This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Siem Reap, Cambodia…
Carrying on from Siem Reap. Cambodia. Again. Part One… Snap (Cooee) and I have been leapfrogging Cambodian posts (but she’s far quicker off the mark).
Onward to the Bayon and Thom: A good hour and a half later after wandering around Angkor Wat, we cooled down in a nearby café. It was SO hot, other tourists where asking the gardener to hose them off, instead of the plants.
Agreed! It was boiling HOT! The first time I saw this sign was in a ladies’ toilet at one of the Wats. I just had to laugh at the shower icon. I mean, who’d stick their heads under a [cough] bum-gun?
The second time I came across the sign I knew just who. ME!
But hot or not, we still had time to fill. So, after sweating through the heads of Bayon, my group opted for a late afternoon elephant ride to the top of Phnom Bakheng hill. Without me. Needing a quiet space, sans elephants and people, I wandered around on my own.
The elephant rides are relatively cheap and the view from the top of the hill is (apparently) worth it. To ride up the hill is a mere US$20 per person, and for the ride back down, US$15. Walking or riding, the entire trip is around 30-40 minutes. But, if you plan on taking in the ruins of Bakheng temple, you’ll (obviously) need more time.
Shagged out – them from their walk and me from being quiet – back we went for a shower, a change of clothes, and happy hour at the Heritage Suites Hotel. As promised, the Long Island Iced Teas were tall and cold. Needed.
After dinner is where the evening got interesting. And before you think it, no, I didn’t get arrested. Not me.
Old town Siem Reap is loaded with places to eat. In search of a fit we made our way through streets lined with restaurants and heaving with tourists. The noise would be deafening, but then we’d turn a corner to find entire streets quiet of customers, sporting staff manning emptiness. What’s up with that? With a mostly tourist population, how can entire sections be unpopular?
Anyway… after an uneventful dinner [boring] we went looking for a fish massage [yeah!]
For years I’ve contemplated the experience of a fish massage. Whenever I came across massage tanks in Bangkok I’d take photos while avoiding the plunge. But Talen did go for it (check out his post, Thai Foot Massage Can be a Fishy Business – no longer online).
One of the main reasons for my reluctance was down to the reported health risks.
Feeding frenzy: Thailand’s fish spas nibble on despite health fears: Britain’s Health Protection Agency recently announced it was investigating the possibility of human infection from fish spa pedicures, but had no confirmed cases of disease.
Infected human blood can turn a fresh water aquarium into a potential mixing vessel. Pieces of uneaten, dead or diseased skin floating in the tank during the treatment add to the risk of additional skin diseases, according to health officials.
Sounds appetising. Yes? Seems with one Island Iced Tea (most) of worries were gone.
Old Siem Reap had fish massage places galore. Some of the tanks were milky-murky with dark bits attached to the glass. Hmmm. But two tanks, side by side, were crystal clear. And these tanks just so happened to be manned by a lovely, high-spirited character. So fun!
Seriously, I don’t know what he was on, but, wow. Our host bounced around. Cracked bad jokes. And then agreed to free Angkor Beers and a pee. Into the water we went.
See that lovely Swedish couple in the photo? On the bottom left? They not only put up with fish nibbling their toes but with us as well. Oh dear. My friends and I were in an [um] cheerful mood and the free beers were possibly one drink too far. Poor things. Alexander and Mathilda, if you two are reading this, thank you for putting up with our merriment.
We were having such an amusing time that at first I ignored the fish nibbles going from gentle to pain. The fish had gone beyond the outer layers and were making inroads into my skin. Ow. I’d cover one foot with the other, and when the foot on top was hurting too much, I’d switch. Double ouch. And time to go.
In the morning I woke up to multi-hued feet covered with red dots. The larger bites oozed blisters. Oh joy.
During the day my toes got fat. Just like little sausages. And angry red dots abounded.
And my friend? Nadda. Her feet were fine.
This is sooooo typical. When I went to write a series on Thai street food I came down with food poisoning. And that was before I even got a chance to review the first hawker stall!
Which reminds me… Pssst… Talen … I won’t be jumping out of a plane this coming May with you after all. I’m not overly superstitious but… three strikes at that height and I’d be seriously out.
Please stay tuned for the next post featuring Kulen Mountain (Valley of a 1000 Lingas) and Banteay Srei (Citadel of Women). Until then!
9 thoughts on “Siem Reap. Cambodia. Again. Part Two”
Thanks Maricel 🙂 It’s the crazy bits that make an experience, yes? That’s why Thailand / SE Asia holds an attraction for me. I’m hardly ever bored (and when I am, it’s never for long!)
