Tim and I had each been to Siem Reap (pronounced ree-ap) before.  I had arrived by boat, and remember being picked up at a dusty dock by a motorbike driver named Vy who was holding a sign with my name on it.  The guesthouse I had stayed in the night before in Phnom Phen had called ahead and arranged for me to stay at his buddy’s place.  I spent the next 3 days cruising around behind Vy, visiting temples and talking endlessly (even while driving) about his experience with Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.  The food was not remarkable (I ate $1 ramen with vegetables for almost every meal) and was unimpressed with the town, but the temples and people shone. The first big hotel was under construction at that time in 2002.

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We flew in this time, and were also met by a driver with a sign.  This time we hopped aboard an air-con Mercedes mini van bound for a boutique hotel.  On the way, we passed countless hotels, all with names like “The Angkor Empress” and replica statues of gods of Angkor.  There were Korean hotels surrounded by Korean restaurants, Japanese hotels with Japanese restaurants.  Town features a pub street with very cheap beer and wood fired pizzas on most menus.  Signs boast “since 2004”.  Luckily, we breezed past all this and were deposited (one of us asleep) onto the fan-cooled, open-walled reception of Siddhartha Boutique Hotel.  We were assigned a tuk-tuk driver, ordered decent room service while Miles slept off the journey, and relaxed into a rhythm that would take us through our time in Cambodia.

Miles and I chilled beside the salt-water pool in the afternoon while Tim took our tuk-tuk the 5km to the temples entrance and caught sunset.  He’d pick us up and drop off the camera and we’d head into town for dinner.  Back home and in bed early so Tim could head off for more photo-ops at sunrise while Miles and I had breakfast, the driver would come back for us and we’d all visit temples together until lunch.  Lake-side very passable lunch at one of the restaurants within the Angkor area, then Miles would pass out on the tuk-tuk again and we’d get dropped off at the hotel for rest & swim before sunset opportunity came around again.  Funny how two days can make a routine.

20130126-IMG_4731Even with all the development in hotels and the town, Angkor temples are on such a grand scale they were not in any way over run.  We could find little corners to ourselves even at the most famous temples, and I found I enjoyed them much more this time around.  Miles, not so much.  Suppose he is not at an age for that kind of appreciation.  What he did love was our driver Theo (actually Theaux, pronounced Thurrr, but he couldn’t quite get that), the tuk-tuk, and especially the air conditioned toy store I found as a respite from the crowded markets where the shopkeepers constantly touched his hair and drove him to swinging blows in their direction.

My birthday was the last day of our trip, and we started celebrating early as we would spend most of it waiting or flying.  We went out for a BBQ dinner (yum!) and Tim asked “what should we do for momma’s birthday” to which Miles replied (and quickly retracted): “ride bicycles!”  We hitched onto his idea and went back to the hotel hoping to arrange it.  At 9pm, we requested bikes and they were waiting for us at 8 the next morning.  We whipped through the temples in the morning and around the lake, ending our stay in Siem Reap on a definite high.  The drive back to the airport was on a back road, skipping all the crappy development that had stained our arrival.  We were ready to be home, but not yet ready to leave.  Perfect.

Sign of a good trip: I came home planning our next one.  Sri Lanka in September, here we come!

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