The CHANG Gang
The CHANG Gang -- Part 12
CHANG Gang -- Part 12
Today was the big day; we had a flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. This was our first trip to Angkor Wat. Although we didn’t know what to expect, we were really looking forward to it.
Tig had made friends with one of the drivers at the Nana Hotel, so we used his services to take us to Don Muang. The driver spoke English fairly well, and we had a fun ride to the airport.
The driver asked me if I had a Thai girlfriend, and laughed when I told him that a different Thai girl breaks my heart every night.
Checking-in was painless, and we were happy we could carry on our bags. But when we got our very small plane, they collected all our carry-ons and put them on a cart. That’s a bummer…
The flight to Siem Reap is short; about an hour or so. Antman was pretty excited because this was his first flight in a propeller plane. The airline served a box lunch on the flight that was surprisingly good, and Antman was overjoyed that his box contained a tuna sandwich. His exact words were something like, “Wow! I can’t believe this!! I’m flying over Cambodia in a propeller airplane eating a tuna sandwich!!!” There’s no denying Antman marches to the beat of his own drummer…
Before we left home for the trip, we had some extra passport photos taken because we knew we would need them for the Cambodian Visa and the multi-day pass to Angkor Wat.
The visa process at the Siem Reap airport is relatively painless, but took just about as long as the flight from Bangkok.
After leaving the plane, we stood in line at the visa counter. There, they took our photos, passports, and 20 dollars, and told us to stand in another line. For some reason, Antman had packed his photos in his checked luggage and had to run off and find it as we stood in line.
Maybe the way it’s supposed to work is that the second line is for queuing to pick up one’s passport with the visa. One might think the first traveler that handed in their passport would the first one to get their’s back. But that’s not the way it worked here; it was last-in, first-out all the way. The French tourists crowded around the counter bitched up a storm (which never helps anything), while we just quietly waited. It was pretty obvious what was going on; the visa guys stacked all the passports in a pile, and took the top one to process next. Last-in, first-out. I mean, one could see what was going on! Feeling good that we would get out of the airport before the French, we enjoyed the wait as much as we could in the visa lobby.
After we received our passports back with the visa, we were off to Passport Control. The lines were pretty long when we got there, but they opened a new counter as we walked up, and ushered us over to be the first at the new counter. It only took a few heartbeats for the four of us to be stamped into Cambodia, and then it was off to get the checked luggage.
Finding our bags in the piles of luggage wasn’t too difficult for us, but some travelers were running around looking pretty panicked.
We cheerfully grabbed our bags and headed for the taxi stand. Stepping outside the small airport was like stepping into a blast furnace – it was pretty hot in Siem Reap that day. At the far end of the lot, there was a line of drivers holding up cards with people’s names on them. We had arranged for our hotel to pick us up, so that’s where we were headed. Along the way, a tout sidled up to us asking if we needed a ride. Antman explained that the hotel was picking us up, but the man started asking what we would do if the hotel driver didn’t show, and how did we know the driver out there was really from the hotel. I was just about to tell the tout to get lost, when we spotted one of the drivers holding up a sign for the CHANG Gang. We stepped up the pace and left the tout in our dust.
Even though the hotel knew there were four of us with luggage at the airport to be picked up, they only sent a small car. I don’t remember if the car was smaller than the usual BKK taxi, but it sure did feel like it was – especially with our luggage and the four of us!
The ride to the hotel was short, maybe 10 minutes or so but we had enough time to enjoy a few choice potholes on the way. As we neared our hotel, we spotted the Red Piano. MikeM33607 did some research before leaving, and heard the Red Piano was a good place to eat. It was close to our hotel, so we all decided to eat there after checking-in.
After the Red Piano, we passed the old market, made a right turn when we got to the river, and our hotel was at the end of the block
We chose the Ta Prohm Hotel as our base in Siem Reap. It’s not a fancy hotel, and maybe a little overpriced but when we heard of the beergarden overlooking the river we were sold.
Our stay was booked through a hotel consolidator, and we were happy that the hotel accepted out vouchers without any problems. Except for Tig; for some reason they didn’t have a Deluxe room for him and made him sleep in the attic, or so he described it.
We dropped off our bags, and met in the lobby for lunch. I got there a few moments early and used the time to exchange a couple dollars for 100 real notes. Each 100 real note is with about .02 USD. Shotover had suggested this as a good way to get along with the beggars; they would be very happy to get the notes, and it wouldn’t cost us much.
We met a lot of children selling things and bought a lot of useless stuff mainly because we felt sorry for the children. But when we didn’t buy anything, we always passed out the real notes.
Lunch at Red Piano was okay and it was nice to be sitting outside watching all the activity on the streets. There were drivers on bikes and motorcycles towing rickshaws sharking pedestrians and looking for passengers.
We were starved and ordered two entrees each. And Antman was the happiest guy in Cambodia because he got to have two tuna sandwiches in one day!
Feeling stuffed, we thought a walk around the old market would be a good idea. Before we left home, I bought a book about Angkor Wat from a special outlet that deals in out-of-print books. It was a well-respected book, so I was happy to get it at an out-of-print bookstore for $40USD. Walking through the market I noticed they had the same book for sale there. When they told me their price for the book was only $5USD, I gasped in disbelief and they instantly lowered the price to $3USD. I convinced MikeM33607 it was a pretty good price, and he picked up a copy. Instead of feeling cheated, I was proud to own the most expensive copy of the book in Cambodia.
One of the stalls in the market sold opium pipes and Antman thought they would make a good souvenir. I suggested they looked a little used, and maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea to bring it past one of the drug-sniffing dogs at the airport. But up to him…
When we finally got back to the hotel, Antman and MikeM33607 went in to rest up while Tig and I headed to the beergarden. We enjoyed the time drinking our beers and watching the Cambodians going about their daily chores on the other side of the river.
But after a few beers, we went back to rest up a little as well. We promised to meet up in a few hours and see what the night had in store for us.
The room’s air conditioner did a great job keeping the room cool, and the TV included an impressive selection of international channels including quite a few English speaking ones. But the electricity wasn’t as reliable as we were used to; we found it would fail quite often throughout the day – easily a dozen or so times every day.
After a restful nap and a quick shower we met in the lobby. Antman was MIA (he prolly went back to the Red Piano for another tuna sandwich) and MikeM33607 wanted to take a tour of the local massage parlors, so it would be just Tig and I for the night.
Tig and I hit one of the main roads, and headed toward the center of town. Many motorcycles towing rickshaws would stop to see if we wanted a ride, but we were enjoying the walk. There were a lot of Cambodians also wandering around, and the food stalls were doing a lot business.
When we got as far as we were going to walk we didn’t fancy walking back the same way, so we stopped the next motorcycle rickshaw that came along and hired him for a one-hour tour of the city. The driver took us north, south, east, and west as far as he was willing to go. Sometimes when he turned around he would say it was not safe because there were bandits in the area, and sometimes he would say it was not safe because there were police in the area.
The driver wanted us to do some shopping at some pretty fancy looking souvenir malls, but we didn’t feel like shopping that night.
We were scheduled for a 4AM pickup at the hotel to see the sun rise over Ankor Wat tomorrow, so it was an early evening for Tig and I.
When we got back to the hotel, stopped off at the massage parlor next door to see what the going rate was. But at $20 for one hour, it was something I could pass up.
This page was last updated on 13 March, 2005
Copyright© 2005 by JaiGuru