Our last day in Saigon, I have a note saying that the hotel buffet was really good. I guess I forgot because basically all the hotel buffets were really good.
Yet again I was up in the middle of the night due to jet lag. This time there was some post nasal drip, which turned out to be the beginning of a cold and cough which I still have weeks later.
After breakfast we walked to one of the many parks in downtown Saigon. This one took a bit to find but it was actually quite large with lots of the ubiquitous permanent exercise equipment but also a temple and some very nice shrines.
After the park Jenn went shopping in one of the high end malls while we waited to go to the airport.
Our cab ride to the airport was hilarious, with the cabbie constantly complaining about motorbikes and how bad the traffic was. He even cited statistics! Tipping is not standard in Vietnam, but it’s becoming more common and is quite appreciated when you tipped. We were going to tip this guy because he was so amusing but then he overcharged us basically the amount we planned on tipping him (actually less) so we left it at that.
We got to the airport with two hours before our international flight only to find check-in wasn’t possible yet. The airline staff were sitting there at the desk but not allowing anyone to check in for some reason. This wouldn’t normally be a problem but the immigration line to leave the country was pretty long. We got a little worried but then we had the most efficient security experience I’ve ever had in a major airport; the Vietnamese security people make the TSA and whatever Canada’s version of the TSA is called look amateurish. (I know, that’s not hard.)
You know what’s nice after flying half way around the world? A flight that’s less than 2 hours. It feels like nothing. Unfortunately, for some reason the people in front of us put their seats back on our very short flight, which made the hot, cramped plane more cramped. But it was a short flight, so no big deal.
I had a hilarious experience at Cambodian immigration where their fingerprint machine wouldn’t work and they initially thought it was my fault but found out that their machine was dirty. It took me relatively forever to get through, but it really wasn’t that long.
We had heard it was hot in Cambodia, but I’m not sure anything prepared me for walking off the plane – in jeans, stupidly, because of how cold the flight from Canada had been – into the wall of heat that is Cambodia in the rainy season. Vietnam is muggy and sometimes pretty hot. Cambodia is hotter than Vietnam – not something I thought was possible – though maybe not quite as muggy.
We were picked up from the airport in a tuk tuk. Halfway through the drive to the hotel it poured but the tuk tuk had rain flaps. Siem Reap is a strange place, basically entirely dependent on Angkor Wat for its existence, and the road into town is lined with massive resort hotels so far out of town as to necessitate driving everywhere.
When we finally got to our hotel we saw it was next to construction. This was annoying because the hotel in Saigon was also next to a construction site. (I forgot to mention that, but it was hardly the main reason I didn’t sleep well.) Fortunately it turned out that the construction we saw was actually the hotel and so they didn’t perform any of it while we were sleeping. They had decided to do it during the rainy season because there would be less people at the hotel. Geniuses that we are, we had decided to come to Cambodia based upon the weather in Saigon at this time of year. Fortunately for us, we were very, very lucky when it came to the weather in both countries, especially in the three cities we visited during their rainy season.
Because I have never been to anywhere in Asia outside of Turkey, I always had a very silly idea of the monsoon, from Forrest Gump – the monsoon starts and never stops. It turns out that, at least in 2019, that’s not quite what happens. When it rains, it really rains. But it doesn’t rain for weeks on end. Or, if it does, it hadn’t started yet when we visited Cambodia during the monsoon. (Though talking to people it sounds like it never rains for weeks straight, just days at most. Though it does rain every day for a stretch. And when it rains, it usually pours.)
So our welcome to the hotel was quite amusing. While we were checking in the power went out. It seems that this is a fairly common thing in Siem Reap but we didn’t know that at the time. Fortunately the hotel has a generator (as it seems they really need it) but unfortunately the power going out killed the plumbing too, so we couldn’t use the water for some time.
We went to the pool and found it was much smaller than the pictures suggested. I’m not sure what kind of lens effect they used for their pictures online, but the pool was quite small. Given that we were basically the only ones using it both times we went in, this wasn’t much of a problem.
Before we went out for dinner, the power went out again, but we didn’t bother checking our lights so we dressed in the dark without realizing it was back on. Oops.
We walked into town and found it very touristy with a lot of aggressive restaurant and store employees unlike in Saigon. It was closer to Istanbul, though nowhere near as bad as that. It’s worth remembering that this town exists because of tourism, so it’s no surprise that the businesses aggressively go after tourist.
We went to a fancy, high end restaurant and had what was probably our most expensive meal of the trip, for USD$26 including booze and tip. i have been telling everyone our most expensive meal was in Hanoi on our last night but reading my notes, I think it was this one, though since this one was technically not in Vietnam I guess saying the meal in Hanoi was the most expensive is technically true.
Afterwards we went out for ice cream that wasn’t memorable enough for me to remember what it was, weeks later, but was good enough and relatively cheap despite the tourist trap nature of downtown Siem Reap.
On the way back to the hotel we walked through what we thought was the night market only to find out later that it was a mini one.