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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Day 1 - Siem Reap: Off To Cambodia

TXL-AMS-BKK-REP: Day 1 - 26.3./27.3.2015:

We nearly didn't make it this time due to some family matters in the Philippines. It was not a good premise to go to a vacation when there is emergency in the family, but all was set. 

After a long flight from Berlin to Bangkok with a stopover in Amsterdam with KLM, we had to hurry. There wasn´t much time left until our final flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. This was, when I realized, that the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok is rather huge. It felt like we were walking a few kilometers past fancy shops, until we finally reached our gate, fortunately just in time.

The flight from Bangkok to Siem Reap with Bangkok Airways however, was quite pleasant. It wasn´t fully booked, so there was enough spare place and it just took about an hour. After three successive flights it was a wonder that I was still happy when we finally landed in Siem Reap, our destination for the next few days, before we would continue to Singapore and finally spend two weeks of touring Taiwan. I just missed one thing - my bag!

We got our visa online prior to our flight, so immigration was just a short stop at the airport for us. But then we had waited and waited at the baggage claim, but my bag didn´t appear. So I finally went to an office next to the claim area inside the airport. I was asked to fill a form by the friendly employee and there was nothing more to do. She told me, they would directly contact our hotel, when my bag is found. I was finally in Cambodia - something I dreamed about for a long time - but without my luggage! Luckily, I've prepared for some eventualities and put a pair of underpants, a short-pants, a shirt as well as toothbrush and small toothpaste in my hand-carry. After flying for more than 16 hours, we badly needed a proper shower and rest. 

After buying a local SIM Card at the airport our driver already greeted us and brought us with a Tuktuk  (the official name for them is the French word remorque, but everyone still calls them tuk tuks) to our hotel, the Mid City Hotel. Fortunately the driver we had arranged with the hotel, had waited the whole time during my luggage incident. 

We were warmly welcomed at the hotel and were happy when we saw, that the room was spacious, clean, modern and equipped with what we could wish for (flatscreen-TV, refrigerator, air-con, bathtub and even a balcony). The hotel also has its own swimming pool and is located in walking distance to the city center, including the old market.

The staff at the hotel asked us if we needed help with tour arrangements and we gladly accepted and booked tours for the next few days. We told them what we wanted to see and they made proposals, how to combine that best. They also provided us with a city map and a map of Angkor Wat. There are actually so many Tuk tuks in Siem Reap, that there would be no need to book tours ahead of your stay. Most hotels - I´m pretty sure - will help to arrange tours even at short notice. 

At early afternoon it didn´t make sense to go to Angkor Wat on our first day, so we decided to stay inside Siem Reap and take a look at some of its attractions. The hotel arranged a Tuk tuk and off we went! Our first stop was actually a shop to buy sunscreen. With more than 30 degrees it was searing hot and sunny in Siem Reap and our sunscreen was in my lost bag. To our surprise, it cost more than the double of what I have paid in Germany for the sunscreen. Siem Reap isn´t necessarily a cheap place to buy tourist stuff, we learned. However, the next stop was much more pleasing - Wat Preah Prom Rath. It is a pretty and peaceful complex inside the city with interesting sculptures.

From Wat Preah Prom Rath we continued to Wat Bo, a temple with a lot of stupas, where we walked around and enjoyed the scenery.

From there we asked our driver to go to the Royal Gardens. We didn´t really find an entrance however and just took a look at the busy temple opposite instead and then our driver recommended to walk a few steps to the bat trees, where we observed a colony of bats hanging from huge trees.

After a quick stop at the Lucky Mall, to visit a supermarket, we continued back southwards to the old market, where our driver dropped us. We wanted to walk back to the hotel from there, but first walked inside a passage to enter the old market, where you can find food, clothes, jewelry and a lot more. We were just window shopping but allowed us a stop at a nice pizzeria on our way back to the hotel.

Back at the hotel we cooled down in the pool and went to bed early, as we had booked a Tuk-tuk to Angkor Wat for the next day and our trip would commence at 5 a.m.! When we were already dozing off, we got a call from the reception, that my luggage has been found and they already had it delivered from the airport - it was quite a relief!

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