Thailand – Bangkok & Siem Reap, Cambodia

May 5, 2014, Trip: RTW
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Monday, May 5th

We arrived in Bangkok around 5pm (flight left late again; Philippine Airlines is six for six on late departures).  We were picked up by our hotel and were quite surprised by how the cars are parked at the airport.  The driver’s car was in a regular spot but a row of cars had blocked him in.  He got us settled and then proceeded to push the cars out of the way!  Cars that park in front of the regular spots must leave their cars in neutral so this pushing method can work and allow many more cars to park in the parade.  Next surprise came when we went on a toll highway to get downtown.  Bangkok has some great infrastructure and the drivers are not chaotic like other Asia cities; they do not constantly use their horns, they do use their mirrors and they stay in their lane.  The city streets have sidewalk better than we encountered in Manila.

After we checked in, we took a walk and checked out the Soi Cowboy district which was rather sad.  It appeared to be only a block long and full of bars with “go go” dancers.  We popped inside one to have a cheap beer and the girls were thin and very sad looking.

It was getting rather muggy so we ducked into the huge Siam shopping centre and grabbed some take out food to take back to our room.

Tuesday, May 6th

Today we had the day to explore Bangkok after a trip to the northern bus station to get our tickets for Siam Reap the following day.  We followed a day in Bangkok guide Doug found on his Wiki Reader and took in the Wat  Ratchanaddaram, recently refurbished, where we climbed to the top for a 360 degree view.  It was cloudy and a bit smoggy so not fantastic but still worth the climb. We saw the Golden Mountain Temple from the outside and then walked to Wat Pho which houses the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand.  We took a ride on a canal boat which is much faster than travelling by street. The boat goes quickly and you hold up a curtain to avoid being splashed.  We also took the ferry across the river and back just for the ride – only cost 40cents total for both of us.  Then we hopped on the ferry and went back towards downtown where we got off at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (rated by some as the best hotel in the world) to go into the Bamboo Bar to cool off and enjoyed some pricy cocktails and light lunch.  We enjoyed being pampered as we were the only ones in the bar. We walked back to our hotel and after getting lost, and finding it, we were so uncomfortable from the humidity we opted for a swim in the hotel pool and to just chill the rest of the day.

Wednesday, May 7th

Today we took the bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia, home of Angkor Wat.  It took about five hours to the border (after a flat tire) and another two to cross it.   The bus trip started with 27 passengers. We were down to 23 before we got to the border after a military checkpoint during which 4 Asians were removed from the bus. At the border, we all had to get off the bus to deal with the immigration and to walk across.  We personally had trouble at the border because we did not have the departure card they give you at the airport.  Doug had thrown it out after we got it because it was blank.  Was not a good thing.   First they gave us the cold shoulder when we did not have it but finally after a wait, they gave us a new one, and let us go.  We took 90 minutes to get back to the bus in total but they were still a few behind us.  In total only 17 people got back on the bus to complete the journey. We do not know why the 10 people were removed or didn’t make it back to the bus in time. The ride from the border was about three hours and kept changing from pavement to dirt over and over in short sections.  We were told this was due to past flooding.

This country or what we are seeing of it, is really flat.  Lots of farm land and small villages; rural and impoverished.

We arrived in Siem Reap, booked our return bus and were picked up in a tuk tuk and taken to our hotel. After checking in we went for a short walk.  We were expecting this area to be very inexpensive since out hotel was only 16USD a night but many restaurants are about the same as in the US.  But after moving away from the main drag, we did find beer for 50 cents and a cheap meal.

Thursday, May 8th

Our Angkor Wat guide picked us up at five to see the sunrise over it.  It was already warm and we were glad we got a guide with a car with AC.  The sunrise was pretty and the guide told us we could have breakfast there outside the Wat because it did not open until 7:45.  We opted to go see other sites instead of hanging around two hours.  So we toured Central Angkor Thom where we visited the Bayon temple (buddhist), Baphuon temple, the Royal Palace grounds, and the Terrace of Elephants before going back to Angkor Wat, then having breakfast and touring the main grounds. It proved to be a good idea as there were few tourists at these spots and even Angkor Wat was much less busier than at sunrise.  The sites in this area are under reconstruction in cooperation with other governments around the world (like Japan, India, Germany) to restore the buildings.

Inside Angkor Wat we viewed the bas relief panels showing many Hindu gods and their legends and history.  We also climbed to the top of the main temple tower to see the views and inner chambers.

The final stop of the morning was Ta Prohm where you can see the Sprung trees overgrown on the walls and buildings.  This apparently was where Tomb Raider was filmed.  This was under major restoration and it looks like a really hard jigsaw puzzle when you see all the loose pieces piled up and being sorted somehow.

You can actually see ads for sunglasses around the town with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie on them.  This is where they adopted one of their children from.

All in all we saw what we wanted and a half day of temples was enough especially in the terrible humidity.

After a break in the air con room and showers, we wandered back outside to find the post office and the market.  We checked out Pub Street and had dinner and a few fifty cent drafts.  Enroute back tomour hotel we browsed in one of the night markets and took advantage of a three dollar pedicure for Fran and a three dollar foot scrub/massage for Doug.

Friday, May 9th – our thirty-third wedding anniversary!

Caught the eight AM bus back to Bangkok which took nine hours again.  After checking back into the same hotel we’d had earlier we changed and walked around the corner over to the Lebua State Tower building to go to the Sky Bar.  We had looked online and saw that no flip clops or t shirts were allowed.  When we got there we were told no shorts either so Doug quickly went back and got his zip on pant legs and we went up to the 65th floor.  It was pretty windy up there but a nice break from stagnant humidity on the street.  We had two photos taken and THEN were told my keenes were not acceptable footwear, the lady apologized and offered to take photos before we had to leave so we did that again.  The view was breathtaking as it was a pretty clear evening but unfortunately we did not get to see sunset as we had hoped.  On the bright side, we saw the view without having to pay $20 for each drink!

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