We arrived at Siem Reap at 2am, shrouded by a cloud of all-penetrating fine dust. It didn’t register, at first, the arrival. There was nothing outside except dust and some lights, way too few for a city of Siem Reap’s size. This could have been any one of the numerous stops along the way, except for the tired and extremely sweaty driver that stood in the middle of the isle screaming “Siiieeeam Reeeeappp!!”.
We piled out into the dust, wary and disoriented, full of scary stories about the predatory Cambodian Tuk Tuk drivers, adolescent cutpurses and hotel scammers. And yes, we were immediately swarmed by a crowd of Tuk Tuk drivers, but they were surprisingly polite and attentive, all “pardon me” and “excuse me”, in very passable King’s English. We stood bewildered while the french backpackers, by far the largest group on the bus, negotiated their transfer to whatever rape rooms they had booked. We were starting to feel a little left out of this party, to be honest, but then a slight young man with a gentle voice inquired whether we “are in need of transportation”. We dumbly nodded, and he proposed a fare of 2$ each, more than fair. We clambered onto his tiny Tuk Tuk and rattled off into the cool Cambodian night.
I don’t know what that was, really, that gaggle of improbably polite Tuk-Tuk drivers. Maybe they were too timid to work the day shift with the rough and tough, cut-throat daytime entrepreneurs and were pushed out into the less lucrative hours of the night? Whatever the cause, it was quite bizarre, let me assure you. And he wasn’t sugarcoating the sale, either. All the way to our hotel he inquired as to Sir’s well-being, where Sir was from, and whether Sir liked Laos and Vietnam now that Sir has visited them. He didn’t attempt a mutually embarrassing scam hotel trip, didn’t wheedle for more money, only delivered a monologue stating that he is available for Angkor Wat trips as well, and can be had at any time of day. I really wished I could give him more than the four dollar fare he earned from us, but I, of course, didn’t…
Our hotel was good for the price, fairly close to the night market and various other happening places in Siem Reap. I think it was called Thanak Thun. The owners were sleeping by the entrance, and were quite surprised when we did arrive, at 3am, to claim our booking. The room was ok, if a little worn and scruffy, but what can one expect at 8.5$ a day. It also had a 26″ CRT TV that lost all its marbles, as the functions of all its buttons were randomized. We took a wonderful shower, and went to sleep on moderately clean linen.
In the morning it sounded as if all hell broke loose somewhere upstairs. Running, screaming, furniture shifting, somebody dropping elephants… I opened up a bloodshot eye to find out that it was 6:30 in the morning, and that we slept something like three hours. Fuming, I went out to find out what the fuck was going out, only to find out that there was no upstairs! No stairs led further up, our second floor was as high as the hotel went! Perplexed, I rushed down to the reception to demand an explanation. The owner, with a cringe and a smile, explained to us that the building also housed a school, and that he could do nothing about the noise. Brilliant. We sighed, got up and started thinking about breakfast and our plans for the day. It was decided to rent bikes and explore the Angkor Wat independently, no rickshaws or tuk-tuk drivers!