The taxi weaved in and out of mopeds and trucks at speed. Cambodian traffic is pretty intense, people tend to not really stick to a designated side of the road or wait for enough space before overtaking. We whizzed passed small villages and shacks, naked children running wild and stray dogs wandering up and down.
Cattle graze on the grass and wander across the road. Whole families pile onto mopeds, trucks packed so impossibly high with baskets start to wobble precariously. We saw bikes driven with over 50 dead chickens hanging from either side, some with dead pigs slung over the back and some with live animals in cages roped on either side.
Arriving in Siem Reap was a bit of a shock to the system after the relaxed pace of the Thai islands. The street smells are pungent, the traffic is insane, there are people everywhere shouting at you to buy things.
There is a ridiculous amount of TukTuks. Some go to lengths of personalising the them to stand out from the hundreds lined up and down the road.
The first hostel we arrived at was Urban Jungle. The owner was oblivious to the fact we had made a booking or paid online. He gave us a key, we unloaded our backpacks and went got chatting to an Aussie guy who had been staying there that took us to Pub street, the main strip of bars and restaurants to grab some food.
We settled for noodles and fresh spring roles. Although at times it’s hardly salivating with the backdrop of smell that comes wafting with the wrong turn of the wind.
Pub street is filled with restaurants, bars, and clubs. By day there is nothing much special about it. By night, the whole street lights up and music blares loudly over the chatter of the tightly knitted crowds. People sandwiched on the club dance floors spill out onto the street to dance.
I woke up the next morning with my whole back and arms covered in what appeared to be bed bug bites. We spent an hour or two attempting to access hostels in the area on the useless internet connection so we could move as soon as possible. All the while the owner blared out depressing power ballads while staring forlornly at the floor, because, he sobbed, his wife had left him.
We went to the next guesthouse – Garden Village. It was nice enough and had a swimming pool, although there was mould growing in our bathroom and the food was expensive and quite unpleasant.
I was feeling quite drained after a few hours and took a long nap back in the room. H went for a wander, and found a hostel that she liked the look of. We had already booked 2 nights at Garden Village but agreed to go there after that.
She came back in the evening laden with street vendor noodles and spring rolls. We munched our way through those and then had an early night, ready for our 5am pickup to go to the temples.
Palm photo credit Hannah Hathaway Kells, instagram @thewildhathaway