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Siem Reap, Day 3, and no trip to the temples

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We're in Siem Reap, probably the most tourist-friendly city in Cambodia, and I think we're going to be here for a week more. We arrived on the fourth, but we have had no chance to get to the temples yet as I've been ill ever since we arrived. Indeed, I didn't even leave our initial hotel until last night.

Any extended travel plans need to have enough slack to account for getting ill, so that if you end up bedridden for a day or two you don't feel like you're missing out on a great cultural experience. Face it: if you spend a year going through countless airports and staying in hotel after hotel, you're going to pick up a germ or two. We have flexibility at the moment, so in all honesty I'm kind of glad that it happened here rather than Phnom Penh. For one thing our hotel, while as nice as our Phnom Penh abode, was much cheaper: three nights with every meal that I was able to eat (and all of Pallavi's food) came to less than $65.

Nor am I feeling much time pressure, because Southeast Asia is probably the least-scheduled part of our international trip thus far. Our last ticket was from Hong Kong to Phnom Penh, but our next ticket is from Bangkok to Dehli. How we get from here to Bangkok is up to us, meandering at our own schedule. So a day or two doesn't matter much: we'll still see the temple.

We've now changed hotels into something only slightly more expensive, but much nicer and more central. Now that I'm finally able to leave the hotel, I think I'm going to like Siem Reap.

I've mostly wandered around the Old Market area downtown, which is a hodgepodge of tourist restaurants, bars and massage parlors, each surrounding several marketplaces. These sell everything from gaudy t-shirts and flashy dresses to an IP litigator's paradise of knock-off watches, sunglasses and fashion items. Bargain hard: dealers will relent to far less than their original offer, and the knockoffs are normally such poor quality that they're not worth the discounted price. (I ruined the "waterproof" Wal-Mart watch I purchased before we left Texas while diving in Gili Trawangan, and tried to replace it with a "Vacheron Constantin" [1] here. It ceased to work overnight, though the vendor did replace it when I came back. The replacement "Patek Phillipe" has already broken.)

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This is not a Patek. Nor anywhere near the correct time.

In any event, Siem Reap is tropically warm, the weather has favored us so far, and I look forward to three to five days of viewing Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples.

[1] Yes, the watch almost certainly violates VC's intellectual property rights, and given that I love what VC makes, I don't take that lightly. That said, if there ever was an argument for a parody exception to trademark, this watch was it. A glance at the metal casing, the asymmetrical bezel, and the poor work on the watch face suggested that the strap, which appeared to be authentically leather, was the most expensive part of the entire contraption. Anyone vaguely familiar with the VC brand would not suspect for a minute that this watch had been on the same continent as a Swiss watchmaker. Besides, since arriving in Cambodia and trying to purchase a watch, I've found it impossible to find anything that isn't impinging on someone's IP.

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I'm glad to hear you're feeling better and enjoying Cambodia so far. Have you seen the Night Market yet? It's definitely walkable from town center, and I think it's every night. There's a great bar in it with a huge wicker hive-looking thing built over it. You can get a foot massage while enjoying cocktails. Very nice.

Just a reminder: Don't miss Ta Prahm temple.

We took flights to/from Siem Riep to BKK. It was about $200 roundtrip per person and super easy. I believe the bus takes 12 or so hours. I took a 6-hour bus trip from BKK to one of the islands, and am not sure I'd want to do a longer one, especially if I was recovering from any kind of digestive upset.

I am curious how you deal psychologically with the land mine victims trying to sell you things and the hustlers. I felt awful for the land mine victims and wanted to give them money, but Ted fell for every hustler we passed. How do you cope?

I did get a bit hustled by one landmine survivor when I went out for breakfast on my own once in Siem Reap. I was eating outside, facing the street so I could watch the town get going for the day, and a boy walking on crutches and one leg came by with a big basket full of travel books around his neck. He was very personable and had good English, and talked me into giving him $15 for two books -- way too much money for knockoffs with occasionally blurry color in the photographs. Still, I'm more comfortable spending excessively with a teenager who seems to be coping energetically with his disability, than with giving money to beggars who may have substance abuse problems (the Lonely Planet guidebook claims there's a glue-sniffing epidemic among poor Khmer kids and says not to give money).

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