If I were rich and famous, I’d still want to be driven around Cambodia in a tuk-tuk. It’s kind of like being royalty, except your chariot is a rickety wooden contraption, not sturdy or plated in gold. And you have to haggle over your price before you go anywhere, which as a celebrity, I’d probably get my minions to do.
We arrived in Siem Reap mid-afternoon, delivered from the bus stop to our hotel, the Bunkao Guest House, by our trusty tuk-tuk driver. He suggested that we go see the sunset at the Angkor temples that evening, as the one-day tickets would still be valid the next day.
This was a good idea mainly because we decided that seeing Angkor Wat at sunset would cancel out the need to see it at sunrise, thus buying us a few extra hours of sleep.
But first, we had a couple of hours to freshen up. And that is when I discovered Bunkao’s hidden secret.
It is located right next to a crocodile pit. I like to call it a pit because that sounds a lot more dangerous than farm. Farm brings to mind a large space where old crocodiles go to laze around. ‘Pit’ summons images of a teeming mass of snarling crocodiles, jaws snapping as they search blindly for their prey.
So this was really more like a farm, because there were about 50 crocodiles laying around two walled-in swimming pools. Occasionally one would open its mouth or another would slide into the water, but that was about as feisty as they got.
I, however, was much more energized about them, demanding that Jared come to the window ‘immediately.’
I actually said, “You’ll never believe what’s out here,” which seems like a cheesy movie line. But I said it.
Fortunately, this was one of those times when talking something up doesn’t detract from actually seeing it. Jared was sufficiently taken aback.
We did manage to tear ourselves away from the wild beasts and meet our tuk-tuk driver downstairs for our sunset viewing date.
The driver suggested we go to Phnom Bakheng, as it was higher up and afforded better views. Everyone else’s driver must have suggested this as well. There was a pretty solid crowd clambering up the temple and perching all over the majestic, crumbling ruins.
The night was capped off with a walk down to Pub Street, the keystone of the busy tourist downtown area. We had the best dinner of our trip at Angkor Palm – splurged on a sampler platter for two, which was a smorgasbord of Khmer dishes. The meal finished with a dessert of warm banana topped with something creamy and delicious. I say ‘splurge,’ yet the whole meal was still less than $20US.
Afterwards we had a couple of drinks at the allegedly world-famous Angkor What? pub, then decided to call it a night – we had a lot of cycling planned for the next day.
On the way back to the guesthouse/crocodile pit we passed a little boy draped over a parked motorbike. He had dark, tousled hair and looked like he had just mastered the art of walking.
“Hello,” he said in his tiny voice.
“Oh, hello,” we said, waving.
“You need tuk-tuk?”
Jared and I stopped for a second and looked back at him.
“Did he just say -“
“I think he did.”
“No thanks, mate,” Jared said. “Maybe tomorrow.”
Not yet a seasoned veteran at the tourist game, the littlest tuk-tuk driver offered no rebuttals, and let us disappear into the night.