We have no intention of renting a bike in the tourist hot spot, there’s more Tuk-Tuks than temples, so we give drive from the bat cave and reservoir trips our helmets as a parting gift. At the last moment we remember we need a hotel in temple town! To save messing about when we arrive, we hastily book one on agoda before we leave for the station, we are departing by the mode of transport we arrived, the trusty bus.
With the KP is not able to cross the border to Thailand by road, we are forced to return to Siem Reap to depart by air. Yes it’s a minor cloud but one that has a silver lining, more than one actually. Firstly we get to meet up with another Valleys boy from home, Neilos hails from the same good valley as myself but closer to the top. Not quite as far up as only one road in & out, but close to it. Secondly our extended holiday is now extended just a little bit more, as when we get back to the island the fitness regime will commence. Along with a more healthy diet and the job search net getting cast further afield. The boozing will also reduce apart from when Billy visits. So on the bus we are excited about our mini extension.
We arrive after the short trip then it’s straight in a Tuk-Tuk to the hotel, a $30 abode just on the edge of town. Drive had difficulty finding it, which is no surprise as it’s miles from anywhere thanks to the hasty booking! Well not quite but it’s half way to the airport, down a dusty bumpy road. It’s out a bit more than we’d have liked but it’ll give us another angle on the town. The place is very nice actually, there’s a spa and a tidy enough pool with private booths surrounding it. A travel agent would try to get away with calling it ‘a secluded romantic getaway’, nice. The room is in line with the rest of the hotel with a huge bed, the sort you get at £150 night hotels back home. The bathroom is very smart and there’s even a bath out on the balcony which extends around the corner.
Being more than a walk out of town, we relax at the hotel with a few cocktails and snacks at the pool before heading into town in the early evening, a $3 fare with the hotels Tuk-Tuk. Neilos is not so familiar with the town so we are heading to Pub Street, thankfully at the quiet end. The red piano also known as the Tomb raider bar, it’s where Angelina aka Lara Croft used to hang out when filming. Now her favourite tipple is a cocktail in the bar, what are they like? I’m sorry neither of us have tried them and I was soon to discover Neilos is still a beer man, even tho’ he’s been doing a fair bit of travelling himself since the last time we’d seen each other, which must have been about seven years ago, thanks TwitTwot. Unfortunately he’s alone as his mrs is not feeling so good today. So it’s the three of us who enjoy beers food and a chinwag, the KP holding her own even when us boys converse in fast wenglish, like only valley boys can see. He’s just at the start of his trip which is an annual occurrence, a few months break away from the winter and toil of work back home.
Good on him there’s too many back home who just not got the go, to go anywhere, apart the pub, the same one, even when it’s possible to do so. It’s good to chat to a like minded soul, the KP is not excluded as Neilos has previously visited most places we’ve been this trip. The exchange of travel tales is fun and also not met with disbelief, which can happen at times. We try a bar or two then take Neilos to one of our favourite little places in town, the very cool Miss Wongs cocktail bar. It’s a great place, very unique and tastefully decked out in a 1930’s asian style, with tasty cocktails at $3 a hit. Our guest for the evening is suitably impressed and samples the cocktails also, something he admits is not the norm. So the boy has left the valleys, but the valleys has come with him. This quirky little bar is not the place he’d normally venture. I think he shall do so now tho’, his TwitTwot feed was very positive about the place. As he rightly stated you wouldn’t expect to find such a cool place, in a town like this in Asia. Usually there’s just not the level of attention paid to detail, unless your paying through the roof.
The next day we think we’ll have a relaxing day at the pool, maybe even a bit of spa treatment. The spa is quickly discounted following a check of the price list, $60 an hour for basic treatment. It’s a crazy price when you can have a massage just up the road for less than $10. Main breakfast was avoided due to the amount of fleas swarming the fruit, so it was toast and tea followed by a day enjoying by the pool, nice too it is. For the next thirty minutes or so we have a great time, a few other guests chilling, reading, sipping on cocktails. Then to break the solitude a group of twenty or so russians check in, who are quickly followed by a party of eight girls, a mix of Australian and British, just past the end of their teens and already piling on the pounds. They seem decent enough but their loud, and not playing games in the pool, messing about having fun loud. Just talking, either with each other or usually on speaker phone skype to various family members. The headphones come to the rescue enabling me to blog away. The intrusion by thirty other guests is all part of being in a popular destination and their only enjoying themselves on holidays anyway. A few more cocktails and we decide to leave them to it, heading out for the evening at four in the afternoon. We need an early one for tomorrow, as on arrival we arranged with drive for the Angkor Wat sunrise. The early start is utilised by the search for some clothes, much needed to replace those that have fallen apart. The KP needs some tops & bikinis, myself shorts and any type of suitable underwear, preferably not nylon! That’s been attempted and is not pleasant! We fail in the clothes department, mainly due to prices going through the roof with the year on year influx of tourists paying way over the odds. We do pick up a decent selection of movies at a dollar a piece. We have a quick bite to eat which is followed by a foot massage, another couple take the seats alongside us, the guys got a bag of spiders which he’s been munching on, reckons they are tasty! We decline the offer to try which I agree is a bit boring of us, maybe some other time! Following the massage we are then back to the digs before ten in preparation for the early start tomorrow.
