proceeded to the free bus transfer available going to the terminal where we can get a ride to Siem Reap. Along with the other foreigners, we waited until there are enough people for the bus to depart. We waited there for about an hour.

Cambodian Riels

We exchanged our remaining bahts into riels. Just enough to buy something to eat and to dispose the bahts since we're not returning to Thailand. US dollars is widely accepted in Cambodia anyway and we really prepared some lose dollars for this trip.

Poipet Bus Terminal

The transport terminal is fairly new. They say we're already lucky to experience this because it was harder back then to find and negotiate your transportation to Siem Reap.

where are you going?

There are only four destinations you can choose from at the terminal. You can choose between taking the bus or a private taxi. We opted to take the bus because it's very much cheaper.

typical Cambodian countryside

It was another long ride that day. I think it took us 4 hours. I never felt tired though. I feel that way when I'm in a estranged land. I want to see as much as possible.

Siem Reap city proper

We were happy to finally see signs of the city. We were on the road from Bangkok to Siem Reap for more or less 12 hours. Whoah! By the way, the darn bus didn't take us all the way to the city center. They say it was some kind of scam so they can transfer the passengers to the overcharging drivers in the city who takes advantage of the tourists. Maybe they share the profit, I don't know. Good thing our guesthouse offers free pick-up.

The place where we were dropped-off is a bit far from the city center. We were informed that it will take 30 minutes for the driver to get to us, so we decided to try the roadside eateries across the road. We were famished from the non-stop transit. We crossed the street and saw what the local food vendors serve.

Cambodian Okoy hehe :)

They sell okoy, grilled chicken, grilled frog, etc. Beau decided to try the chicken and the shrimp. I only ate the shrimp. I couldn't take the chicken. It was just grilled. As in no marinade, no spices, no nothing. The odor  (lansa) of the grilled chicken skin and flesh really put me off. No offense. I had fun though. It was nice conversing with strangers only through smiles and sign languages and yet you understand each other. It was an amazing feeling. :)

some grilled chicken

We were still eating when our driver arrived. Pretty fast. We were easily spotted because despite of our Asian looks, we are the only customers there with big backpacks. I wonder what he was thinking seeing his guests eating in a roadside carinderia in the middle of nowhere. Haha! We were the only travelers who dared eat there. Our bus mates have all disappeared.

We arrived in the guesthouse around 7:00 pm already. We were welcomed by the one of the owners. Unfortunately, we have to stay on their relatives' guesthouse for the first night then just transfer the next day. We have no qualms about this because we were being taken care of profusely.

our spacious bedroom

They brought us to Victory Guesthouse. It is located on the other side of the road. It is being run by their relatives. The room is big and most importantly, very clean.

spotless bathroom

The toilet and bath is also large. The guestroom was a relief most especially when you've been traveling all day. We just freshened-up and then went out to take a look at the surrounding areas, check out of if there's a nearby convenience store just in case and also to hunt for comfort food.

Cambodian Halo-halo

We found these street food vendors off the highway. I was craving for a dessert then so I opted for their version of halo-halo. It was yummy. The only difference is that instead of evaporated milk, they are using coconut milk.

a nice serving of Balut :)

Beau tried their balut. I found it cute, I mean the way they served it. Here in Pinas, they'll just put it in a plastic and give you some salt and vinegar and that's it. There, aside from the plating they'll give you salt, chili and some lime. All of these combined, tastes heavenly.

water please...

When we asked for some water, they gave us this small stainless glasses with crushed ice and a straw. Unlike our typical glass of water hehe. Cute. These small cultural peculiarities amuses me.

my 1st Cambodian moonshine :)

When we had our fix, we went home to take a good rest. I was so happy to finally be in Cambodia. That night, I looked out at the window and saw the moon shining. I couldn't stop smiling because I was so excited  to see The Angkor Wat the next day... :)

This is part 1 of my Cambodia travel series.

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