Monday, March 27, 2017

Cambodia Trip 2.8 - Homeward Bound

On the morning of my departure from Siem Reap and Cambodia, Bunleng and I had a farewell breakfast and talked about possible plans for next visit.



My friend dropped me at the bus for O Smach; the one we had arranged with the spirited Gahnya, just days before. As previously noted, this is a new service, so it was understandable that there was only one other passenger other than myself.

This second trip to Cambodia, I did not follow the pattern of the first. This time, I just retraced my steps back to Surin, Thailand. There, I walked over to The Falang Connection, had a Beer Chang and asked some Falangs with touring motorcycles if they knew of a good, inexpensive place to stay. I had done this once before, on my first trip to Surin, and ended-up in a dump. This time, I made sure my question dismissed the really cheap places. The bikers pointed me to the Majestic Twin, which I had previously noted on Internet searches when I was planning the trip, so the recommendation made sense.

The Majestic Twin was slightly more pricey than what I’m used to, but I think I’m just gravitating toward that mid-range because I’m tired of roughing it. Anyway, “I’m worth it,” as the expression goes. The Majestic Twin was certainly clean and comfortable. I recommend it.

After getting the room and showering, I took a walk around, targeting the nightlife area. As the sun dropped, I found myself in a new Falang bar called Monkey House, owned and operated by expat Lee who is a very likable guy and a great host. I partook of the beer and the food ordered in. The Monkey House is right across the street from the big disco place that khon Thai from miles around flock to. I left before the show really got good (“eye candy” going in and out and hanging out, outside). On the walk back, I passed the soapies place and, man, were there some beautiful girls lined up there.

Next morning, I left the Majestic Twin in the dark in order to catch the first bus to Khon Kaen. From Khon Kaen I bussed it to Nong Bua Lamphu and then took a moto to our village house. There, I showered and headed out to our country house. I was home by nightfall.





Sunday, March 19, 2017

Cambodia Trip 2.7 - Das Flies Off

On the day Das was to fly out, we spent a leisurely morning tasting coffees near Ivy Guesthouse. One coffee shop was operated by the group Das is affiliated with, who work to stop human trafficking.

Early in the afternoon Bunleng drove us out to the Siem Reap Airport where my son and I bid farewell. It was not too emotional, as we had had the longest quality time together in at least a decade. Also, I would be seeing him again in a half year when I travel back to the USA to visit all members of our immediate families.

On the way back to Siem Reap, Bunleng and I stopped at a quick-stop market and had some beer together outside. I let him know how much I appreciated his help to us, this trip, and kicked around some ideas for next.

Wanting to visit the Falang bar “Wear the Fox Hat,” I had Bunleng take me into the Night Market area, near where it is located. But, he didn’t know it and my directions were fuzzy. So, I ended-up having him drop me off. Then, I just stumbled around until I found it -- with the help, two different times, of guys who spoke a little English.

All Falang bars are night bars, so I wasn’t expecting much in late afternoon. When I arrived, the girls were just opening up and I got to see Darron’s wife again. I had a beer and peanuts and then left.

On the way back to Ivy, I did some clothes shopping at the Night Market and then stopped at the 50-cent beer place where I had met Darron and Paolo days before. It was now night time, so I got to see a little bit of the action on Pub Street in its prime time. Fun for many, but not my thing.

Even so, this was my last night in Cambodia and I didn’t want it to end.


Sophea Vann and Sreyoun, two of the Ivy Guesthouse staff

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Cambodia Trip 2.6 - West Baray

Das was “templed out.” I know the feeling. So, we bounced ideas back and forth as to how we could put best use to our full day together. Finally, we came up with a plan for him to see a different side of the temple complex by riding a bicycle around the West Baray.






While he did this, Bunleng and I looked for Cambodian silk at reasonable prices -- which, of course, there aren’t any. Most all the silk for sale in the tourist areas of Siem Reap are imports. It is hard to find Cambodian silk and even then, the price is high and the designs limited. This not only goes for silk, but for most all presents one might buy for loved ones or oneself. It’s most all imported from Vietnam, China and even Thailand.

