Waking up in a building site

We were woken up at 7.30 by the builders on the floor above, knocking a hole in the wall. Just what you need after a long bus trip. At 9 we checked out, and realised that the whole of Siem Reap is a building site. The whole town looks completely unfinished, and on every corner a new hotel is being built. Tourism has only been possible since 1998, and in that time it has grown immensely – and obviously the investors think it has got a lot further to grow. So huge 6 storey hotel blocks are filling the centre of town, and new ones are sprouting up on any vacant land. But the grandeur stops at the hotel gates – outside is dust, dirt, grime and beggars.

We caught a tuk-tuk to the Old Market area of town, and sat down to breakfast. Amazingly, with poverty and hardship all around us, we were able to have bacon baguettes and café latte. This is a very weird black-and-white city. The architecture is a mix of modern grandeur, French colonial, and bamboo huts. After perking up a bit after breakfast, we saw that there was a guest house right next door (on the 1st floor in the photo), which was lovely. By 11 o’clock we were different people. Our doubts about Cambodia had gone – we had a really friendly tuk-tuk driver, a clean guest house, and had had a good meal. Things were looking up!

Inside the guest house our room was air-conditioned, with a clean bathroom and comfortable beds. As well as our own private balcony, there was also a balcony with a café on it, and an internet café. We could sit there, enjoy the view of the river, and also get away from the street level beggars. Everything in Cambodia seems more expensive than Bangkok – drinks typically cost $1, and an item of food costs $2-4 – at least twice that of Bangkok. We all had a sleep, and then Mr Heng, our tuk-tuk driver took us to see sunset from the hilltop temple beside Angkor Wat.

We discovered that everybody vists Phnom Bakheng for sunset too, so after a steep climb up, carrying Emily, we were met with the sight of a temple-full of visitors. Mr Heng had offered to carry Emily up, and instead helped Charlotte all the way. Mr Heng has his own children, and its obvious that he will be really helpful for our visits to Angkor. As we are so far inland, the sky is quite clear of clouds, and the dust in the air makes the sunsets very red. After yesterday’s hellish day, it was a great ending to the day.

For dinner we ate around the corner from our guest house, and discovered that a can of beer and a can of Coke cost the same thing – good news!