Christmas in Cambodia

Once again, sorry I’ve been MIA for so long.  Mom, you can stop not-so-subtly hinting to me to blog now.  I was lucky enough to have a couple weeks off for the holidays.  Between writing and grading Midterms and travel planning, blogging has definitely been on the back burner.

Speaking of the holidays, during our time off my friend Nicole & I decided to hit up Cambodia for Christmas.  Khmer-y Christmas to USSS (ba dum chhhhh).

Getting There

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the border….

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Read any blog about crossing the border between Thailand and Cambodia & you’ll hear a thousand stories about getting scammed.  People try to charge you extra random “visa handling” fees, etc. to try and bamboozle you out of your money.  This seemed to be a recurring theme in Cambodia unfortunately, but more on that later.

To avoid headaches and confusion, Nicole & I opted to take Nattakan bus services, the only government-approved bus that can cross the border between Thailand and Cambodia.  This special title means that these little magic school busses can cross the border with your stuff on it, as in you don’t have to sweat carrying it across yourself.  This cost 750 baht when I picked it up from Bangkok’s Mochit bus station in person, and cost a little over 800 if you did it online.  We also did our e-visa online to avoid further time waiting in line/more headaches, which cost about $40US.

This was SO worth it.  Although a couple guys attempted to lead us in the wrong direction for “visa processing” we kept walking and went straight through immigration without a hiccup.  We were merrily sipping Angkor beers and sending Christmas snapchats to our home friends while waiting for the bus to leave in no time.

The bus even offered free tuk-tuk transport from the bus station in Siem Reap to your hotel, and included a free bag of breakfast goodies/fried rice lunch.  Classy, am I right?

Landing in Cambodia kind of felt like the Southeast-Asian version of what I imagine Cuba feels like.  The tuk-tuks were much different from their Thai cousins; they’re all bare motorbikes hauling carriage-esque cabs.

For Christmas we decided to treat ourselves a little and get a hotel for once.  With a pool, of course.  In Cambodia this meant spending 400 baht a night, as opposed to our usual 300 baht a night for a hostel in Thailand.  That’s about $12.  Nice for a boutique hotel, am I right?

Joy to the World

Christmas Eve Nicole & I were pretty lame, after spending all day on a bus we decided to grab one 50-cent beer on the infamous Pub Street for 5 minutes before going to bed.

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Christmas Eve dinner, featuring DANK Fish Amok curry and rice, because there’s ALWAYS rice.

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The night market in Siem Reap.

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Chrismtas Day was the opposite.  We opted to have a total high-so treat yoselffff kind of day.  This started with traditional Indian yoga at a trendy little café called Peace Café.  They offer Khmer language classes, yoga, and monk chats; definitely worth a stop if you’re in the Siem Reap area.  Our yoga class was different from any I’ve ever done, and super relaxing.  After that we headed off to the spa for 1-hour Khmer massages for a grand total of $8 each.

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Festive no-makeup tuk-tuk ride to yoga.  When I considered instagramming this one “We look tired.” -Nicole.  YUP.

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Peace Café.

Did I mention they use American dollars in Cambodia?  Sad that their own currency is so weak that they’d rather adopt someone else’s.  However, they don’t accept coins, which I learned the hard way.  They do accept Riel as well as dollars in most places, which can act as 50 cent coins.

4000 Riel = 1 dollar

2000 Riel = 50 cents

100 baht = everyone makes up their own conversation rate so it’s not worth it to try

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Christmas dinner featuring chicken satay, a REAL cocktail, and again, curry.

Pub Street

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Then we headed off to dinner at some bougie classy restaurant, before hitting up Pub Street for a proper celebration.  Pub Street is kind of like the Cambodian version of Khao San road, except it’s much smaller and not as wild.  Suprisingly there were a lot of Cambodians out partying in the streets as well, while as on Khao San you don’t see many Thai people on Khao San.  I was expecting Pub Street to be mostly foreigners, and we were heavily outnumbered.

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$2 a bottle whiskey.  Recipe for disaster already.

Angkor Hot Mess

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Let’s all take a moment to laugh at how awful I look.  Whiskey + sunrise does NOT equal cute pics.

One of the fabulous perks of traveling long-term is that you become used to the concept of not really sleeping.  So Nicole & I didn’t bat an eyelash when our concierge told us that we would have to be up at 4:30AM for our tuk-tuk if we wanted to see sunrise at Angkor Wat on the 26th.  For once, we were wrong, and our bodies punished us severely for our blunder.

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I’ll admit it.  We messed up Angkor Wat, and I definitely think I need to go back.  We messed it up, and it costs 20 freaking US dollars for a day pass.  We forgot to factor in the bouncy tuk-tuk on questionable roads up to the temple when we booked this excursion(for about $12), and the heat that comes with being in Cambodia.  So it’s safe to say that when the sun rose we were a) dying and b) still turnt.  Cambodian people are some of the nicest I’ve ever met, more to be explained later, and our hotel had packed us breakfast boxes complete with toast and eggs for the morning to take with us.  I’d say our little picnic in front of Angkor Wat that morning saved our lives.

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Angkor Wat isn’t just one temple either – Angkor Wat itself is, but the tuk-tuk tour includes all temples in the complex, including the infamous temple from tomb raider.  Our tuk-tuk driver was literally laughing at us at every temple where we told him no, we don’t want to get out and see more ruins, there were enough ruins going on in the cab of that tuk-tuk.  Lucky him, at around 10:30 we called it quits(after only actually getting out to see 3 temples) and went back to our hotel.  Our bus for our next destination didn’t leave until 1:30, and we had already checked out of our hotel rooms.  So Nicole & I were quite the sight to be seen, passed out sweaty, fully-clothed, and hungover by the pool.

Then 1:30 rolled around and we whisked ourselves off to Battambang.  Khmer-ry Christmas to all, and to all, a good, non-hungover night.

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