Honeymoon trip to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Japan 1 2 3 4 5 6

May 17th, 2013

In the morning we took a shuttle from the hotel to the airport. Our next stop took us out of Vietnam and into the Kingdom of Cambodia. We arrived in Siem Reap at 11:35 on a direct flight with Silk Air. On our entire trip we kept getting amazed by the friendliest of the locals. This was especially seen in Cambodia. Starting with the check in in our hotel, Tara Angkor, where we were welcomed with lemongrass tea and later "treated" to a free foot massage. In quotations since I imagined this will be some 10 minute ritual of somebody gently rubbing my feet. Instead, it consisted of good eternity of a lady twisting my body into impossible yoga asanas and using her feet for support. But it was good. Going back to the friendliness, we read that the best way to explore the temples is by bike. After checking in, I went to use the internet station and emailed some bike rental company in downtown Siem Reap to inquire about he possibility of renting a bike the following day. We then set off to visit Angkor Wat on a tuk tuk, the Cambodian version of a riskhaw. When we came back, we noticed two nice mountain bikes locked in the bike rack next to the free "beach cruisers" the hotel provided. I went to ask the front desk if those bikes are also free and can be taken out, when I was told that no, those are a special reservation - for the room number that happened to be ours. Turns out the guy I emailed brought in the bikes without even asking for any payment. We never even saw him and paid the low rate (something like 15 dollars) to the hotel. The tuk tuks also follow a similar model. We simply hopped in one that was parked outside the hotel. He took us to Angkor Wat. While we went inside to sight see (here we hired a local tour guide to give us some historical instructions), the tuk tuk driver simply hang out in the parking lot playing chess with the other drivers. We didn't have to pay him until the end of the day when he dropped us off back in the hotel. I guess in theory we could have left him there, but given how cheap everything is, I doubt that is a common issue. Speaking of prices, the hotel cost somewhere around $40 per night, which was an amazing deal given the welcome massage, the fact it had a pool, and also a breakfast buffet.

Our welcome lemongrass tea in Tara Angkor hotel
Tui tuk ride to Angkor Wat
Angkor wat sightseeing. The guy in the second picture is the guide we hired when getting there.
More pictures from outside the temple
And from the inside courtyard. Unfortunately the main temple was closed today because it was being used by monk for prayer, so we had to return the following day.
And more photos from this amazing place
We also visited the Elephant Temple of Phnom Bakheng.
More pictures from Phnom Bakheng
Back in our hotel sampling a Cambodian curry. The only downside to Cambodia, the food is not as good as in Vietnam.
In the evening we to Pub Street in downtown Siem Reap. We were surprised by the number of young Americans we encountered here. Seems Cambodia is getting on the college/high school backpacker itinerary list. My guess is that many kids visiting Thailand hop over to Cambodia, since visa is not needed in advance (you buy it on arrival). Visiting Vietnam requires getting visa from the embassy.

May 18th, 2013

The following day we hopped on our mountain bikes and headed back to the Angkor Wat complex. Today was cloudier day.
Few more pictures
Exploring this park by a bicycle is the way to go.
We got a chance to see many wonders between temples we would have missed had we been on the tuk tuk. Like these monkeys.
We also visited Angkor Tom
At Angkor Tom we took an elephant ride.
This was my first time on an elephant
Yet more shots. This whole area is so photogenic given the contrast of the green foliage and the red soil.
Our next major stop was the overgrown Ta Prohm Temple.
Seeing the giant, probably hundreds of years old banyan trees growing on top of the temples really puts the historical significance of this place in perspective. The trees look old, but they are growing on top of the even older buildings!

May 19th

The next morning we went to the bus station to take a bus (Mekong Express) back to Vietnam, this time to Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City. This was my idea since I figured we'll get to see more of the country side from the bus than by flying. Well, not sure if I would do it again. There isn't much express about this bus except the name. I guess not to any fault of theirs, since most of the time was spent at the border crossing. There was basically one person checking passports for the entire parking lot full of various buses. I don't remember anymore, but we spent good 2 hours waiting to cross the border.

On the bus to Saigon, including snack food (our driver bought a full bag to munch on) and chickens strapped to the top of the car.
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