On the bus ride from Phnom Penh, we met two really nice girls who were travelling together: Larissa (UK) and Beth(US). They met on Travel Buddy, basically a match.com to find travel partners. Amazing!
We got to Siem Reap at 5:30am, dropped off our baggage at our guesthouse, and headed immediately to Angkor Wat to try to catch the end of sunrise (but ended up catching Karl and Mikkin instead). Most days were taken up with seeing the various temples and ruins (see pictures below), which were quite amazing, and the nights were filled with dinner and ice cream in the Old Market.
We saw Larissa and Beth again and planned to join them on Day 3, when they were going to head out to Beng Meleah, 60 km away from the main temples of Angkor Wat. Even though their driver had agreed to the itinerary the previous day, he was putting up quite a fuss about adding two people (even though we paid more) and going all the way to Beng Meleah (even though we paid more). He took us to Angkor Wat for sunrise instead of Ta Prahm where we wanted to go, then he just became really difficult. It was obvious that we had to make things crystal clear. I said, "Beng Meleah." He said, "I don't want to go there." So I said, "Beng Meleah or take us back to town," to which he replied, "Get out! I don't want your money!" I was naturally quite hesitant to get out this far from the city center and our guest house since every tuk-tuk there was hired out for the day, but we did it anyway and hoped for the best. I walked around trying to find a tuk-tuk driver who had a friend who would take us to Beng Meleah for a good rate while Snack and the girls walked through a temple that I had already seen.
Our driver came and was very willing to take us where we agreed to go. The path we took to get to Beng Meleah was not the usual path, so our driver had to stop numerous times for directions, but we got to see lots of village life that most tourists don't get to see. It took almost two hours to get there, but Beng Meleah was worth it!!!
It's basically an overgrown temple surrounded by quite a forest of trees in the middle of nowhere. We shared a smoke on the SE corner of the pavilion and then had a blast just getting lost and wandering all around the temple complex. 3 hours later, we headed back to meet our driver who took the usual path (1.5 hours only) back to city center. That night (our last night in Cambodia), we treated ourselves to enchiladas and margaritas at the Mexican Restaurant in town. We were supposed to win a tank top if we drank two buckets of margaritas (which was really just a carafe that held 4 margaritas), but they were out of tank tops so they gave us an ugly, oversized T-shirt instead. We gave back the shirt and just asked for 50% off the next "bucket," and they obliged. A good way to celebrate making new friends (who I will see again in Delhi).
We hopped on a bus the next morning at 6:45am (which was supposed to pick us up from our guest house between 4:30 and 5am) and headed (we thought) toward Laos. We went to pick up the last couple who was joining the trip, and the door refused to open. The driver was hammering the hinge with a wrench (not a hammer, but a wrench), and he even started monkeying with the fuses to get the door open (since the couple's luggage couldn't fit through the window - believe me, we tried). Finally the porter outside just started kicking at the door, and it started opening. With some more prying, the door opened up just fine and the (angry by now) couple joined us on our super uncomfortable bus ride that lasted at least 3 hours not toward Laos (as we thought) but back toward Phnom Penh, where we got onto another bus that was heading toward Laos. Nicer bus for sure, but still a long day on the bus, as we didn't get to the border until 6pm. The border was interesting. You basically go to a window to get your Cambodian exit stamp (cost: $1US; should be free), then you pass under a security arm, walk about 100 m, pass under a different security arm, and proceed to a different window where you pay $2US for your Laos entrance stamp (again should be free). There was no toilet (so I went in the woods), and we were on our way to Laos!
Yes, that is a cell phone in that Buddhist monk's hand! :)
These are fish that eat the dead skin off people's feet. Look how much they love mine!
Trying to get the door open.