Bunleng took me to one place where they show you the entire process of getting silk thread from worms. That was very interesting. I had had an idea of it, but not the details.

We rendezvous’d with Das and then the three of us went to one of Bunleng’s favorite lunch spots, a place he has been regularly eating at in the 10+ years since he returned to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh. I had to be careful with what I ate.

We dropped Das off at the guest house and then did some more scouting around for gifts, but for one reason or another were unsuccessful. The most that came out of about two hours going from stone carvers to silk wholesalers was that I was able to have my picture taken and buy some more passport photos -- which I use regularly whenever I leave Thailand to visit neighboring countries.

That night, Das and I hit the arab food restaurant once again.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Cambodia Trip 2.5 - Grand Circuit

Second and what turned out to be our last day of touring the temples, Bunleng took Das and I out to Angkor Wat for the sunrise show.







The top of Angkor Wat was open this time (it hadn’t been, on my first trip), so that was a neat, new element to add to my memories of this most special place on the planet.



I was so happy that we had sunlight on all our days of picture taking. It had been somewhat of a bummer my first trip to be under overcast skies most of the time.




After Angkor Wat, we broke for a late breakfast and then Bunleng took us to the best of what is called “the Grand Circuit.”











We ended our temple touring in mid-afternoon so that arrangements could be made for my bus back to O Smach. In the process, we met the very lovely and spirited Gahnya, who was really a delight to watch in action as she finally got me booked on a relatively new service that does not run every day between Siem Reap and O Smach.


That night, Das and I ate Middle Eastern food at a small restaurant not far from Ivy. Food was good and the proprietor quite the character.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cambodia Trip 2.4 - Small Circuit

Das and I had breakfast at Ivy, then got going around 8 A.M. Bunleng was waiting for us, as we proceeded to go on what’s called “the small circuit” of Khmer temples in Siem Reap.

Before we got to the temples, though, I had to purchase my pass (Das already had his). I was surprised to find the old structure for getting the pass was now just a check-point. The main ticket booth is now housed in a very large complex near an even larger complex of hotels catering to visitors on group tours -- usually Asian.






I surprised my son with my agility and stamina going around and up and down the temples our first morning together. He even made mention of it. I hadn’t thought about it much, except in appreciating I had a little more experience behind me, this second trip to the Khmer temples of Siem Reap. First trip I walked through on wet sandstone in sandals! 





We broke for lunch and then continued on. My idea was to see the best of what I’d seen on my first trip along with some new sites and, of course, the best of the best for Das.






Switching gears, we took a long tuk-tuk ride out to Phnom Krom to finish the day with a sunset over the Tonle Sap:



Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cambodia Trip 2.3 - Link-Up with Das

I’ve been getting up around 7:00 A.M. on this trip; a far cry from the 4:00 A.M. wake-ups Thip and I have been making, out at the farm.

I spent my first couple of hours of my third day on my “smart phone.” There were messages from Thip, keeping up with my surfing website subscribers and readers, calling my credit union, downloading video for later viewing, checking messages from Das who I would meet up with later in the day, and lastly messaging Bunleng thanking him for his help the day before; setting up our itinerary for the days ahead. Digital cellphones are revolutionizing communications in cultures throughout the world and have made traveling so much easier for me. My Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is of great help to me back home, too.

I had a late breakfast at Ivy and walked around Psar Chaa some more, especially Pub Street which is “Falang capitol” here in Siem Reap. More foreigners in the street than Cambodians.

While having some Angkor’s at that place across the street from “Cheers,” I met two expats Paolo and Darron and Darron’s Cambodian wife who was very attractive, small but solid. The husband/wife team operate a bar called the “Fox’s Hat” and made a point of explaining how the name came about from the phrase “where the fox it’s at.”

Late afternoon, I met my son Das back at Ivy Guesthouse and it was great to see him again. It’ had been almost a year since I visited him back in Carpinteria, California. We ate at an Indian food restaurant a street over and then called it an early evening. We were scheduled for the next day, to get in as many temples as we comfortably could.

[below: sights to greet us early the following day]