Waking up refreshed a few hours later it was time to enjoy the party scene in Siem Reap. We started the night at our new favorite place Charley’s with a few glasses of sparkling wine. We found Temple Bar for dinner, the colorful atmosphere grabbed our attention and we settled at a table facing the street, perfect for people watching. The drink menu had quite the interesting selection of shots, including the “Red Hospital Set” because nothing says “lets get drunk” like fake syringes full of red junky alcohol. Ultimately, we chose a bucket of some fruity sounding concoction, which showed up with flowers floating on top.
We spent the rest of the night charging up and down Pub Street testing out every bar. Pub Street is the Siem Reap equivalent to Khaosan road in Bangkok. We ventured in and out of all the divey bars drinking delicious local beers for next to nothing and enjoying the music. Pub street is fun, but nothing compares to Khaosan road in Bangkok, for us at least, and I am pretty sure nothing ever will.
Our last full day of our trip needed to be chill before we headed back to cold and snowy NYC.We spent the morning relaxing at the pool, enjoying wine and cheese from the convenience store down the street. The interesting thing about Siem Reap is that they attempt to cater to the western cultured visitors by having available proper English biscuits and decent wine and cheeses in both convenience stores and restaurants. I am not sure how I feel about this, since on one hand after 30 days of Southeast Asia it was nice to have something different, more like the flavors from home. However, my motto (besides YOLO) is “When in Rome” and nothing annoys me more than complainig visitors who have an inability to adapt to something new. Feel where you are, and learn about it; otherwise, why leave home?
Our calm morning left little time for a full day’s excursion. So after (you guessed it) another google search, we found a distillery which makes flavored spirits from rice wine. After getting lost three times, we finally found a tuk tuk who knew where the Sombai Distillery was located. Before your free tasting, the guide gives you a tour of the shop and explains the history of the liquor and their distillation process. The liquor is sold in intricate bottles hand painted by young artists in Cambodia. After the tour we were given a tasting of all eight flavors. It was difficult to choose a favorite from the unique combinations. The good news was buying a few of these finished out the gifts I needed to purchase for friends and family back home. Its rude to travel a month and not bring home something for mom and dad, and well, they like alcohol— the apple didn’t fall far from the tree!
For our last supper we wanted traditional Cambodian cuisine. Our hotel recommended Viroth’s restaurant which also had a nice rating on TripAdviser. Viroths’s was fancy enough to have white tablecloths and higher priced than most places we would have selected on a backpacking trip, but on your last night you might as well go all out. Even then, the bill didn’t touch what I would have spent on a similar meal in Manhattan. Pretty much everything on the menu sounded amazing and we ordered like it was our last meal, because YOLO! I couldn’t possibly remember what we ordered, but I know we considered licking the plates. Overdoing it on the food and wine made us sleepy and we called it an early night.
Red-eye flights leave late, so we still had a full day to kill before heading to Seoul to make our connection back to the US. We only had a hotel until 12 noon, but it wasn’t a problem, as the hotel promised to hold our luggage while we killed time. We had 26 hours of travel ahead of us, plus a long day in one of the most hot and humid countries in the world. As much as we wanted to do that waterfall tour, I couldn’t bear to fly back sticky and smelly. Our only option was to get massages in the cool, air conditioned spas and day drink. Life is hard.
We headed back to Charley’s once again for much needed lunch and sparkling wine. Nachos, that what I rememer, yummy nachos. After about three glasses of heaven we started getting ideas. The walls of Charley’s are covered with custom placards, which they will create for $20. We decided that we needed to commemorate the end of our trip and be immortalized at our favorite bar. We indulged in one last massage while our plaque was being created. We returned to find our plaque just the way we requested and hung it on the wall, toasting with one last sparkling wine.
We learned there was an annual puppet parade that evening in celebration of the community’s efforts for the arts. The timing correlated perfectly and would end just before we needed to grab a tuk tuk for the airport. We settled in at a patio table in a bar along the route and at dusk the parade began. The giant ‘puppets’ are paper mache and are lit from within, so that they glow in the night. It is proper, but not required, to give donations so choose a couple of favorites and throw them a couple of bucks.
After the lights and music died, we scampered back to our hotel and collected our bags for the airport. Mr. Makara was not available to make the airport transfer, but the hotel staff informed us that it should cost no more than $5 for a tuk tuk. Locating a driver on the street, I verified the price. We enjoyed the last crisp breeze of a tuk tuk ride as we sped back to the airport.
Upon arrival the airport, I handed the driver a $10 and asked for $3, giving a dollar tip for each of us. He immeditaly began to argue, “No no no it was $10 total, $5 per person.” No, wrong! I refuse to be swindled. I kindly offered to get the policeman nearby to assist with handing the disagreement and the tuk tuk driver quickly changed his tune and gave me the proper change. Never feel bad for standing up for what is right. I know it was only $3, however the principle of the matter is, he was trying to cheat us.
Checking in for the flight, I felt the sadness I always do at the end of a trip. I began to wish I was back in Singapore, fresh as a daisy, my backpack still smelling like it hadn’t gone through a tsunami of smells. I considered all the amazing moments over the last 5 weeks, savoring the details about each unique culture that makes up southeast Asia. I already couldn’t wait to explore more of Indonesia and Vietnam. Being on limited time, we had only scratched the surface. Of course, we would be back to our beloved Thailand, but the next trip was not planned until September, seven months away. Taking it all in, I realized….. this is why I travel, I go, this is my calling. I can never get enough and so the life of the nomad.
Check out part one of our adventure, Cambodia, exploring the temples of Angkor Wat
Way too Wanderlust Recommends
Charley’s: 98 Hospital Street, Siem Reap Cambodia +855 12 181 4001
Temple Bar: Pub street, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Sombai: 176 Sombai Road, Siem Reap, Cambodia +855 09 581 0890 www.sombai.com/en
Viroth’s Restaurant: 246 Wat Bo Street, Siem Reap Cambodia +855 12 826 346 www.virothsrestaurant.com