While we were on holiday in Thailand we made a quick dash across the border to Siem Reap in Cambodia to visit the ancient Angkor Wat and at the same time pick up some geocaches along the way and get a new visa stamp when we enter back into Thailand.
What immediately strikes you when you cross into Cambodia at Aranya Pratet is that life is quite different from Thailand – different modes of transport, different language (Khmer) and even less English speaking people than in Thailand, more poverty, but all over very friendly people. One thing that does not differ however is the humidity and the heat.
We left our vehicle for the weekend in the parking lot at Aranya Pratet and crossed per foot into Cambodia and rented a taxi (which uses gas as fuel) in Poipet to take us to Siem Reap for the weekend.
What we did not realize is that it was a long weekend in Asia so a couple of hundred other tourists had the same idea than us so the queues at immigration was quite long, but nonetheless it was quite an easy process despite the language barrier.
Siem Reap is a bustling touristy town with lively bars in Pub Street and stalls where you can buy anything from clothes to jewelry, food and books and stay open until late at night.
There are numerous ways to explore Siem Reap, but the best way to explore the various markets that sell about anything that you can think of is per foot and when your feet get tired you can hop onto a tuk-tuk taxi or rent a cheap Chinese bicycle and negotiate the traffic.
I must say the Cambodians, like the Thai people, can fit a whole family onto a scooter and still travel comfortably – amazing! All kinds of transport are tolerated on the roads so keep your eyes open when crossing a street.
At the jaw dropping Angkor Wat it is quite challenging to get any picture taken without a number of other unknown tourists in it. You quickly learn to be extremely efficient with the camera to focus and shoot! So you can imagine when you have to retrieve a geocache what stealth and posing as a decoy it required between me and hubby to retrieve and replace a cache with all these masses around.
Allow a whole day to wander through this impressive UNESCO site!
But thanks to geocaching we also visited the lesser known (we were the only tourists there at the time) Ta Nei temple in the forest and took some awesome pictures. Some Japanese students were working on a restoration project piloted by the University of Tokyo and were amazed when we showed up at the site. However they just carried on with their work and we were able to retrieve the geocache (with a snake skin on top of the container!) unnoticed.
Tired of all the touristy stuff we rented quad bikes for the morning and spend four hours with a guide taking us through rice paddies and traditional villages in the Siem Reap area. Be sure to slap on some sunscreen and be prepared to get dirty and enjoy the ride!
In the smallest of villages we came across neatly dressed Cambodian children that have to attend school even on a Saturday. Schooling this way does pay off, because most of the children speak a perfect American English and are the negotiators on behalf of their parents who run or own shops, etc.
Too quick the weekend was over, my life enriched and the visa run accomplished. I could add yet another smiley to my travel bucket and appreciate my easy way of life in South Africa.
“He who strays discovers new paths.”