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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Memories in Cambodia (Angkor Wat) - Part 1

Greetings earthlings! I have just arrived from the far away lost land of the Khmers, all soaked up in the wonders and sights there.

Visiting one of the greatest wonders of the world was truly a breathtaking experience to say the least. And thus I have taken to myself to jot down the memories gathered during our stay there. The following few posts will be my travel writings, for reminiscence as well as documentation's sake.

Alas this will probably start off as more of a budget airline rant rather than document what I experienced in Cambodia. To start things off, our flight was delayed. No big deal for the usual Air Asia traveller, but being a first time passenger the wait can be agonizing.

The departure screen showed our flight being delayed, starting from 2 hours, which changed to 3 hours, which in the end (because the people were out of wits, I think) was changed to 'Unknown'.

To cut it short, we were delayed by more than 6 hours before the plane actually took off, including getting into one worn-out airplane which we were eventually shooed out of. Counting in the fact that we reached 2 hours earlier than the initial departure time, we spent a total of EIGHT hours in the LCCT.

Low-cost terminal of the year - A McDonald's, a cafe serving mediocre food at crazy prices, a convenience store and a Coffee Bean. They don't get more low-cost than that. Imagine the things we did (or rather, we had to find something to do) while waiting for time to pass.

After the announcement finally came that it was boarding time, we happily stepped out of waiting hall Airbus 320! Well, at least they gave us a new plane to ride on.

"Ladies and gentlement this is your captain speaking. You are now on board flight AK846, an Airbus 320 which comes with it's own...dry ice maker! We hope you'll have an enjoyable flight while the mist keeps the environmet romantic enough for couples to make out."

After 2 hours of uneventful jourey, we touched down at the Siem Reap International Airport.

By then it was nearly 6pm local time (Siem Reap is one hour behind Malaysia time). Earlier on we told our guesthouse contact to pick us up from the airport at 2pm. What a surprise to find the guy still patiently waiting for us a the arrival hall, holding a sign inscribed with none other than my name!

The guy in the picture was our driver, Su Heuk. A pretty friendly guy who would ferry us around Siem Reap for the next 3 days. The plus point - he could speak basic English.

With half a day gone, our initial plans to go for the Mini Tour of Angkor Wat were dashed. We checked into our guesthouse, the Golden Temple Villa. The place was sort of a modified 3-storey bungalow, and at USD14 per room per night it was a perfect suit for our budget. The rooms were clean and colourful, and we had no complaints through out our 4 day stay there.

After a shower and some rest, we ventured out into the town area, armed with a Lonely Planet guidebook loaned from a friend. The hotspot to go at night is none other than Bar Street, so called for the numerous bars, pubs, cafes and massage parlours lining the street.

Hungry from the journey, we found this little place recommended by the guidebook to have some dinner. We ordered some Khmer dishes as we were anxious to taste some of the local food.We particularly fancied the national dish, Amok (steamed coconut fish with turmeric sauces and spices), which was really delicious.

Amok, Khmer curry with pork, and friend chicken with chillies and basil.

Khmer Kitchen Restaurant serves one of the best tasting food in the area at a reasonable price. It was so good, we went back for a second time during our last night in Cambodia.

I also tried the Cambodian national beer, aptly named Angkor. It's a very drinkable beer, tasting not unlike some of the European brands like Heineken.

Other than the usual delicacies, there were also some barbecue dishes for the more daring. With mains such as crocodile, snake and kangaroo meat on the menu, it was like a Cambodian Fear Factor showing live.

After a stroll around the street in aid of our digestive juices, we settled down at the Angkor What? Bar, one of the oldest and more popular bars in town.A vodka coke made that night's sleep very pleasurable indeed.

The walls of the bar were littered with messages left by the thousands of visitors before us. It was interesting to read some of the messages, and we did not leave without our own trail there as well.

If ever you visit this particular bar, at the left corner of the exterior, look up the space 7 feet from the ground.

There you will find what I left for your, my dear traveller.

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