Day 2 in Siem Reap consisted of more temples and then the floating village. The temples were amazing, just like the previous day. Outside of each temple are Khmer people trying to sell things… Bags, shirts, dresses, hats, postcards… anything. This was the day they really got me. I walked out of there with postcards, a new dress, a new bracelet, and a scarf. I felt bad for them having to pester so many people to buy their merchandise. That job would not be ideal..
We headed to the floating village which turned out to be a really odd tour..
Firstly, our tuk-tuk driver took us far out to get to the entrance. We were the only non-Khmer people at that point. We got into a boat that seats about 15 people.. but we were the only occupants. This is rare for anything in Asia. Usually they pack every vehicle to the maximum + capacity. We took the boat on the river that goes through the floating village. Since it isn’t rainy season yet, the village wasn’t floating. The people were walking around on land and we were floating on the small river. It was cool to see the risen homes, though. We could visualize what it’d be like when it is ‘floating’. We arrived at the next check point and some guy jumped on our boat to ask if we wanted to pay more money to get on a smaller 2 seater boat and go through the sagebrush with a local Khmer woman while their husbands are out fishing.
At this point a few things went through my mind..
A) I already overpaid for this ‘tour’, why would I want to pay someone to take me through mosquito infested sage brush?
B) I felt very intrusive on these people’s lives. I felt like they were the people inside a snow globe and I was the annoying child who kept shaking the globe to see the snow disrupt the peace.
Wow, that was an odd analogy.
We decided to skip out on that option.. Next, our boat driver gets our boat tangled in some rope. We sat there while he untangled us for about 20 minutes. The locals were laughing at him. I imagined they were calling him a ‘rookie’ in their native language. I wanted to help somehow, but it would be too difficult to communicate.
After we got untangled he took us to the center of the larger body of water. He pointed to one of the only 2 other boats within a 20 mile radius and said ‘restaurant… You want to eat?’
At this point I was thinking the following:
A) I JUST got over my last episode of the ol’ food borne illness. I don’t want to go down that road again.
B) Where do they get they’re food from?.. And how do they cook it in the middle of this giant lake?
C) The cost of this ticket includes nothing. Anything you do after you step on the boat costs more money.
We quickly opted out of that. I think our driver was getting a frustrated because the tour was supposed to last 3 hours, but we didn’t go into the mosquito infested sage brush OR eat at the ‘restaurant’ so he needed to kill time. He cut the engine and we sat in the middle of the lake for at least half an hour.
Finally he took us back, we jumped back on the tuk-tuk and realized that we just got suckered. Suckered hard. At least we can laugh about it.
That night we discovered the awesome Night Market in Siem Reap. This was so cool. It’s like a giant farmers market. Everyone goes out to eat, shop, socialize, and get massages.
We spent an hour or so bargaining for some souvenirs and then Shmacy and I ran into the Dr. Fish ‘massages’. You put your feet into a tank of dry skin eating fish. We looked at each other with the same look on our faces; the look that reads ‘doin it’. This look comes in variant types.. There’s the ‘doin-it’ nervous look, the ‘doin-it’ excitement look, the ‘doin-it’ just to do it look, the inquisitive ‘should we do it?’ look.. etc.
We met some really awesome Norwegians previously in our trip with whom we had conversations about travel and life in general. One of the ideals that they live by in relation to experiences is ‘we could do it, or we could not do it.. If we don’t do it we won’t know how it was to do it and we will spend a lot of time thinking about how it would have been to do it… so we should just simply do it.’ We decided that (in most cases) that is an awesome philosophy and while we have been sort of living similarly that is a good way to put it. Also, now we bring that saying up when we’re making decisions.. ‘Well, Shmacy, we could do it, or we could not do it… but we should probably do it!’
Anyhow, back to the fish.. This time we gave each other the ‘doin-it’ nervous look. $2 for 20 minutes and a free soda? How could we lose? We paid the guy and sat on the edge. We slowly dipped one foot in. Immediately the fish came up and started sucking on our feet. Ah! I shot my leg straight up back out of the water. Hahaha it was such an odd feeling. Shmacy reacted in the same manner. The owner cracked up and said not to worry it takes a minute to get used to. We were both so nervous.. It looks like the fish are eating your feet, but it only tickles. Shmacy said ‘we got this’ as she held out her hand. I grabbed it and we both laughed historically at ourselves, each other, and the whole situation while we dunked our feet in. It was definitely a bonding moment. After a while we got used to it and could keep both feet in for about 10 minutes. As we took our feet out of the tank, we felt immediate difference. They felt good after walking around in flip flops for so long. It was a good walk back to the hostel.
The next day was a travel day.. And the worst yet! We left at 8a for Bangkok, Thailand. This day was filled with long, overcrowded van drives. Ugh! Being over 6 feet tall and stuck in the back corner of a super compact 15 seater van with a backpack and a purse on your lap with no A/C, no head rest, and legs jammed into the seat in front of you for 10 hours is hell. Just thinking about it makes me want to throw up. I consider myself a pretty easy-going, accommodating person but that ride was the worst transportation experience I’ve ever had… including the time when I threw up twice on a bus ride.
We were only in Bangkok for two nights… 1 full day. I have a few observations about Bangkok:
2. Traffic suuucks
3. Very western
We went on a tour to the floating market, which was pretty cool. However, they didn’t tell us that also included in the tour was a stop at a cobra show, elephant farm, and a wood shop.. all of which were extra money. Oh, and we had to pay extra money to get on the boat to go to the floating market. These tours have really gotten me to question..
I know it’s not fair to judge an entire city based on just a few days, but I don’t think Bangkok is a place I need to visit again in the near future.
Next we flew from Bangkok to Krabi. We had three nights reserved at Krabi town, but quickly realized that there is nothing going on there. We spent two nights there, cancelled our third night, and headed to Koh Phi Phi island.
The ferry to Koh Phi Phi was two hours long and I spent the majority of it talking to a very loud, opinionated, anti-American Greek lady and a young Malaysian banker. The Greek lady informed me that she has traveled most places around the world except America.. she never wants to go to America. She is convinced that the American government is behind the destruction of the Twin Towers. When I told her I am American, she replied with, ‘No you’re not. No one is American. Where are you’re roots?’ Then she lightened up a but when I told her I have Danish roots. This lady was something else. I don’t get offended easily, and figure that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but if she had been talking to someone else… I don’t think the conversation would be quite the same.
I went outside to get a breath of fresh air and met the next character.. The banker from Malaysia. He was very nice and we had some good conversations. It’s particularly interesting to me to talk to people from different countries, especially people from countries who are so different from my home country. I wish I could spend a few days watching life through their eyes and see how they grew up to compare and contrast with my own upbringing.
When we stepped off of the ferry we realized immediately that we arrived in paradise. This island is beautiful. There are many amazing beaches, super clear water, and tons of fresh fruit! We spent the rest of the day on the beach taking it all in.
The next day on Phi Phi we went on a half day tour. We took a boat out to another part of the island to snorkel. It was great to snorkel, but the snorkeling wasn’t great.. we only saw a few fish.
Our next stop was Maya Beach where the movie The Beach was filmed. This beach is beautiful. Crystal clear waters, beautiful rock formations, and a bit of a jungle feel.
I spotted a few people who grabbed their snorkeling gear and were snorkeling on the beach. Shmacy and I got a really good laugh out of watching them try to snorkel in such shallow water.
That night after we got back we watched The Beach in an awesome restaurant while we ate dinner. Then, we met some new friends, hung out on the beach some more, and held some monkeys. Hahaha.. just a typical day on Phi Phi.