Cambodia Day 1: Getting There and Getting Around

1:57 PM Florence Sison 0 Comments

At the beginning of 2015, my sister and I talked about going on a trip. Just the two of us. She was the type who really liked to immerse in cultural activities and I was too. In family trips though, we don’t really get to go around as much as we’d like. So, this time we went on our own.

A lot of people talk about how traveling really inspires them and how others even quit their jobs to travel full time. While that seems really appealing, it might not be feasible just yet for my sister and I. 

We ruled out other Asian countries that we’ve been to, even if we wanted to head back to those places. We also didn’t consider those our family could possibly visit in the future. Of course, budget was another constraint. Since we were willing to spend almost 5 days out, we wanted to go somewhere where our relatively small budget would fit. We ended up with Cambodia as our 2015 travel destination.

Our trip was around the 3rd week of August, the week right after the semester of my 1st year of MBA. She was looking forward to a break from work and I was looking forward to a break from the studies. It was a trip of firsts: first time in Cambodia, first time to travel with just my sister, and first time to be in a more provincial travel destination.

We had no tour guide. We made our own itinerary. It seemed to be easy at first since there are a LOT of blogs already out there documenting their respective trips. After a while though, we felt overwhelmed and ended up getting a really handy Lonely Planet book before the trip.  I actually still like to buy these travel books even if everything's already online.  There's something about reading about a place from an actual book that makes me a little bit more excited for the trip. Also, they're pretty much complete.

Shop called Kru:ng that sold a lot of soap and other natural stuff.
All our research and reading was finally put to test when we arrived. It was a night flight and we were extremely nervous about who was going to fetch us and exactly where our hotel was. We took a budget hotel so that we could spend more on food and gifts to bring back home. It's a good thing almost all hotels (even budget ones) offer free pickup service. But, most of the time, they'll be tuk-tuks. 

Everything was going smoothly until we got to the hotel.  There were shoes on the front door despite a sign saying not to leave the shoes.  So, we were a little bit confused. There was a stray dog roaming in the lobby. In short, the place didn't seem to be as great as portrayed in the photos and the ratings. In fact, I was even convincing my sister to transfer the next day! But, since we've booked the place already and it would really make a big dent on my budget, I settled. That's the thing with hotel ratings, they're very subjective. It pays to read the reviews and the comments to get a true feel of the place. Lesson learned.

Before leaving, the tuk-tuk driver who brought us started negotiating with us for the rest of our trip. He was pricing really high at $20 per day for 3 days and wouldn't go lower. We've read somewhere though that you could actually pay $20 for the whole 3 day tour. We said we'll let the receptionist know the next day if we'd like to avail of his services. It's a good thing too that most of them understand English.

We actually knew about these little tours and big tours they offered (which I'll talk about soon) before the first tuk-tuk driver even mentioned it, but my sister and I decided to stick to our own itinerary. We decided to go to certain temples only and just take our time instead of trying to see several in a day. So, during the morning of our first day, we just went around town.

One of the many lotus flowers we saw during our trip.
 I'm from Baguio and their town proper reminded me of our town proper, Session Road, a smaller version of it. That street was called Pithnou St., which was just the main road leading to Pub St., The Alley, and The Lane. There's a book store, there are several spas, there are boutiques, and others. The spas and shops that sold natural products had really nice interiors and relaxing ambience. It really made you want to come back after a long day of temple-running. I was so excited since my sister and I allotted time for a massage towards the end of our trip (after all the temple visits).

The products though were a little pricey for us (considering our budget). Even if Cambodia had its own currency, goods are priced in US dollars. At the time we went, the peso was getting weak, which made our budget seem even smaller. 

There were a LOT of restaurants. We didn't know where to start. Since we were still adjusting to the heat, all we wanted was to eat in an air-conditioned place. Fortunately, Blue Pumpkin was really easy to find.   

We had a not so filling breakfast at the hotel. So, we easily got hungry. Blue Pumpkin seemed to work as a cafe and restaurant. It had two floors. The second one catered more to those who would actually eat meals. The lower floor catered to those who wanted light snacks like bread and their famous ice cream. Let me just say: their ice cream is the best!

The restaurant part upstairs was more like a lounge. It wasn't too intricate, but it gave off a relaxing feel. Almost everything was white and actually clean. So, there we were, ready to taste our first real meal.

Honestly, I don't quite remember the food that we ordered, but I'm sure we had vegetable spring rolls and chicken skewers. I'm not sure if the one with soup was curry, but it was good enough. 

During the trip, my sister and I shared a lot of our meals. We'd order two viands and just share. That way we get to taste the different food. My sister really wanted to try others that are "more authentic" (something like their version of our turo-turo), but I was actually a little bit scared my tummy wouldn't be able to handle it. One thing we noticed though was that their drinks are not as sweet as you'd think they would be. Almost all drinks we had, juices and shakes, had some lime or lemon juice to it.

After lunch, we decided to bargain with another tuk-tuk driver. I think we were able to haggle either $5 or $10 a day. We mentioned that we weren't keen on going to all the temples anyway. I don't think there was a day even that we spent the whole day in temples; we usually did half days.

The ride going to the temples was actually refreshing cause the surroundings were really just trees. You could feel and smell the difference in the air once you get out of the town proper. And the tuk-tuks aren't bad too. They're quite spacious. You'd see 4 or 5 in one. Luckily, it didn't rain too much during our tuk-tuk rides. We were hoping that the driver would give us a little information about the place, but he was either too shy or just didn't want to talk. Nonetheless, he was very kind.

We have a lot of shots in the temples, so I'll talk about the those on my next posts.  :)

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