The Road to Grandeur Is Not Straight

Free Concert, Anyone?

For a backpacker on a very tight budget, the only means by which one can marvel at the magnificence of Angkor Wat is to endure a six-hour long ride from Phnom Penh (or from anywhere else in Cambodia) to Siem Reap aboard a moving one-instrument, one-rhythm, one-tone orchestra courtesy of a Cambodian public bus with its ever-honking-happy driver. When he sees a cow crossing the road miles ahead, he honks. When he sees, a vendor peacefully selling fruit on the sidewalk, he honks. When he sees the outline of a motorcycle coming from the opposite direction, he honks. When he senses a chicken crossing his path, he honks. When he sees nothing on the road, he honks! When one seems to have finally fallen asleep after a sleepless night chasing mosquitoes in the hotel room, he honks! WHAT’S WITH THE GODDAMN HONKING!
The only respite to the honking torture was a thirty-minute lunch break in a bus terminal restaurant whose only English-speaking staff knew two words—“yes” and “dollar”—and with the alertness of a military trainee came to the table with the bill just as Pinky and I swallowed our last morsel of rice. And with a silly grin on her face said, “Yes, dollar?” And then we’re back to the honking.
Never Trust a Smiling Face

At the Siem Reap terminal, the honking finally ended to be replaced by the constant buzzing of tuktuk drivers who were either trying to rip us off or really rip us off. As we have booked our hotel two days before and as we received confirmation of our reservation and our pick-up at the bus terminal, Pinky and I stood there inhaling dust and fumes waiting for nothing. It was a blessing though that a smiling guy from the bus operator offered to drop confused-looking tourists to the center of the town—quite conveniently in front of a hotel operated by the same company. How about that? When Pinky and I said we already booked a hotel (and showed them the name), the “guide” told us—with a big smile on his face— that it’s a bit far and politely offered to take us there. How can one resist such an offer? Four dollars poorer later, we were standing in front of the hotel we booked—Jasmine Guest House (avoid if you can).
When we finally managed to drag our bags to the reception on the second floor, the grumpy-looking guy at the counter asked if we had a reservation. Since we weren’t able to print the confirmation, I took the time and effort to show it to him on my laptop, which took ages to open, and which made him look even grumpier. He then flicked at some papers on the counter and said they didn’t receive the booking. At that point, I was ready to rip his grumpy face off, when he offered to give us two single rooms instead of the twin room we initially booked—of course, for a few dollars more—saying twin rooms were fully booked. For lack of other options, we agreed. Before he gave us our keys, he shoved a notebook on the table and ordered us to fill out a form with our names, nationality, passport number, and occupation—to which I wrote “editor” since I would have to explain “physiotherapist.” His face beamed upon seeing the “E” word, which turned Grumpy into Smiley. Guess who’s afraid of a bad review? You wait and see, Grumpy.
Soothing Siem Reap

A walk to the city center—a short walk as we came to know—did the trick of clearing my mind which was about to burst with annoyance and frustration. Siem Reap turned out to be a quaint town with charming people (save for Grumpy and the ones who tried to rip us off). Its tree-lined streets are pretty clean, and the air fresh. There’s a quiet park along the river where you can enjoy the sunset when you’re done watching a group of oldies practising tai chi. In fact, I had pictured myself living there. I’ll rent a nice little apartment and a bicycle. I’ll buy cheap furniture from the local market and fix myself a cozy place in town. I’ll learn the language and their ways and maybe eat the local delicacy.

Maybe not.

Amazing Angkor Wat

About 5.5 kilometers from Siem Reap lies a poem that no words can truly capture. So I’m not going to waste my words.

The camera doesn’t even do justice to the sheer beauty and magnificence of Angkor Wat, but it would be selfish of us not to share some of the photos we took. Behold, one of the wonders of the world!

Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious building and the only one dedicated to both Hinduism and Buddhism, was built in 1912 by King Suryavarman II as his state temple and capital city. It is now the national symbol of Cambodia.
A protest broke out when a Thai celebrity claimed Angkor Wat belong to Thailand.
Jacklyn Kennedy came all the way to Cambodia to “fulfill her life-long dream of seeing Angkor Wat.”
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