Where I was when I wrote this: Our flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok en route to Ko Samui has been delayed but lucky for us Bangkok Airways automatically transferred us to the direct flight instead so we’re just chilling in the lounge right now. Free for everyone…sweet!
By the time we knew it our time in Singapore was drawing to a close. Coming from Indonesia it was a huge change from where I was only a few days ago. Things are incredibly clean here, everyone is orderly and respectful and most importantly everyone understands English. I can totally see why expats would want to stay out here. It’s as close to North America as it gets in Southeast Asia I have to say.
For our final morning in Singapore we decided to see what we could to wrap things up. After a quick lounge breakfast we headed out to Merlion Park which is probably the single most recognizable icon in Singapore. Check.
Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre
From there we walked to Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre to get our last dose of amazing Singapore food.
- Fried carrot cake
- Pork rib soup
- Shave ice with a medley of everything underneath+ mango
Somehow I always end up in a mad dash to find stamps or postcards and today was no different. Asking a few locals we eventually found the post office…caught a cab…grabbed our bags from our room…checked out and then went straight to the airport via cab.
Arriving in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Fast forward to our landing in Siem Reap. Clearing customs (see tips), we went to the taxi stand and got a cab to our hotel.
Strange thing happened though with our cab driver. He was super friendly and was so light skinned that he almost looked Chinese but that’s beside the point. So on the way he asks us if we have plans in the evening and then proceeds to tell us about some sort of traditional dancing performance with buffet dinner. At this point we’re like “oh boy” and respectfully decline. He then asks us about what we have planned for the next day and the day after that. We pretty much have everything planned out with pre-booked guides and tours so we tell him that. Once we approach the hotel things he goes for his last ditch effort and as we go around the roundabout and before we reach the front door he pulls off to side and stops the car. Eng Lee, our driver, turns around and goes “let us have a talk”. He asks us again if we want to go anywhere and if we need a guide but we tell him no again. He then asks us when our flight out is and what time it is. At this point we’re totally creeped out but we tell him and I figure there’s no harm in maybe using him as our ride to the airport. We tell him and he tells us he can pick us up at 6:30PM since our flight out is at 8:30PM for 7 USD which is okay. We pretend to think about it and he’s totally desperate at this point as he even says “help me please!”. In the end we cave and tell him okay. He finally drives us to the front and drops us off. Totally the beginning of many more sketchy drivers on this trip.
The Le Meridian Angkor is very nice here and you can tell it’s probably one of the higher class hotels in the area. This one is courtesy of Jia and his welcome points on his SPG Amex. For this hotel I try to pull my Platinum Status but the lady checking us in wasn’t going to be fooled since the booking wasn’t under my name.
The Touiche Restaurant and Bar
After we get settled in and cleaned up I do a quick search on TripAdvisor and find The Touiche Restaurant and Bar. We grabbed a tuktuk from the hotel and was taken through some really sketchy unpaved roads and villages to get there. The restaurant is literally smack in the middle of the village but wow did this place live up to it’s number 1 status on TA.
The food was cheap ($8 or less for a dish and $0.75 for beer) and really tasty. They’re more known for their grilled items so we got 3 dishes a few drinks and dessert. The service was great and seemed to be run by a local family.
During high season I would recommend making a reservation as at least half the tables had reserved signs on them but luckily there were a few spots left for us when we got there. Another good point is that typically they offer pick up service but because we didn’t make reservations they didn’t have any spots for us.
Our ride back was interesting. One of the guys presumably the owner or maître’d offered to give us a lift back to the hotel. When our car finally showed up it turned out to be a 1964 jeep that was probably from the US Military or something. Totally retro and awesome. Jia sat in the back and literally had nothing to hold on to other than my passenger seat. What a ride.
After dinner we got ready for a full Angkor day with Mr. Son and crashed.
- Ethnically the locals here are known as Khmer. There’s an abundant of history surrounding the civil war that occurred in the 70s. Look up Khmer Rouge. Really tragic and sad what happened then.
- In Singapore postcard stamps to Canada are 0.50 SGD. Also didn’t sound like any convenient stores sold them so you might have to hunt for a post office.
- Remember that you’re going to need to get a visa-on-arrival in Cambodia. You can do an e-Visa but it costs a bit more and doing it when you land is just as easy. So the visa itself costs $20 USD (again make sure you carry enough USD on your trip) and you’re going to need one passport-sized photo so remember to bring a couple extra copies for these type of situations. You basically fill out the form, pay and hand everything to cashier and then stand in another line for pickup where your passport goes through an assembly line of 6 or 7 officers. Eventually you pick it up but remember to write in your customs form what Visa number you got since you can’t really fill it out on the plane. Jia had an anal customs guy that made him get out of line and write it down.
- Be prepared for super aggressive drivers here. Everyone seems to be probing for what your plans are and if you think about it they’re pretty smart for doing that because that’s really the best way to try to hook customers into doing tours with you.
- Negotiate the price before you get on the tuktuk. Walking away is a key part of the strategy most times and always pretend to be willing to go find another guy or walking to where you’re trying to go.
- Cambodia and Siem Reap in particular use USD as the primary currency and so it makes no sense at all to do any currency exchange here. All the prices are quoted in USD so you’d just be confusing yourself even more if you tried to pay in Cambodian Riel. Keep in mind though that any change that you get may be in Riel. It’s a bit of hit or miss. Some places will have USD change and some places won’t.
- Breakfast at lounge
- Merlion Park
- Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre for lunch
- Hunt for stamps
- Check out of Conrad
- Cab to airport
- SIN -> REP flight 2:45PM to 4PM
- Cabbing adventures with Eng Lee ($7 USD)
- Check into Le Meridian Angkor
- Dinner at The Touiche Restaurant Bar
Head to the Next Day
To read about the next day, head over to Day 16 – Siem Reap – King of Temples
Curious what else I did on my trip to Asia? See the full itinerary and all 89 days.