Tuesday, June 19, 2012

One week in Siem Reap

I've technically been here in Siem Reap about ten days, but I'll disqualify the first two nights as a cushy time continuum for travel recovery. After all, my handle on the geography of Siem Reap were non-existent and I could just manage to walk myself down the linear path leading to the main restaurant strip, Pub Street, and back to the hotel. I attempted to check out a new guesthouse on my own, encountered a busy street, and nervously turned back. I've had discussions about how hard it is to cross the street in Egypt and Iran, and I think urban Cambodia might make the list. No one walks here. I know because I've tried to walk and became exasperated by the mocking laughs I received picking around puddles and avoiding moto-bikes. What drove me to get a bike so quickly was the constant harassing tourists--called "borangs" or "frenchies"--get from "tuk-tuk" drivers. Since Siem Reap developed at a breakneck speed in the past ten years, most of the buildings and businesses sprouting up tend to cater to the vibrant tourist community here thanks to the proximity of the nearby Angkor Wat temple complex. As a result, NGOs form a tight weave here, and I could order grilled cheese, pizza, falafel or tiramisu if I wanted. I prefer to stick to the Peace Cafe for lunch where I can sit under the shade of a tree and order a "Yogi Salad," tofu stirfy and a fruit smoothie. It's pricey at the Peace Cafe, though, at $5 for lunch it's well above what I could pay at other spots where a lunch might run $2.25.

Getting a bike opened up a bit of a new world to me here. I laid down $40 for the red single speed which looks snazzy but functions less than passably. Loose brakes can be heard squeaking a quarter of a mile away and the kickstand has a a way of engaging itself every few minutes. Nonetheless, it's nice to have a way to avoid the insistent drivers and to check out new parts of the city. Tim was kind enough to take me on a dusk ride out and around the temples.

At this point, I have spent my time learning the lay of the land, working with Tim, meeting people and looking for long term housing. As much as I enjoy the pool view and free breakfast, I need to head out of the Golden Banana in the next few days.