Siem Reap is Hot! Tips on Currency and Shopping.
Siem Reap Travel Blog› entry 21 of 24 › view all entries
Our flight to Siem Reap was quite smooth - we didn't get a direct flight because for some odd reason all the direct flights left in the evening and we wanted to get to Siem Reap earlier. Good thing too, because the electricity was out in Hanoi today - not just our hotel - but seemingly city-wide. We were glad we weren't stuck in Hanoi with no electricity (and no a/c!).
Our flight was on a smallish plane (a Fokker (sp?) with only about 30 - 40 seats), but it wasn't that scary. During our stop we were so disoriented, we didn't even know what country we were in. We later found out we stopped in Laos (for only about 20 minutes). From the air it looked lush and beautiful.
Visa Tip - you can get 30-day visas on arrival in Cambodia - just fill out a form, give them a passport photo and $20 USD and you are pretty much set. They are really encouraging tourism here.
Currency - We made the mistake of changing into Riel - Cambodian currency. We soon realized that everything is quoted in and invoiced in USD. I'm not sure what people from other countries do... My advice is to just get $20 in Riel and bring lots of smaller bills in USD ($1, $5 and $10).
When we got outside we were immediately hit by heat - not as humid as Vietnam, but oppressively hot. We had booked a room at the FCC Angkor and they arranged for a driver to pick us up. There was also a hostess who gave us jasmine (or gardenia) scented frozen towels - so refreshing! It was a 20 minute drive to the hotel and during that time we deduced that neither the hostess nor the driver spoke very good english. They would have "scripted" conversation but if we asked any questions we were met with silence or completely unrelated answers. Oh well... At least they were nice.
During the drive through town we noticed that the streets were pretty quiet, only a few motorists (and no honking - yeah!). Buildings tended to be pretty low, with dusty roads.
For lunch, A had a grilled fish in bamboo - very nice; I had a fish laksa (a bit too rich and creamy for me) and duck dumplings - literally the most disgusting things I've had in a long long time.
After lunch we decided to check out the Old Market - it was stifling hot! It was also eerie how there were barely any tourists shopping - literally about 100 vendors to one tourist. We quickly realized that the prices ranged drastically - essentially if these vendors thought you had money they would try to scam you. The same item could be quoted from $2 to $10. If you started walking away, the price would immediately drop 50%. If you said, "the other guy said it was only $[X] - they would immediately match." It was rather annoying, and since I had already shopped so much in Bali and Vietnam, I really didn't feel compelled to buy more or to reward such blatant behavior.
The heat was really getting to us so we stopped at the Red Piano for a small snack. This was the restaurant/bar made famous by the crew of Tomb Raider - the crew (along with Angelina Jolie) would often frequent this place when they filmed the first Tomb Raider film. It's a pretty nice place - I had a glass of wine and some samosas - pretty tasty. (Again, it was eerily quiet - there were only two other people here ... where are the people???). Refreshed, we headed back to the FCC. I enjoyed the wonderful pool - so nice after the dusty heat, while A slept.
For dinner, we were lame and ate at the FCC again - mainly because we were too lazy to leave the hotel. To be honest, the food at the FCC is pretty mediocre - just go for drinks. I had a decent burger, but a great rose.
Tomorrow we have booked a driver to take us to visit the temples - hope it isn't too hot ....