Day 0: Travel day
Ted checked in for our flight online and we had a series of serendipitous events (skipping the line because Ted checked in early; K-9 team so we didn’t have to use the scanner, take off shoes, or take out laptops at security; a security line opening up right as we got in line) which we needed because a bunch of frustrating things also happened (second flight had a last-minute airline switch which meant we couldn’t check in for it and they had trouble checking our bags all the way through, Ted said the word “bicycle” and the airline employee checking us in had a coniption about how our bags were oversized and needed a box even though they were well under the size and weight restrictions, our bike locks in our carry on luggage were considered possible weapons by the TSA so Ted had to go back to the counter to check them and come back through security). But we made it with time to spare.
Our flight (on a cool double-decker plane) took us through Seoul, SK before heading to Siem Reap. The flight was 14 hours long and uneventful. Neither of us slept, which we both decided was a good thing for jet lag reasons, but which meant we were up for a good 30 hours straight. Ted worked for most of the flight while I read a book and watched several movies. The food was pretty good – they had bibimbap!
At the Incheon airport in South Korea there was some confusion at the transfer security station about why we didn’t have boarding passes yet, but they eventually let us through. Then it inexplicably took ~20 minutes to print our boarding passes at the gate, and we never really relaxed until we had them in hand. But we eventually got those too, and boarded a 5-hour flight to Cambodia. We both slept a bit on this flight, although every time Ted fell asleep, a flight attendant came by to wake him up for something.
Which brings us to the Siem Reap airport, where we anxiously waited for our three checked bags (after the airline employee struggled to check them through, we were skeptical they’d be there). They all arrived, and our Bromptons did not suffer any damage! So it seems like all you have to do is put your Brompton in an IKEA Dimpa bag with some light foam around the sensitive parts, have the airline put a “Fragile” tag on it, and they can travel halfway across the world without a scratch!
Our hotel sent a tuk tuk to pick us up, which was a lovely way to get into town. We arrived Christmas night and apparently some Cambodians party pretty hard on Christmas, so there was lots of merrymaking to observe. Ted instantly got nostalgic for Zambia due to the smell of the town, which I pointed out to him was the smell of burning plastic. We were exhausted, so we basically collapsed into bed at the beautiful Bopha Pollen guesthouse (which I would highly recommend if you can get a good rate like we did from agoda.com).
Day 1: Angkor National Museum and Wat Thmei
We decided to take it easy today to recuperate from traveling (neither of us have ever traveled this far and we were both a little nervous about jet lag). We woke up and got free breakfast from our amazing hotel, then set out for a walk to the Angkor National Museum. There are a few good museums in Siem Reap (land mine museum, war museum, this Angkor museum), and we decided to come to this one to give ourselves some context for our trip to Angkor Wat tomorrow. The museum was lovely and we learned some helpful things about the great Khmer kings, the history of the Angkor temples, and the deities that were the focus of the Angkor carvings.
We then ventured to the Peace Café, an undeniably western vegetarian restaurant / community yoga space that came highly recommended by a coworker. This place had a beautiful setting with lots of shade trees and comfy chairs. We got some delicious curry dishes, a smoothie, and coffee, all of which were super.
Then we headed to Wat Thmei, which is a temple and memorial for the approximately 25 percent of the Cambodian population that was killed during the Khmer Rouge regime in the 70s. The signs said that between 8,000 and 10,000 people were killed at this very site.
Pol Pot never had to face justice for his crimes. Just like America never had to face justice for the millions of civilians we killed in this region of the world (not to mention the fact that we likely gave covert support to the mass-murdering KR regime).
We then headed back to the hotel and took a dip in the pool because it was a hot day (and because pool), then headed out to the night market and dinner. The night market was a little too much for us, so we left pretty quickly, and we were so tired that we just stumbled into some random place for dinner and it was just okay. We went to bed pretty early because we needed to be ready for sunrise at Angkor Wat the next day!
BTW, Siem Reap is not very walker friendly. No sidewalks in most of the town and everyone drives a motorbike or rides in a tuk tuk so you’re sort of an outcast if you walk. The locals don’t even walk. Therefore, this smells like exhaust and burning plastic.