Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas The Former Khmer Kingdom

First time in the former Khmer Kingdom and it exceeded ALL my expectations! Cambodia is a country I highly recommend anyone to visit.

Spending six days in the country meant I could take it slow - Joy and I had plenty of time to savour authentic cuisine, visit temples and different sights, and terrorise monks on the street, just kidding!

Phnon Penh is a city which I won't recommend spending too much time in because it has not a lot to offer - there are the big luxurious villas for the rich and the shabby dilapidated slums right across the streets. It feels very much like Ho Chi Minh to me - crazy traffic and hot weather minus the trishaws. The Wat Phnom and Royal Palace made sure the foreigners are forking a lot more moolah than the locals to experience what it's like to feel ripped off its lost former glory.

Clubbing in Phnom Penh was an interesting affair - a new friend brought us to a gay bar, Blue Chilli, where a highly entertaining Miss Cambodia beauty contest was being held and for an hour, I forgot I'm in a country where gays face fierce discrimination and homophobia. We ended the night at Pontoon with plenty of dancing and weird-tasting whisky coke.

It wasn't long before we bade Phnom Penh goodbye. A treacherous freezing 8-hour bus ride saw us arriving at Siem Reap at 10pm. The complimentary tuk-tuk pick up service by The Siem Reap Amigo Villa was the only good thing I can say about the villa stay. Firstly, it's not a villa - it's an old house with broken air conditioning, no knob on the toilet door, leaking shower head, faulty toilet flush and the list goes on. The owner was trying to sell us tour packages at 3 times the normal prices! Thank god we only book it for three nights and I couldn't wait to spend Christmas eve in a nice boutique hotel.

The UNESCO site of Angkor Wat is slowly but surely being restored to its former glory which meant one should visit now before all the artificial restoration is completed. One could spend hours over days being lost while immersed in history. Joy wanted to catch the orange sunrise over Angkor Wat so I woke up at 4.30am one morning and braced the freezing cold ride in the 30-min open tuk tuk ride. There was no orange sunrise.

Watching sunset by the floating village, on the other hand, was a different matter. It was serene and somehow, very peaceful. The lack of crowd must be why.

Edwin had recommended a tuk tuk driver who was nothing but honest, hardworking and service oriented. He is the most earnest driver I have ever met on my travels. I don't think I have ever recommended any services in my blog but here goes the first... Do mention that you are recommended by people from Singapore so he knows the word about his good service is growing.
On Christmas eve, Joy and I took it easy and went to Pub Street to have dinner and make merry at the usual spots of Angkor What? and Temple Club. Oh, I had the most amazing chocolate shake at Le Tigre de Papier! On Christmas day, Joy and I moved into Boutique Indochine Hotel & Spa to end the holiday on a high note and boy, did we enjoy the time lazing by the pool and sipping margarita.

I didn't find any McDonald's here but I was overjoyed by the fastest ferris wheel ride I ever went on in a bazaar between Angkor Wat and the town center! *grins*

I spent so much time at the spacious, inexpensive no-appointment-required spas pampering myself with body massages, foot massages, body scrub, hair wash, Brazilian wax and then some. I almost felt like I was away on a spa retreat instead!

Lastly, if you think you are in a third world country and can enjoy the luxury without paying the price, you're wrong. My trip cost me USD850 so be forewarned.

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