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Siem Reap Day 1 - Sojourn Boutique Villa, Old Market

Cured Travel Bug got Dragged to See World UNESCO site. Villa Dejavu. Travelling the Middle Way. Feet for Fish. Fish for Housecat.

semi-overcast 30 °C

Had been wanting to see Angkor Wat for ages. It's even got included in my Bucket List (The phrase "Bucket List" should be said in a loud, booming voice with many echos. Preferably accompanied by 2 files of trumpetters blaring their horns). Atta had been dragging her feet when it comes to Angkor Wat. In last few years, bugs that I got from my travels had wearing down me of my travel bug. To the point that I'm so low in travel bug count that I need a fresh transfusion just to keep me interested. It's only then that she said, "Let's go to Siem Reap".

She knows my desire for travelling had been buried deep underground like the tombs of 13 Ming Dynasty Emperors (ζ˜ŽεδΈ‰ι™΅) near Beijing. Like the dead emperors, I'm only wished to be visited, but not visiting others (and visits to my place is free). What's more, discounting her business trips to Istanbul, Jakarta, Doha and Bangkok this year, we already toured Taiwan during Chinese New Year, and joined a 3 weeks Baltic cruise just a few months ago. Boy, I feel tired just recounting it. I opposed to this trip vehemently. Man, she has definitely suffered from a bad case of Severe and Acute Travelling Bug Syndrome (aka SATBS, unrelated to SARS). As she was born in HK (birth place of SARS and 1 of PRC's 2 SARs), she must have contracted SATBS there from birth. I'm very much cured of this incurable disease.

I jumped up and down screaming "No more for this year!" (I should have also dropped onro the floor and kicked like a kid in tantrums for a good measure, but I feared that I hurt my hip performing this childish act. A damaged hip is really bad for travelling, and future tantrums). I said to her with my Bruce Lee's (1940 - 1973) trademarked finger pointing pose, "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry!" while imitating the voice of Bill Bixby (1934 - 1993), who played "The Incredible Hulk" (1978 - 1982). Between my busy acts of celebrity impressions and limited stanislavski's method acting, I heard she justified this trip by saying that we should take advantage of the Frequent Flyers Miles before it lapsed in November. The Krisflyer points were only enough to cover us to fly to Cambodia (or is it Kampuchea?). I may not multitask very well. But I heard her between my Oscar winning impromptu performance. And finally, to win me completely over, she said the 2 little magic words, "3 days". It's only for 3 days. She made the gesture that saying both 'ok' and '3'. So I replied with the same gesture (in my mind, my gesture to her involved 2 fingers. 'V' sign for victory. What were you thinking? Get your head out of the gutter. Would ya?).

On the plane, she dropped the bomb on me (nobody on the plane got hurt but me) that we didn't really have to use the points after all. It didn't expire. Somehow. Uhmmm...."after all", "somehow". Interesting choice of words. when it comes to this matter, she's so creative. Never mind, it's only for 3 days. I told meself, I can handle 3 days. Finger cross. Touch wood. Pray to god (I'm agnostic. But desperate times call for desperate measure. I would convert to any god who can do me a solid). I chanted to myself, "3 more days" like voters chanted "4 more years" in election campaign but without the enthusiasm. I chanted repeatedly amid the loud drones of jet engines. I hope one of the gods can hear me. I guess they can. I hope they can. Be positive, they can! Hullaleyah!!! Call me Lucky!

We stayed in Sojourn Villa for the 3-day trip. This reminds me of Villa Sungei in Bali we visited about 4 years ago. Everything. If you followed my hyperlinks to these 2 villas and look at the photos, you'll know what I mean. The overall vibes of the 2 places has so much similarities in its tropical idyllic charms - the tropical flora, featured strongly in frangipini and palms, swimming pool, and the surrounding bungalows (or villas), right down to the cats. More about the cats later. Not to mention the Buddhist-Hindu religious decors dotted around the Villas. Both of these villas nestled in their local villages, instead of the town centre. Even the morning food offering that left outside our porch is the same. It's a typical Hindu morning ritual.

