Day 4 of our Cambodia trip was set aside as our travel day. To keep cost low, the group decided to travel to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh via chartered minivan instead of taking a local flight from Phnom Penh. In hindsight, the flight option would definitely be the one to take if one was pressed for time but the overland trip did allow us a glimpse of the Cambodian country side. We also planned to stop at the village of one of our Cambodian hosts as part of our out reach activities there.
(L: On the way out of Phnom Penh, R: Road conditions near Phnom Penh)
We left very early in the morning after breakfast and was soon on our way to out of Phnom Penh. Thanks to the recent rainy season and the influx of people coming into the city for the Water Festival that was starting on the day we left, the road leading out of Phnom Penh was congested and very muddy. The ride was also quite bumpy thanks to the number of potholes on the road but they eventually tapered off once we drove further from the city and hit the trunk road connecting the two cities.
(Scenes on the way from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap)
The scenery along the way was mostly flooded plains with rice fields in various stages of maturity. Unlike the terraced rice fields that I saw in the trip from Bandung to Jogja earlier in the year, the rice fields in Cambodia were mostly flat and nondescript. A distinctive feature that I remembered from this trip was the numerous piles of rice stalks on the side of the road which was used to feed their cows. We also passed houses with open sided verandahs which had the customary hammock hung for the occupants to sleep in while trying to keep cool under the hot Cambodian sun. Another distinctive sight on this trip compared to the one that we had earlier in Phnom Penh was the number of small roadside stalls run by women selling pineapples and fried bananas.
(Scenes from the rest stop enroute to Siem Reap)
After about 2 hours of travelling, our minivan made a pit stop at a local rest stop to let up stretch our legs and have a toilet break. The rest stop was basically a road side restaurant catering to travelers on that route. The rest stop was quite busy with travelers and touts selling all manner of food items to the travelers. I can’t attest to the cleanliness of the toilets there as I decided to skip it after seeing the long queues for the toilets. I assumed that the number of people at the rest stop that day was due to the holidays and that it was usually much quieter than it was that day. After everyone was back in the minivan, we made our way to our next destination which was the Muslim community at Trobang Chuk village.
(Heading to old school building)
(Scenes near the old school building)
(At the new school building built by Malaysia volunteers)
(Village children at Trobang Chuk)
(Detail of the interior of a local Cambodian village house)
(Our lunch spread prepared by our gracious hosts)
(Exterior of Cambodian village house with cement stairs)
(Dried rice stalks feed pile for the village cows)
(Interior of d'Wau Restaurant, Siem Reap)
After checking into the hotel and resting for about ½ hour, we left the hotel to have dinner that was already arranged for us at the d’Wau Restaurant in Wat Bo Village, Siem Reap village. Owned and operated by a Malaysian, the restaurant was advertised as being the 1st ever Malaysian Cuisine Restaurant in Siem Reap. While I was thankful of having easy access to halal food, the thought of travelling all the way to Siem Reap and ending up having Malaysian food for dinner was a bit of a downer. It was still quite a filling dinner and fairly close to what it suppose to taste like back home. I guess that if someone was homesick, d’Wau Restaurant would be a good place to go to for a taste of home even though all the prices were in US Dollars instead of Malaysian Ringgit.
(Shops at Centre Market, Siem Reap)
We made our way to the Center Market in Siem Reap for a bit of shopping for most of the group. Less colorful than the original Old Market and the new Night Markets, the Center Market was built to obviously cater to the tourists who came to the city. Fairly spread out shops there sold all items that we saw in Phnom Penh at almost equivalent prices. I only had to buy a small number of gifts there as I already did the bulk of my shopping list earlier in Phnom Penh so I spent most of the time waiting for the other people in the group to finish their purchases. Given the late hour of the evening, the market was virtually deserted with the exception of our group and the shop owners.
(Art Deco inspired building near Center Market which I think might be a upscale hotel - Updated: It is a hotel - the Hotel De La Paix. Thanks, Famil)
After all the shopping was done, we headed back to the hotel where me and my travelling companion decided to go for the 15 minutes complimentary neck and shoulder message at the hotel fitness center. We decide to make reservations for a full body traditional Khmer message the following day after checking out the facilities and the message packages that they offered. Once that was out of the day, we returned to our room to turn in for the night since we had a full schedule for the following day.