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One Foot Off the Merry-Go-Round

CAMBODIA: Part One: Never Say “Maybe”… Never.

CAMBODIA | Thursday, 8 December 2011 | Views [551] | Comments [2]

First stop after crossing the border from Thailand was Siem Reap… it was a tough place in some ways. The bus ride getting there was a bit shady and once we were dropped off in “the middle of the city” as promised, we were actually dumped about five kilometers outside of the city to a group of local tuk tuk drivers waiting for our arrival . In our experience, there are only two types of tuk tuk drivers… those who speak English and those who do not. Never go with the tuk tuk driver who speaks English. Our tuk tuk driver we were assigned to spoke English quite well… and although he seemed to have no idea where our hotel was (The Cashew Nut), he did know of a “great place” called the Siem Reap Central Hostel. Actually a lovely place, TV, air conditioning, comfy beds, western toilets… incredibly priced—but the service was…. well, hostile. After dropping our bags in our room, we headed down to the hostel’s bar/restaurant to grab a beer. Our tuk tuk driver was waiting for us there, sat down at our table and started in with the interrogation… I mean questions. “What do you do tomorrow? Where will I be taking you- You know what you want to see? Very cheap,  good price. I know everything.”… etc, etc. We were certain of only two things at that moment…  we wanted to enjoy our beers in peace and two… we had gotten ourselves involved in a ring of entrapment. The feeling of true entrapment came the next morning when we were checking out to go to The Cashew Nut. We went to the front desk and the first question out of the front desk guys’ mouth was “Why? Why are you leaving here? You need to stay!” We said “No, we need to leave.” This continued for about 30 seconds until we just put the money on the desk and slowly backed away… smiling (of course) the whole time. Once finally making it out the door, we turned around, and there stood our ever so curious, shadow-like tuk tuk driver, smiling and waiting to give us a ride. I kind of felt like screaming at that point. Not at anyone, just out of slight fear. During the drive, the questioning recommenced, “Where you go tonight? You want me to take you to see sunset? Where you going tomorrow? I take you to Angkor Wat.” I wasn’t feeling well by this point, so we told him if I felt better, “maybe tomorrow Angkor Wat”… “Maybe”… maybe was definitely the wrong word. Within the next 12 hours, we learned the lesson that you never say “maybe” to a Cambodian. Maybe means definitely, yes, see you tomorrow. So the following morning our tuk tuk driver shows up outside our guesthouse… Travis goes downstairs to meet with him and give him the news that we would not be using his services. Travis was greeted by the, now, not so smiley tuk tuk driver we’d known the day before, as well as his boss. Travis explained that our hotel had taken care of the arrangements for the day, we were happy to pay for their drive over to pick us up and we were very sorry. Then sh** hit the fan. The tuk tuk driver’s boss lost it, saying loads of things including, “This is how you do things in America? I show you- I show you!” Did I mention we had watched the movie The Killing Fields the night before this event? So, while Travis was experiencing Mr. Boss and Mr. Tuk Tuk’s wrath—he was simultaneously replaying the extremely violent and true story of what we had watched mere hours before. I was in the bathroom when Travis came back to the room… I opened the door to find him sitting on the bed, staring straight forward. His face was as white as my legs (if you know me… you know how white that is… and if you know Travis, you know nothing ever phases him). It wasn’t a pretty sight. We talked briefly of escaping the country—leaving before “they” could find us. But instead we went downstairs to have some tea and breakfast and luckily, the two sweet, kind, lovely ladies who work at The Cashew Nut, saw what had happened and not only reassured us that it is the Cambodian way to “lose face” when they get upset, they had also gone out and talked to Mr. Boss and Mr. Tuk Tuk to successfully smooth things over. So, we decided to remain in Siem Reap for a few more days and go hang at Angkor Wat that day. So happy we did. 


Angkor Wat Experience:

Hard to put into words… so this section will be short but tons of pictures to show our experience. We bought a three day pass for $40 each, pricey, but worth it. The first day, we hired a guide ($20) and a tuk tuk driver ($15) for the entire day(a very nice, older gentleman who spoke absolutely no English). The second morning, we woke up at 4:30 and were picked up by our tuk tuk driver in order to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. The ride to the temples was cold and the streets were so quiet. Our hotel had packed us a picnic breakfast which we ate along the drive to help keep us warm. What a sight that sunrise was. Check it out in the pictures!

We decided not to go a third day… we’d seen a lot and were kind of templed out. And just fyi… a two day pass and a three day pass are the same price.


Siem Reap Food:

AWESOME!!! We ate dinner at the same street vendor almost every night we were there. LOADS of street vendors, blocks and blocks of them- open super late… $I.00 for a beer and $1.00 for a full on meal… sometimes less for smaller/appetizer-like items. The food was really flavorful and nicely spiced, but it was a different type of spice from Thailand’s dishes. Of course there were always condiments sitting on the table that you could use to spice things up—which we did sometimes. But the flavors were so lovely we wanted to keep them clean without adding anything. 

In The End:

We were happy to leave Siem Reap, but we learned a couple of very valuable lessons (life lessons actually). Many of the people we met were simply lovely and gracious and we will never forget the incredible Angkor Wat.                                                               

Siem Reap is a major tourist site in Asia, so of course there are going to be souvenir-sellers (always haggle and never buy from children—donate blood to the local children’s hospital instead- we did and even got a free T-shirt!)… and there will be predatory-like tuk-tuk drivers (never say maybe).

In our experience, we felt at almost every turn we were needed or wanted for something, by someone, and always found ourselves saying no.  I have found that saying no never feels as good as saying yes. But travel shouldn’t always feel safe or pleasant or even fun. Sometimes it’s from the toughest experiences that we actually learn anything, and that’s what this trip is about for us. Truth, culture and soaking it all up for what it is- not what we hoped it would be.

More to come… Phnom Penh is next!



Hey Kid,
It's 8:40 pm here the night before your birthday, so it must be Happy BDay there already. We love you and wish you the best birthday ever.

  Mamaw and Grandpa David Dec 12, 2011 1:34 PM


Thank you guys!!! I love you both very much and can't wait to see you when we get back!! xoxoxoxo

  christa_spencer Dec 12, 2011 2:44 PM

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