Our big trips are usually too hectic to sleep in too much on any given day. In most of the destinations we select, there’s so much to see and do. One might say that even with four whole days in Siem Reap, there is a long list of activities that can easily occupy the entire trip. However, we had determined beforehand that this trip would be a bit different. We knew, from our research, that it’s easy to get “templed out”. We didn’t want that to happen. So, we built a rest day into the middle of our stay, and deliberately didn’t make any plans.
It’s hard to remember what we did and where we went. We got up late, I think we barely just made it to breakfast, which our hotel offered until 10 AM. We headed into town to try to find David some shoes to wear for Angkor Wat and for the Grand Palace in Bangkok — places where we knew that flipflops might not cut it.
At this point, something important needs to be mentioned: Cambodian sellers and tuktuk drivers are pretty aggressive. Not the worst we’ve encountered (in Negril, Jamaica, the only way to get away from hawkers was to get off the beach and into the sea) but we definitely got tired of it pretty early on. So, on this dedicated shopping day, we had to definitely get into a mindset where we would expect these interactions and not let it bother us. In fact, we even learned to use it to our advantage. More on that later.
We searched a few markets, with little success. The Old Market had a good amount of shoe stalls, mostly close to the seafood area, but it was difficult finding a pair that fit well, and was the right price. We eventually ended up at the Angkor Trade Center, which is a little mall with a few shops. David found his shoes there, and I also found a salon where I got my hair cut (I was a bit perturbed, but it worked out pretty well and I got an intensely long shampoo and head massage, arguably the best part of getting a haircut, all of it for $8 tip included). The a/c was also a nice break from the heat and humidity outside.
Back to the shops, I also decided to get myself a pair of those ubiquitous loose printed pants that everyone in Siem Reap seemed to wear. And for good reason. The pants are light and stay pretty cool, they keep the mosquitoes away, and you can wear them at the temples. I wasn’t in love with the overly tribal print and patterns, but I eventually found ones that worked for me. We also needed some souvenirs.
Here are David and Razel’s tips for getting a good bargain in Siem Reap’s markets:
- Shop earlier in the day! The shopkeepers are eager to make a sale, and may drop prices to unexpected lows. My culture has something like this; the first transaction at the beginning of the day is said to be lucky.
- Ask around a bit to gauge how much an item should cost.
- If it’s clothing, try it on. That dress may look great on the rack or mannequin and then make you look like a shapeless grandma when you put it on (no offense to the stylish grandmas out there).
- Haggle. It’s a thing here.
- The more you buy at that shop, the better the prices.
- Most importantly: walk away. If you really like something but you’re not getting the price you want (to a reasonable extent), leave. Odds are, they’ll give you the item at your price, or pretty close, and not lose your business. We got quite a few deals this way. Of course, be ready to look elsewhere if they don’t chase after you!
Dinner that day was at Happy Herb Pizza. We had heard about how these places spiked their pizza with, well, herbs. So David got pizza and I had fish amok, an absolutely delicious soupy dish. We concluded that we probably should’ve asked for extra herbs or something, as no effect from the pizza was forthcoming.
We had other options for the day: the Angkor National Museum, a visit to the fishing villages, possibly a bird sanctuary, a traditional Apsara dance show or even a Khmer cooking class. Those things will just have to wait for our next trip to Siem Reap, because our last day was reserved for the big one: Angkor Wat.