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Siem Reap, Cambodia

Updated: Apr 25

At the airport, I needed a SIM card and saw a sign that read “FREE SIM CARD HERE” on the way out so I asked the guy working at the shop for one and he said I needed to buy something so I tried to buy a water but he didn’t have change for a $5 so I had to go over to get change at the bank booth - it was a whole ordeal. It appeared that when I tried activating it, there was a whole process that didn’t make sense, so in the end I’ll never go for a “FREE SIM CARD” again. That reminds me, I’m not sure if I mentioned this when I was in Chile, but I had gone to one of the top rated data network shops to activate a SIM card but after trying several times it wouldn’t work for some reason, so they said to wait a little and come back to add more money. Turns out I was able to use the 4G on the card and didn’t have to pay anything, so I already got a free card if you want to count that one. After I dealt with the SIM card, I called a Grab with the airport Wifi and the Grab/tuk tuk asked me to come to the exit (it was automatically translating word for word but was slow and he wasn’t making much sense) so I tried to find the exit but it appeared there was a gate. As I walked out, the taxi airport guy was trying to hassle me about getting a taxi so I started walking towards the entrance of where I saw tuk tuks coming from, having a feeling that they banned Grabs to come into the airport area and I didn’t see him so I waiting like 3 minutes before finally seeing a Grab tuk tuk and it was him! Thank goodness it worked out because I had lost service when walking out of the gate and didn’t have a way to contact him (he had originally gone to the entrance and then to exit when he didn’t see me so he came back to entrance). It was also extremely humid and I was already dripping sweat just walking 5 minutes hot even at night. The drive to my hostel was interesting - all I saw were gate entrances to fancy run-down resorts and many poor people on the sidewalks either eating or doing who knows what, I could tell this was a very underdeveloped country within minutes. There were also crazy drunk drivers it seemed on their mopeds and as my tuk tuk turned off the main street, thankfully there were tons of restaurants and more tourists around. I walked to my hostel not having a clue what to expect, thinking it would be this relaxing calm hostel since the attraction was a temple here, but no, it was a party scene, backpacker, social environment type of hostel with tons of young backpackers. I wasn’t necessarily upset, just surprised. I checked in and signed up for my tours and then went to my room which was private thank god (and in another building across the street from the chaos), unpacked and then walked back to the other side to get dinner as I was exhausted and didn’t feel like finding a restaurant. I ordered the chicken Kemph or whatever and it had a fried egg on it of course and a draft beer. Then I wanted to check out my surroundings and it was very lively so I started walking towards the streets with lots of people and lights and to my surprise I bumped into Pub Street - which I had seen on that Colombian couples Instagram story from when they were there and that UK guy I had chatted with the night before in Cat Bahad said not to go to haha (not really knowing what he meant at first and now I know). There were tons of street food stands, especially for ice cream rolls or skewers. I was going to buy from the first stand I saw but was still full from dinner and told the lady I would come back, but then saw one after another street by street!! There were tons more of these ice cream roll stands with the same prices of $.50 more (total was around $2.50). Along 3 main streets there were packed bars and restaurants with tourists and locals asking if you need a tuk tuk. It actually got to be quite old at this point, there’s really nothing you can do about it. At one of the crosswalks I saw people looking up at this building with a loud speaker with something going on like a fight...and yes, there was a boxing match going on where you could see on it from the streets on the second floor. So I went to get an ice cream roll (dragon fruit and oreo) and watched some of the match before going back to my hostel. It was shocking to see so many people there in that one area of Cambodia, but I guess it’s the main attraction and it’s like a quick stop between surrounding larger countries. I went to shower and dropped off my laundry and then went to bed a little later than expected.

I slept in so late and it felt amazing to be in a comfy bed and not have to do anything all day until the evening for a circus I had signed up for. I got out of bed around noon and went to eat a nice fruity yogurt oat breakfast that cost $3. Then I went to deal with this SIM card that I found out needed to be “topped off” so I tried to do it at the shop at the end of the street but the guy wasn’t from the same company (Smart) and tried to help me add $3 on my plan. Unfortunately he couldn’t get in touch with anyone after 20 minutes so I decided to try myself and I’m glad I did because I just needed to add my profile online and then the plan would activate…much more different than other countries I’ve had to deal with. What’s also surprising is that they’re very strict with what bills are accepted...they don’t accept cut (the slightest cut) or old bills here (dollars and rupees). The guy at the SIM card shop told me as of 3 years ago the bosses of the banks made this a very strict rule and everyone has to abide by it. Then I walked back to go to the pool which was filled with young backpackers and had to sit on the ground at first and then finally got a lounge chair and went back to my room to shower and then get dinner before the circus.

