It was early October, and I'd decided, quite spontaneously, what I would be doing with my Pchum Ban (pronounced puh-choom bun) vacation. This is a four-day long weekend (Oct. 7 -10) during which all Cambodians head off to their villages/ native towns to celebrate in memory of their ancestors, leaving all urban areas rather empty and bleak.
Three newly found friends, who are also in Kampong Cham working with Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF) had made plans to travel north to the Province of Siem Reap. I found myself jumping on their wagon barely 12 hours before
they planned to leave. So, that was our Siem Reap Team: Jen (NZ), Dom (Cote d'Ivoire), Antonio (Italy) and myself. Huzzah!
After a moderately comfortable six-hour bus journey, we arrived at Siem Reap and headed to Lonely Planet's "pick" for budget hotels. Garden Village worked out fabulously. We had internet in the open-air lobby, air-conditioning in the rooms, $1/day rental bikes and an in-house restaurant.
We rented bikes for all three days (not counting Sunday when we would bus back to Kampong Cham), bought rations for the bike ride, and then set off every morning to explore the incredible number of Temples around the area. These temples are world renowned because they date back to circa 13th century, the time of the Hindu Kings and the Ankgorian dynasties. The most famous one that everyone quotes is "Angkor Wat" - but then there's Angkor Thom, Neak Pean, Ta Som,....and on and on. A lot of the temples were in ruins, but then again, a lot of them didn't seem that way because of their massive size - they were so extensive it didn't seem like they missing a whole lot. What is the most incredible thing about these temples is that they are constructed primarily using huge blocks of stone - an impressive architectural feat, no doubt about it.
Our evenings were spent chilling in the bustling hub of Siem Reap town, which is infested with tourists. Yes, infested. I suspect it's because Siem Reap is the only other international airport location in Cambodia, so tourists hop on a flight from wherever (esp. Thailand) and jet set into Siem Reap for an incredulous "quick trip" around the temples! In any case, at night you will find almost everyone congregated around "Pub Street" - a place of restaurants galore, offering you cuisines from around the world, and plenty of bars and stores.
This one place is called "The Red Piano" - you can see it's namesake here --->
Apparently it's been even more famous by the fact that Angelina Jolie and Crew dropped by there for meals, during the shooting of Lara Croft Tomb Raider that was filmed at one the temples. Oooh + Aaah. Trivia for those inclined: there is a cocktail there named after Jolie.
Ah, great trip! (sigh)