I can say your experience was quite fascinating with all the snippets of crazy encounters, I think it added some kick to your travel. I have never tried fish spa and I would definitely love to try even if you said that your fish bites sort of turned into blisters the next day. Thanks for always sharing your wonderful experiences. 🙂
Martyn, I don’t know what the fish thing is all about. I remember getting nibbled on a lot when I was a kid and it was… weirdly fun. But they didn’t take chunks out.
Siem Reap really is a fun town. I had a grand time the first visit (much longer) and even though the second one shorter it was a hoot too. There’s something special about that city. Ok, it might be the buckets of margaritas… and the Long Island Iced Teas (but I only had one – honest). And as for feuds… my lips are sealed.
Martyn and Talen, and here I thought I was the lone expat avoiding elephant rides… I been around elephants quite a bit (bathed them even) but it reminds me of those kiddy rides where you put in a coin and go around and around in a circle. I’d be ok if it was off in a real jungle but… most of those rides are way too touristy. I’d be embarrassed (?)
Talen, the fish they had in Siem Reap were big. I was looking at photos on your site and your fish are much smaller. Tiny in comparison. Mine had WAY bigger teeth too.
The next post covers what turned out to be the highlight of the trip for me. Seriously. When you go to Siem Reap, cut out a few of the Wats (not all are necessary) and head out to the mountain. You won’t regret it. And nope, I didn’t go because of the 1000 penises.
Cat, I just had a feeling the fish feeding was going to end badly. I have never heard of anyone saying the fish foot cleaning hurt before, I wonder if they were using the right fish or mini Piranha.
Another great write up of Siem Reap and more great pictures. Not to keen on elephant rides myself but I guess it will be some time before tourists stop equating South East Asia with elephants.
I can’t wait to read further into your adventures and I have to make it to Snap’s blog to read as well…if my internet holds up ….I think you are having a blast, drink a long island iced tea for me 🙂
Catherine – I wouldn’t fancy dipping my feet into a fish tank and even less so after reading your post. I wonder what the fish think about it all. Do they dream of being the solitary fish in a glass bowl in some swish apartment? I hope so because nibbling sweaty feet must be a low down job in the fish world.
The Swedish couple do look like they’re at the end of their tether. Forced smiles but no teeth.
I find people with lots of energy rather annoying…that’s due to a large dose of jealousy…sigh.
I had the chance of an elephant ride in Kanchanaburi but like you I too decided it was a long way up and a lot further down.
Siem Reap sounds a fun kind of town. Are feuds there settled with bum guns at dawn?
I didn’t actually stick my head under the bum gun but man oh man was it tempting. Scrambling around all that rock in the heat was something else. When I was there I did wonder how the former population handle the heat. Maybe they didn’t feel it as much?
The fish massage was just one snafu in a long list of bad luck. With house guests on the way from the UK my fridge and ac breaks. A condo is going in across the street so I buy earphones to drown out the jackhammers and they break after a mere few days. Then my channel changer stops functioning. I have workers over to fix things and they end up putting a huge hole in my kitchen wall which they then fill with silicon (impressing my house guests to no end). The rest of the stuff they fixed is now busy unfixing. Frustrating. And then the beer cooler I had to depend on to keep food cold springs a leak, soaking the kitchen.
With hindsight, perhaps I should have paid attention to that Pirahna sign 🙂
Would love to hear you bum gun story. Sound interesting! I can’t believe that those fish ended up causing you pain like that. Surely that is not meant to happen. I had one in Ubon Ratchathani and it was fantastic. I love the no Pirahna sign. Classic!
Snap, I forgot to mention that I didn’t take the photo of the elephants (my friend did). I almost signed up for a ride but then remembered how far off the ground I’d be. Swaying away. No thanks!
Siem Reap is a fun city/town to visit but in thinking about it (I run hot and cold on the idea), I believe I’d be bored to tears living there full-time. They do have different food on offer, so that’s good. And the party atmosphere was perfect (yes – it was one of the reasons we went). And isn’t that photo priceless? They really were sweet, and patient (and I do believe they’ve had practice).
Funny thing about those tanks. Before dinner one in my party stuck their hands in to get a nibble and I got squeamish about it. But I didn’t mind sticking my feet in somehow. It was the chap running those tanks that convinced me to have a go. He was such a character. I have a Thai friend just the same. He has loads of energy. Never winds down. Is always on high. And after about an hour I have to crawl away to recover.
Cat, I saw those elephants and took a photo of them 🙂
I agree, Siem Reap has a lot to offer, especially in the way of food and quietish night life. I think I can see a thought bubble over your Swedish tourist friends…but don’t want to use expletives on your website, lol.
To this day I have not stuck my feet in one of those fish tanks, every time I think I might like to give it a go, I lower my hand in for a few seconds, pull it out and say ‘nah ah.’