Sofitel

chandra-on-phnom-bakheng-lion-2.jpgToday, like most days, started out very early.  We got up and made it downstairs to catch the shuttle that would take us to the 7:30am bus to Siem Reap.  We were down there at 7am and no shuttle, so I ordered us some toast and we ate that while we waited.  The shuttle didn’t pick us up until nearly 7:20, but it was all good.  We were driven to the bus depot in a van and boarded the bus.  It was an ok bus, at least there was good air conditioning, but there was a tv blaring some kareoke music far too loudly for 7:30am.  There were these adorable little Cambodian children singing along – it was just so cute.  So we leave Phnom Penh and go over a bridge to exit the city.  The scenery was pretty cool, but extremely different.  There would be rows and rows of shacks and roadside stands followed by a brand new impressive home.  The class differences in this country are just so striking and I can only think of my social psych class at BU where we learned that extreme differences between classes actually impacts the physical health of all of the people.  So people in the scandinavian countries are far more healthy than people who are living in the US, for example, where the gap between the classes has only grown.  Our gap is nothing compared to this, however.  It must be terribly frustrating.  Anyway, the bus was still filled with the sounds of Cambodian pop music (which is very catchy by the way), and I killed 3 mosquitoes with my cat-like reflexes.  After a bit, I guess the pop music wasn’t quite annoying enough, so we moved on to….kung fu movies!  Ugh, I have to say, this was very annoying.  They were extremely loud and were all voice-overs or something so it would be complete silence followed by yelling in the most annoying voice ever.  Not sure, but I think you should have a nice voice to do voice-overs…just a thought.  Around 1030 or 11, we stopped at a roadside stand to use the bathroom and get some snacks.  The bathroom was…not so great and you dipped a pot into a standing tub of water to ‘flush.’  I touched absolutely nothing.  Again, purell saves the day.  We got some snacks….bad idea.  We thought we were ok with packaged chocolate and pineapple cookies and went back on the bus.  There was TOTALLY a MAGGOT on the bag of the pineapple cookies!  Back off the bus!  I motioned to the lady that there was something wrong and she exchanged the package…but she put the contaminated one right back on the stack with the other ones!  Ugh, so after the most thorough inspection possible, we ate the cookies….only to stop at a restaurant about 30 minutes later!  So we go in and I’m really not that hungry but it was unclear how long the rest of the journey would take.  We sit down and get menus and I ordered the vegetable fried rice and Dave got a beef dish.  After that, they plop a glass of silverware down on the table and the silverware is sitting in water!  What the hell is this about?  So I opened my trusty purell bottle and we cleaned 2 forks.  I can not say enough about sanitizer.  I’m on my second bottle and I think it is my security blanket of SE Asia.  After that, we rested for a little bit and watched the scenery go by.

Upon arrival in Siem Reap, we were told that there would be free tuk tuk service provided to our hotel.  Pretty nice!  Our driver was wearing an MLB had and had a redskins jersey on…lil odd.  So off we went to the Sofitel.  So we roll up in out tuk tuk and people take the bags and doors are opened and there’s lots of bowing and ‘sir’ and this and that.  We check in and are ushered over to chairs where we are given cool towels and iced green tea.  Ahhh, wow, this was needed.  A woman shows us to our room and points out everything along the way.  The place is gorgeous and there is a lake with walkways leading to covered ‘islands’ and a pool with a real island, a bridge, and a swim up bar.  A marimba plays in the background….live.  Our room is really nice, of course, with a tub, beautiful glass shower, fruit plate, and a porch.  Nicely done.  We had arranged for Sali, the tuk tuk driver to pick us up at 4:30, so we had some time to kill before that.  We basically relaxed and then headed down to one of the restaurants for a decent lunch.  Dave had a noodle thing and I had a chicken dish – both were amazing, and probably seemed more so because of the meals we had eaten so far that day.  After that, we had some time to kill so we hung out in the amazingly decorated lobby where even more musicians were playing.  We also went in the gift shop but the prices are just silly compared to the market.  Finally it was 4:30 and Sali arrived to take us to a hill where the sunset was supposed to be incredible.  Well, there wasn’t going to be much or a sunset because it was raining, but I was excited to see the first of the temples!  We went to the ticket area first and at 5pm we were allowed to purchase tickets for the next day.  I guess these tickets are good for tonight through tomorrow, which is good because there were $20, which is quite a bit.  After that we drove into the Angkor complex and rode past Angkor Wat, which was just amazing.  We arrived at Phnom Bakheng shortly after and began to walk up the hill.  I was so not dressed for this, I dont know that I was thinking – a skirt and flip flops?  Whoops.  Actually it wasn’t that bad but my feet got pretty wet and climbing steep stairs in a skirt isn’t the best of ideas.  The walk to the top of the hill wasn’t too bad, and we apparently could have taken an elephant to the top, just to give a sense of how fun Cambodia is.  We had to climb some really steep stairs to get to the top of the temple.  Words can’t even describe how steep these stairs were because they were also really narrow, making it even more difficult because you had to put your foot sideways on the stair.  We made it to the top and the view was just insane.  Rivers winding around through the jungle with temples popping up every so often.  We even saw Angkor Wat from up there!  We took loads of pictures of us, including some of us perched on lions which turned out great and were a great idea even though we had to climb down more stairs to actually take the pictures.  It was raining quite a bit, but I really didn’t care because it was just so impressive and I was thrilled to be there.  Eventually it started getting dark and we climbed back down the death-stairs and began the decent down the giant hill.  By the time we got about half way down it was nearly pitch black.  There were more musicians at the bottom, giving the entire experience such a surreal feeling.  We crossed back over the road to find our tuk tuk and a small boy kept following me trying to sell me postcards.  I wanted to buy them, but I waited until he was the only one around so I wouldn’t be mobbed.  Finally, I gave him a dollar and motioned ‘shhh’ before continuing on to the tuk tuk.  The ride back was actually incredible I thought.  We were all alone, it was pitch black, and there was nothing but jungle on either side as we sped along the road past all of the temples.  Surreal is really all I can say.

Back at the hotel, we decided to go in the pool for a swim!  We put on the hotel bathrobes and I used my flip flops and Dave used the slippers.  There wasn’t anyone really in the pool when we got there and the water was so warm that we were able to walk right in.  The pool was just surreal, like most of the time was that day in siem reap, with music playing off in the background and a light sprinkle of rain falling on the water every so often.  There were women in the distance with traditional khmer outfits too, so it just added to how exotic everything already felt.  We walked around for a bit and then Dave wanted me to teach him how to swim.  I tried to help him as best I could, and I honestly think he made a big improvement.  After that we kind of just swam around the island and, eventually we got out…I was getting a little cold and for the first time the outside air made she shiver.  We headed back into the room and I took a quick shower to rinse off.  Very nice shower.  When I was in there, Dave plugged in his laptop and the power cord blew!  How annoying.  We dressed for dinner, as we had decided to just eat downstairs at one of the restaurants, and Dave dropped off his adapter with the concierge and we ate off the same menu as lunch time.  I had amazing prawns and Dave had fish as well I think.  We had some desert too, including coconut ice cream for me.  Back in the room, we made some calls back home and then went to bed.  We aren’t being picked up until 9:30am tomorrow, so there is actually the possibility of not awaking until 9!  Amazing.

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