I ended up going to the restaurant that the nice receptionist at my hostel recommended and I’m glad I did because I ordered the traditional Anchor (fish curry dish) while sitting people watching on this busy corner, and it was super cheap like $5 for a dish and beer. Then I walked back to catch a Grab to the circus, and this Grab certainly didn’t know where he was going so thankfully I had data to use to Google maps to show him where to go. I showed up and there’s all these tuk tuks and buses outside so I knew it would be a touristy thing but already should be expected. So I went straight to get a beer and go to the bathroom and then got stuck behind this group of older tourists from who knows where. It was basically first come first serve seating so I found an aisle seat on the side about 15 rows back, which was fine. The circus was great, there was a story involved but honestly I was expecting a bit more from all the hype. Either way, I’m glad I went because it was a cool unique entertaining experience. I had to get up super early the next morning so I went to bed right after getting back quickly (or at least I tried to go to bed early, but probably fell asleep around 11pm or so). I had to be up at 3:45am for the sunrise temple tour and it was super super hard waking up, but of course is always worth it.

It was still dark at 4am of course and when I walked into the main building there was a group of people also doing the tour so we all helped ourselves to a buffet style breakfast..I was not in the mood to socialize. There was an Indian looking guy that had the funniest laugh and made my morning a bit brighter but I was so tired and just ate my breakfast on my own before the tour guide gathered all of us and we were off on a mini shuttle bus. There was this lady, Bernadett, speaking English next to me from NYC (originally from Hungry) and we ended up chatting and hanging out all day. We had to get tickets to get into Angkor Temple that cost $37 and then the temple wasn’t too far away and we arrived just before sunrise. There were tons of tourists around this lake with a reflection of the temple. Bernadett and I kind of cut in front of these people to sit down right in front of the lake close to the water and pretty much got yelled at, but we explained that there were many other people that would be coming and it wasn’t just us, so we tried to ignore them. Honestly, it kind of ruined the moment for me, but then again, all the tourists ruined it. As we waited for the sun to come up, people started walking in front of the temple and there were people yelling at them, completely ruining the peace. It was annoying to have to deal with all these people, but it’s the same as any tourist attraction, you just have to ignore it. Once the sun started to come up, you could see the most surreal reflection of the colors from the clouds on the lake with the temple in the distance and I'll never forget that moment. It was around 6am when the sun came up and then Bernadett and I took pictures in front of the temple and then met up with the rest of the group to enter the temple. As we walked through, our guide gave us some background about the history of the temple and how it had been built more than 1000 years ago...the largest religious memorial in the world. It was a renowned scene inside, with many statue-like imprints on the walls and floors, statues, monks walking around and giving out blessings.. so I decided to give it a try. It felt empowering, glorious, and inspirational to go up and be blessed by a monk, something I'll probably never experience again in my life, so happy I did it. Then we were allowed in the very middle - where there were tombs and more fragile looking statues - and also very strict with the dress code. Bernadett was wearing a dress and brought a shall, but she wasn’t allowed in because the actually blouse needed to have sleeves—she really tried to make it work by trading backpacks with me and everything but one of the guards caught her haha. Thankfully someone had an extra sleeved-shirt she could wear and she was finally able to get in...didn’t realize they would be so strict with the dress code but it makes sense. It was a lovely stroll through the inside, walking amongst such an historical site is always a notable feeling.

Afterwards, we headed to a few other temples nearby. My favorite was definitely the “smiling buddha temple” that had tons of buddha faces that were smiling and it just made me happy looking at them. We took a picture that looked like we were kissing the buddha and other random pictures before heading to the “tomb raider” temple that everyone knows about because of that movie with Angelina Jolie. It was quite spectacular with all these trees growing on top and in between these ancient temple structures with monkeys climbing here and there. But then there was a group of Chinese or Japanese tourists and it was frustrating maneuvering through them while trying to view this site at the same time while being very hot, but we got through and then we were on our way to have a bite to eat. We all sat at this long picnic table and ordered the traditional beef "lok lok" and chatted about our travels. It was funny because the guy I had seen at the airport in Vietnam with wrapped knees ended up being on this same tour and told me he had just gotten in a motorcycle accident as well (from Ireland) and we chatted about our experiences and turns out he had worked in Australia and told me some tips about getting a working holiday visa. After the last temple, we all napped in the van on the way back to the hostel, arriving back around 12:30pm. I took a shower and fell asleep in a deep sleep for 2 hours and then headed to the rooftop pool to meet up with Bernadett as she was leaving for the airport that afternoon. It was relaxing but there were people talking and I had to lay on the floor again at first but finally got a lawn chair afterwards for about 45 minutes. Then we went to get food at a restaurant on Pub Street and chatted about dating and then she had to run to her flight and I slowly strolled back afterwards. I got organized in my room and then showered and got a drink while going through pictures of the day and then went back to my room to go to bed at a decent time since I had to be up for a flight in the early afternoon.

For breakfast, I ordered the same granola yogurt with fruit and chatted with this girl from Canada, Quebec who’s shoulder bag had broken on our tour the day before and then I was off in a tuk tuk Grab to the airport. I had some spare time at the airport so I called Australia and delt with/paid for the second speeding ticket I got (it was a camera ticket they sent in the mail at my home in the USA) and then was off on this small plane to Bangkok, Thailand.

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