Another day, another long bus trip. After breakfast, I say my goodbyes to the friendly staff of Me Mates Place and head into the city centre for bus no. 2. This is a VIP bus service, which includes wide seats, internet and an astonishing amount of leg room. Also includes a snack, but I sadly drew the short straw – while other people next to me got a box with a doughnut or a pastry, I got a sandwich with an unknown relish and lettuce filling. Really didn’t feel the need to touch it.
Trip was also hampered by the fact that the Internet wasn’t working properly. It was fine for the first hour or so, then completely crashed. When we stopped for lunch I brought it to his attention, and the monitor was reset, but within the hour it was down again.
This was an unbearably long journey, taking a good 2 hours longer than promised despite little in the way of delay. I’ve never been so happy to reach a bus station – even a little dusty corner like Siem Reaps – and see my name on a laminated board.
First impressions of Siem Reap were a quieter Phnom Penh. Then we hit the city centre and the country fast forwarded a couple of decades. This part of town has taken advantage of the tourists coming in to see Angkor Wat and blossomed. Restaurants, supermarkets, camera shops, motorbike rental, you name it.
There were plenty of signs for hostels too, but I wasn’t staying in the main street. Instead the tuk tuk carried on, eventually taking me down a side street 20 minutes walk from the centre to the Firefly Guesthouse.
I admit, when I was looking at Cambodia and seeing that I was going to be there for Christmas, I wanted to stay somewhere a little fancier than I had been – so increased my budget for Siem Reap. However, after a few minutes at Firefly, I wondered why I’d bothered – and why exactly I’d picked this guesthouse. For one thing it looked a little fancy for me on the outside, then you went into the room and it wasn’t exactly stellar. Lots of dust around the window, poor lighting and erratic internet. It was too far from everything (said it was close to Angkor Wat, but discovered later you still really needed a tuk tuk to do it so really, that wasn’t anything to brag about).
Its one advantage was the rooftop bar, which served astonishingly good western food, and mediocre Khmer food. The bar also had the better internet, so I would be up there catching up with things while eating, and trying to ignore the many, many tiny ants on the floor. The main bartender was from Ireland, so gave me some advice on what to do and see.
There was only one major site on my list for Siem Reap – the one on everyone’s list – Angkor Wat Archaeological Park. However, this is a huge site, spanning hundreds (if not thousands) of temples and a lot of miles. Its impossible to do in a day, and equally impossible to do on foot – you need transport. The hotel offered a tour package that would take you to Angkor Wat at sunrise, back to the hotel for breakfast, then head back out to see a collection of the most impressive temples before heading to see the sunset. Seemed like everything I wanted – if I only had a day in the park it would be good to see the big things, and I could do a different tour to see other temples the day after if I so desired. The problem was the price – the tuk tuk would charge depending on how many people were coming, and one person was a hefty $21. I’d known ahead of time it would be that kind of ballpark, but had really been hoping there would be people at the hotel I could meet up with and get a cheaper rate. The receptionist did say another backpacker was coming today, and that he’d ask if he was interested.
As it turned out, he was. He’d been hoping to do something similar, and so we would both be paying $13 instead. Next time I headed upstairs to the roof garden, I managed to meet my fellow traveller – Bernard from Austria. I’ve only ever been to Tyrol in Austria, but we were able to talk about travelling and where we’d been before heading off to bed. Very early morning if we want to see that sunrise.
Unfortunately, my bad luck isn’t letting me off that easily. When I’m getting ready for bed, I notice a distinct lack of something around my neck. My rune necklace, forged in Russia, is missing. I know for a fact that I put it on that morning, because I remember rubbing it in the bar of Me Mates Place.
CLIFF NOTE: I used to suffer from very mild panic attacks usually brought on by stress. I found a really good way to counter them was to focus on something else – usually a necklace with a distinctive shape that I could rub. No longer suffer (least not as badly) but still rub necklaces out of habit.
I rip the room apart looking for it, as I’d been in here earlier to change my top, but there’s no sign of it. I then check at reception and at the rooftop bar – where the bartender gives me the not-comforting-news that he doesn’t remember seeing me wearing a necklace when I first came in with the original top – something he would have noted as we’d been talking about the heat and changing clothes so had actually been paying attention to what I was wearing.
The receptionist suggests it may have been stolen – though that seems a little ridiculous, and explain again just what the necklace looks like. Frankly, even if someone was going to steal an item on my person, they’d go for my watch, not a piece of metal on a ratty piece of string.
They even call up the tuk tuk driver and see if its fallen to the bottom – but even he says he doesn’t remember me wearing a necklace of any form. I’m getting a sinking feeling its gotten caught on my pacsafe mesh (which its done before) without me noticing and snapped off. It could be anywhere from my room at Me Mates Place, to the passenger bus to the VIP Bus to the bus station. Frankly, its gone and I’m not getting it back.
I’ve been wearing that thing almost every day since I made it. Its been my good luck charm the whole trip, and I’d gotten very, very fond of it. Can’t believe its gone, and that I didn’t notice it was gone…