Is there a sadder sight than five or six passengers hanging around a recently emptied baggage carousel where the passing of time is marked by the continuing circuit of a solitary dilapidated bag belonging to none of them. Being the most realistic of the disappointed travellers gathered thus, I pushed off to the lost luggage desk. The service was South East Asian. They look as if they don’t care. They look as if there is no system. They look as if this situation has never before happened. But there are wheels within wheels, and, after a few questions, you are handed a handwritten scrap of paper bearing an unfeasibly long reference number and sent on your way.
Outside we were touted by an illegal taxi driver. The kind not officially allowed on the airport precincts. The cheapest kind. After laughing so loudly at the first two prices that the driver joined in, we agreed on the third one. Next we established that this price was for both passengers, their hand luggage, all local taxes, booking fees, fuel supplements and extra charges of any other description like, say, a hat tax. I like to seal the deal by brandishing the exact money and saying,
‘You get me to X and I give you this. Deal? Got it? Understand?’
It may sound a little detailed but it can prevent a knife fight later on.
We checked into the Bou Savy guest house and hit the town. We headed for ‘Pub Street’ but it was a bit too far, and as it was 30 hours or so since we got up we just wandered into a basic looking bar and got some food. It belonged to the second eldest brother. Cheap and delicious.
We had an early night and the next morning met our driver who had connections to the Bou Savy. There are two types of people who live in Siem Reap. There are the driver/guides and then there are the others. It’s split about 50-50. Not too difficult then to find a guide. There are tons of recommendations on the various forums where everyone considers themselves to have snagged the best guide. Hmm, I’m not so sure they are all that different. The drivers will fit an off the peg tour to you depending on the time you have available. They all take you to the main sights in more or less the most efficient way. They have a rudimentary knowledge of the site and they keep you supplied with water. And that’s all you need. There’s a couple of bolt on bits like the sunrise/sunset thing and one or two of the smaller more remote temples. These remote temples are for the travel snobs and box tickers. Here is the type of conversation you may hear in, say, a Tibetan restaurant populated with this worthy type of traveller.
‘You didn’t go to Simbach Ranee Temple? Oh… Oh dear. Omigod! You really missed out. I know there are only two stones still standing but you can imagine what it was like. And it’s only another 40 miles in your tuk tuk. We saw a snake and we had the most amazing banana there. You peel it from the bottom. Yeah, crazy I know. To die for. It was only $18.’
Yes. There’s a good reason why some sites are more popular than others.
Next: At the temples.
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