Tuesday, October 17, 2017

CAMBODIA 2017 - Siem Reap and the Floating Village

At 7:00 am the next morning we left for the airport. The same taxi guy from our airport ride before picked us up and took us to the airport for our flight from Phnom Phen to Siem Reap. As we were paying him the $8 that Neht said was appropriate for the fare, he kept asking for more and then handing half of the money to a random friend in the car ahead. He didn’t really speak any English so we weren’t able to talk it out. He kept waving his hand out for more and more until we had paid him $12. We felt ripped off and irritated. We’ll remember to skip that guy next time.

At the airport, as they transported us to the plane, they put us in this bus that was infested with mosquitos! It was seriously crazy the number of mosquitos. You could just see them everywhere, especially in the back of the bus. The worst part is we sat there waiting in mosquito danger zone for about five minutes just to be driven 30 SECONDS down the road to the plane. We easily could have walked that without the risk of getting the Zika!

Traveling within Cambodia is pretty cheap. Well, there are super cheap options and your more expensive options if you want to travel in style. They have mini vans and buses that can take you from Phnom Phen to Siem Reap for about $10 (that is a six hour drive, plus stops on the bigger, cheaper buses). I got so much helpful information on travel and more in Cambodia from this blog: http://www.movetocambodia.com/. That blog was a priceless help for the trip. For us, however, we decided it was worth paying a little bit more so we didn’t have to spend a full vacation day on a bus. We found a newer airline that would fly us there in an hour for only $39 per person. So worth it! The flight was so fast; it seemed as if we were descending before we even fully ascended! It ended up only taking about 30 minutes. We were all so amazed and grateful we decided to fly.

Our tuk tuk driver for Siem Reap was Bunna. He had been referred to Amy by one of her friends. It was so great having him as he was friendly, knowledgeable, could text, and could speak English. It was wonderful. Bunna was there at the airport waiting for us to take us to our hotel. Driving through Siem Reap was fun. It was a lot different from the busy, bustling, dirty city of Phnom Phen. Siem Reap was definitely more touristy with big, nice hotels. It was cleaner...well slightly. It definitely felt more open and appeared to have a fun night life.

Our hotel in Siem Reap ended up being really nice! I found a new hotel listed on Booking.com for only $13.50 per night that came with a free breakfast. It was called Norm Villa. At that price, we weren’t expecting a whole lot, but it was seriously great! Since it was so new, it was a little hard for Bunna to find it at first, but we eventually made it.

After dropping off our suitcases we went to lunch. Bunna took us to a great place where the meals were $2.50. For $1 we got the best passion fruit and mango smoothies we have ever had! They were to die for! This time around, we were much happier paying for Bunna’s meals as we could actually talk to him and build a friendship.

After lunch, Bunna informed us that he had to quickly pick up another client, so he dropped us off at a mall and we had to wait for him to come back. It took him thirty minutes, and that was a little annoying. We were thinking of the ticking clock of our trip and not wanting to waste it at a random mall with nothing of culture or interest. After that incident, however, we didn’t have any other problems with Bunna.

Our first stop was the floating village of Kompong Phluk. It was a long ride out there, but it was pretty cool seeing more of the countryside. It was great. On our way it started pouring rain. Bunna zipped up the sides of the tuk tuk and kept driving, getting completely drenched. He was such a trooper. We were so grateful. Within 15 minutes, the rain was gone.

When we arrived at the floating village we were a little shocked. We didn’t see houses “floating” on the river, we saw houses on stilts along a mostly dried up river. All the pictures I had seen had shown pictures of boats going through the little town, but apparently that is not the case during the dry season. We didn’t realize this was the dry season. We took a boat that struggled to make its way to the town. The village wasn’t floating, but it was absolutely fascinating to see the people and families living under their houses in the dirt. Seeing the village this way was amazing and a real highlight for us. Honestly, it was probably way more incredible seeing the village this way rather than the wet season.

Fishing in the dirtiest and muddiest water I have ever seen!

Our boat driver

Alligator trap

Further out in the lake, a small shop/restaurant was still floating on the water. We made a quick stop:


We got out at the village and tried some of the local fruit and cane juice (which in hindsight was probably not a smart move). We had fun seeing lots of school children running around and playing games. The Cambodian children are so cute! Jason even got out the drone and took video of the village. It was crazy hot there, I was constantly dripping with sweat, but it was such a fun, interesting, and unique experience.

On the long drive back, Jason took some video with the drone again as we rode in the tuk tuk. There is one amazing shot he took where you can see miles of farmland around us, some hot air balloons in the distance, and a herd of cows walking along side us. It was breathtaking!

At this point, it was starting to get dark. We stopped at a food stand along the road. We tried some frog and bought some rambutan.

Once we were back in Siem Reap, we got some Korean BBQ. It had a really cool ambiance as we ate outside and cooked our food on our own table-top fire pit, but the food ended up being pretty crappy and mostly fat. We were disappointed. After dinner we had our next cultural experience: getting the dry skin on our feet eaten off by fish! It was so crazy and so funny! We were all just in tears laughing so hard while the fish tickled our feet. I was definitely the weakest link and was not able to keep my feet in for long. We soon realized that the fish pools had fish with different sizes, the bigger fish actually sucking (or biting?) harder! Johnny was put in the pool with the biggest fish, so he got the worst of it. For me, it was ticklish, but also like my foot was being filed too hard. It was seriously hilarious and definitely a memorable activity. And hey, it came with a free Coke. Even better.

We were pretty zonked at this point. We were happy to go back to our AC room, because remember we spent most of the day without it. Jason was a champ and did some laundry in the sink for us. Tomorrow would be our biggest day...visiting Angkor Wat!  

Getting creative with the hang drying

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