Sep 16-17, 2014
Overnight in Siem Reap, Cambodia
GPS waypoint: 13°21'42.5"N 103°51'36.0"E
Location: Siem Reap, Cambodia
Not wanting to make any concrete plan after my Vipassana in Cambodia, I didn't bother to book a return flight to the Philippines. I was warned by well-meaning friends that I may NOT be allowed to leave the country if I didn't have a return flight - but I took no heed of it, stubbornly.
At NAIA 3, upon checking-in, I was blocked by CebuPac for not having a return flight - they wouldn't give me a boarding pass. I then realized how reckless I was. All this expense and trouble and not be able to leave the country! I tried to talk my way out of it. My case was referred to the higher ups. Finally, they acquiesced but with a stern caveat, "good luck with Immigration". Thank you, Cebu Pacific.
At the Immigration counter, I was again blocked for not having a return flight. They said it wasn't just policy, it was the law! I explained myself, again talking my way out of it. I was referred to a supervisor where I pleaded my case. The officer was considerate and finally decided to make an exception - I was allowed to leave the country. Whew! Thank you, Mr. Immigration Man.
Siem Reap Airport
When Cebu Pacific changed my flight to arrive Siem Reap at 11pm, I decided not to go to the city proper to sleep, but instead, to sleep at the airport by pretending I'm just awaiting for a connecting flight. That way, I save one night hotel stay. I've slept in worse conditions anyway.
However, upon landing at Siem Reap, we were all ushered out of the airport. There was no way I could have stayed to sleep on one of the passenger benches. I found myself out of the airport close to midnight, a stranger in a new country whose language I don't understand, without a place to sleep for the night. How f$%#-up is that?
Instead, I took a tuk-tuk ride into the city proper and asked the driver to take me to the cheapest hotel. He said at that hour, the cheapest was $10/night. I made it very clear to him that was not acceptable. Finally he relented and said he might know of such a cheap place. He took me to Garden Village Guesthouse where the cheapest accommodation was $3/night. Hallelujah!!!
Garden Village Guesthouse
At that rate, I was prepared for the worst - rat infested hole in the wall, cobwebs on the ceiling, clogged drains, dirty washrooms, seedy neighborhood, etc. I was mistaken. I got a bunk bed in a dorm-style room with about 10 bunk beds. The washrooms were well maintained and the entire place was clean. They have an alfresco cafe, a spacious courtyard, and they even made the arrangement for me to be picked up by a shuttle to be dropped off to the bus station heading for Battambang, 180 kms away. After enjoying my breakfast muesli and latté at the café, I was picked-up by the shuttle and was dropped-off to the bus station where I was off to Battambang, not having explored Siem Reap yet.
Siem Reap is known for the world-famous Angkor Wat temple. I originally planned on coming back to Siem Reap to see the temples after Vipassana, but in hindsight, I should have just arrived 3 days earlier in Siem Reap to do the touristy stuff before going to Vipassana in Battambang (about 190 kms away). After Battambang, anything can happen - I may not be able to head back to Siem Reap and the chance to explore Angkor Wat would have come and gone. That was the chance I have taken needlessly.
Additionally, I realized that I have been taking too many chances, leaving nearly everything to chance bordering on outright recklessness. I got lucky getting away from my predicaments - not booking a return flight and not booking a hotel upon my arrival. But I shouldn't really over-extend my luck. Lesson learned? Do the due-diligence first before letting go.
Siem Reap Cost Index (US$1 = Riel 4049 = Php 46.47 as of Mar 26, 2016)
- $2.00 haircut (they'll price you at $3 but local price is only $2)
- $0.50 one mug draft beer
- $0.50 1.5 liter drinking water
- $4.00 one hour massage
- $2.00 muesli breakfast
- $0.50-1.50 coffee
- $2.00 pad thai
- $1.00 bicycle rental, 24 hours
- $0.25 sugar cane juice in a plastic cup
- $0.50 fresh coconut
- $5.00/day single fan rooms
- $4.00/day dorm lodging at Garden Village Guesthouse
- $18.00 starting price for Phare circus
- $1.00/kilo laundry
- $1.00 regular tuk-tuk ride around town
- $15.00 tuk-tuk ride for a short tour of Angkor Wat
- $20.00 Angkor Wat admission fee
- $8.00 1-hour drop-in yoga session
- $5.00 Alibaba pants (asking price is usually $8 but they'll go down to $5)
- no need to convert your dollars into riel. All establishments in Cambodia accept US dollars.
- take a tu-tuk at the airport $5/trip (you can split the cost with other passengers from your plane), 10 min
Sep 16-17, 2014
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