Today we took a taxi from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat, a major UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s a 200-mile drive that took 5-1/2 hours and cost $85 (pretty reasonable when you consider American taxi rates). We didn’t fly because the routing was not part of our Bangkok Airways’ Discovery Pass; a local bus would have been crowded and unreliable; a boat down the Mekong would have been crowded and potentially dangerous.
Driving provided us a view into real Cambodian life: how people live, work, and transport insane amounts of good on the backs of motorcycles! My favorite load: 3 full-size, freshly slaughtered pigs, hooves up. Incredible. I desperately wish that I could have done a photo essay of the ride. But between the dusty windows of our 1990’s model Toyota Camry and the speed of our driver, the Cambodian cousin of Mario Andretti, it simply wasn’t possible.
We’re staying at the Golden Temple Hotel on the recommendation of friends, who called it “one of the best hotels that they’ve ever stayed at anywhere in the world.” I’d have to agree. It’s another example of the high quality of service that we’ve experienced in Southeast Asia, especially here in Cambodia. At this hotel, we have two rooms for one week that include the following:
- Daily full breakfast buffet for 4
- Take-away breakfast for sunrise tour for 4
- Khmer dinner for 4
- Khmer massage (1 hour) for 4
- Welcome drinks and snacks for 4
- Unlimited bottled water
All that for $62.30/night/room. In addition, the hotel has a fantastic pool, a spa (where 1-hour massages are $7; 1-hour skin treatments are $9), and the most attentive staff that I’ve ever seen.
After checking in, we headed to the Angkor Wat ticket office to get our 3-day passes. By purchasing them after 5 p.m., we were able to enter the site for sunset at Phnom Bakheng for free. Unfortunately, the clouds did not cooperate, and the sunset was lackluster. We’ll try again another evening.