Speaking of this Bali Hindu's tradition, this reminds me of something quite interesting - you may find it dead boring - between Bali, Indonesia and India. The single most tourtisty iconic image of India is Taj Mahal. It's a UNESCO heritage site. It's a Islamic architecture, a mosque, in a predominant Hindu country. While the single most tourtisty iconic image of Indonesia is Borobudur. It's a UNESCO heritage site. It's a Hindu architecture, a temple, in a predominant Muslim country. Many Hindu images of Bali too make into covers of Indonesia travel brochures. And not just tourist brochures, but many other product/service brochures. Did you find it interesting or dead boring? You don't care! I see.

Ok, back to Siem Reap. The similarities between the 2 villas are more than just on the surface - i.e. scenery, decor, and architecture. They also provide similar services.

You have 3 ways to do sightseeings. You can join a packaged tour and give yourself minimum hassles, and minimum flexibity. You go where the tour group goes, you get up when they tell you to, etc. On the other hand, you can go for the DIY option where you have maximum hassels, and maximum flexibility. Or you can go the middle way. This is where the villas concept comes in. This is where they shine. The villa provides you with a driver for a whole day, and suggests some itenaries for the typical sights. You can either follow their suggestion to the letters, or design your own itenaries, but tell your driver to take you there. The most likely scenario would be what we had done - we took up some of their suggestions (which is usually a good suggestion anyway), but we also have some specific things we like to do that's not been suggested. The time is of course flexible. They even provide us lunch.

One more similarity. Both of these villas are run by Aussies. I don't know if these concepts are invented by the Aussies or not, but these concepts can only work if the labour cost of the given country is quite low. Since the driver they provide are for the whole day, and the villa is located in a local village, thus away from anywhere a touristy. Your own personal driver becomes very convenient, almost essential. I couldn't imagine I can afford this kind of shauffeuring service even in country like Thailand. And so it didn't come as a surprise that Siem Reap has something similar to Bali. We took up this package. The damage of this package is $200 USD per night for us. Of course, price is subjected to changes. Would imagine this costs more in peak season.

By the way, peak season is in December when the weather here is quite mild and pleasant. The weather in the months of June to August are insufferably hot and humid, as we were told by the tour guide. In the start of November, we've arrived just at the very begining of the Peak Season. It's sandwiched between perfect and miserable weather. We hoped for the best. Actually, this time isn't so bad as the tourist numbers are quite low. In Peak Season, you can the good weather, but also the crowds.

I did enjoy my previous 2 trips to Bali, so I imagine, I would also enjoy this trip with this similar setup.

It was about 2:45PM when we arrived at the villa. The immediate itenary that they suggested was a sunset picnic outside - not a sightseeing tour of - Angkor Wat. We get the sightseeing tour tomorrow.

After unpacking and down a honey tasting welcome drink, we made our way to the picnic around 5:15PM. We turned the corner around the moat and from our car windows we saw Angkor Wat in the distant bathed in the warm golden glow of the sunset. I was quite anxious to take the photo of Angkor Wat in the magic hours. As we parked our car, and walked to the moat side where we stayed for picnic, the cloud made their way to blanket out the sun just in time. Not a minute too late. Any keen photographer knows the difference of any scene between sunset and cloudy condition is like heaven and earth (ok, rainbow and rock). The sun never returned. The lazy bugger knocked off for the day while we were there. Better luck next time, if there's a next time.

After the picnic, we were driven to the Old Market in the town centre and bought a guide book for $4, bargained down from $6 USD. I only did research on the net, and never bought a guidebook for this trip (only 3 days, why bother?). So we thought we brought "The Treasures of Angkor Wat", published by White Star (I imagine it would cost about 30 AUD/SGD in Australia/Singapore). The guidebook is 2 years old (in brand new

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Posted by FrancisQ 02:02 Archived in Cambodia

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