Up at four to watch the sun might sound crazy but for many it’s deemed to be spiritual. I’ve managed it a few times and I’d tick the spiritual box but that was back in the 90’s rave scene, now it’s a bit crazy. However it’s meant to be spectacular, the layout and orientation of the temple is based upon the sun. It’s also a good chance to sample the K3, so up just after four we are. It’s been two days since we made the arrangement but drive is there, not him exactly he’s sent a mate. The ticket booth is 30mins out of town and it’s chilly, thanks to Luang Prabang we’re prepared :-). The Beer Laos sweater doing me proud, the KP is once again supergirl. The $20 day pass allows you access to all areas and we are soon at Angkor in the pitch dark. We make our way following others, we have a torch but that spoils the fun too much. So we tread carefully behind others until we are through and out heading towards what must be the viewing area. Already there’s a sizeable crowd waiting to see if the sun arrives or will it actually the be end of it all? On cue it gradually lightens the sky, turning it a deep purple. It’s hazy without a cloud in the sky and I’m sure the majority of the 500 plus crowd were also a little disappointed.
It was a great crack tho’, plus we had a laugh making jumping photos, We take a break for food as promised at one of the many vendors, where we are also ambushed by kids selling postcards at $10 a pack. We are not interested, “ok sir $9 discount, for you only $1 each” once again we succumb to the pressure by not helping the situation and part with two dollars. It turns out to be a good buy as there are photos there which show how great the view can be, which I’ve taken a shot of here….
It feels like we’ve been out camping when we sit down for our chicken fried rice, conversing with a group of three from China. Being neighbours they knew all about Kazakhstan which was a first for the trip. Suddenly there’s a bit of noise from the crowd as the sun is making an appearance, I catch it with a few shots, before we head away.
The morning was a success and worth the effort, it’s nice to be up and about so early. We plan to check out a few more temples, in particular “the one with the trees” as I told drive. On the way there we stop at the front of Banyon, the temple with the faces. Having been inside before and wanting to make the most of the early start, we just stop off outside for some fun and also patriotic photos.
Then onwards to the one with the trees, Ta Prohm for our debut. It’s a bit different from other temples, special even as it’s been infiltrated by the jungle, trees grow, their roots like vines gripping the stones beneath, It’s quite fascinating.
I managed to get some nice shots, but most were hampered by the sheer number of other tourists. Usually checking their phones in the middle of the scene, look here’s a few comical characters.
In the evening we meet up with Neilos and this time he’s with Nuna, his better half from Thailand. Nuna like the KP has also visited Wales and the valleys but been less fortunate regarding the weather, as it’s either rained or snowed she tells us :-). It’s an added connection for us all, and a good night is on the cards. If you’ve been following the blog you’ll know we loved the Brazilian so it’s there we head to repeat our best meal of the tour. Unfortunately as it’s a saturday there’s a set menu, the delights we tried before are all missing. So the meal which we’ve been raving about turns out to be just average although Nuna had some great fish. It’s back to town and we start with cocktails at Miss Wongs, which is followed by a small whirlwind tour around the back alleys of Siem Reap trying out a selection of venues. We surprise our friends and ourselves actually with how well we know the place. It’s a good night and even tho’ it didn’t extend as far as dancing we all have a good laugh and a little drunk. Goodbyes are said and we head out of town in separate Tuk-Tuk’s back to our respective digs. They have a few days left before returning to Thailand and a few different Islands to ourselves.
The next day we avoid the fleas on the fruit and take a walk for breakfast, this is soon followed by a lovely massage next door. It looks like the place doubles as a brothel? I was expecting us to get offered a happy ending, which never arrived. When we leave there’s a Tuk-Tuk that takes us into town. A nice day is had milling about, even managing to get some clothes for the Island as our flight to Bangkok is tomorrow. In the evening we have pies in a Irish pub, which don’t seem Irish at all! We then try a club called Titanic, which last departed from Ireland. It looks great on the flyer but actually it’s pants and likely to sink anytime soon, it means we are back early with time to get ready for our off tomorrow.
The trip to the airport is a very short one, and I’ve got time to get a few shots of a lotus pond and before you know it we are back in the Asian hub that is Bangkok. As usual the KP needs to apply for a visa, which requires an airline ticket which departs within the next 15days. We’ve booked a changeable one way to Phnom Pehn for $120. Having arrived at Don Mueang there’s no lounge we have access to, but the airport is preferable as it’s smaller and a lot easier to navigate. Bangkoks other international airport, Suvarnabhumi is one of the better airports, but it’s spread over 5 floors. Don Mueang doesn’t have fancy shops and huge cosmetic areas it’s more homely if an airport ever could be? There’s food areas selling tasty fare and the odd small massage/salon. We’ve got the time so why not? Why not indeed! So after lunch we’re in for a bit of pampering with an hours foot massage, which includes neck and shoulder. It’s the best rub down we’ve had in a while, they right hit the spot, proving that Thai massage, just like the food is quite possibly the best in Asia.
Next it’s a prop job and we arrive in Ranong, an hour too late for the last boat to the Island so we need a night in town. We booked something when we were in Bangkok and get dropped off there by the mini bus, the B Ranong Trend Hotel. It looks kinda cool from the outside and turns out to be right funky, even trendy on the inside. The design of the hotel is the coolest we’ve stayed at I think, the layout, the colours, all cool. There’s also a right tidy pool on the roof with a great view. No the mention the bar with live music and a selection of others on the same street. We had no idea this was all here in the town and it’s the fifth time we’ve visited! There’s so much more than first meets the eye, we just viewed it as the gateway to our special place. Ranong is definitely worth more of a look and we would do if we weren’t limited to 15days, one of which has already gone!
The first speed boat is at 07:30, balls to that we’ll get the one at eleven and enjoy our breakfast and check out the pool. On the way to the port we remember we need dollar, well Thai Baht actually. There’s no cash points at the island, it’s possible to get cash there but it’s a hassle and costly. With the coin sorted we get to the harbour ready for the departure back to paradise, where we’ll soon see if it’s a good destination to get fit and healthy as we plan to?