This was it. I was gonna face the streets of Siem Reap for the first time and was gonna do it on my own. I arrived late previous night, my pre-arranged Tuk Tuk waited for me to take me to Two Dragons guesthouse, I spent my first night there, even though I didn’t particularly get much sleep, I’ve applied sun screen and mosquito repellent, picked up my free copies of Angkor Siem Reap Visitors Guide and OutAbout Pocket Cambodia Guide and stepped out of the guesthouse into the Cambodia’s open to explore Siem Reap on foot. I had just stopped raining and street on which Two Dragons is located is not paved so each step I made ran mud up my feet. Cambodia is close to the equator, so temperatures are tropical year round. During rainy season, it’s not only hot, it’s also extremely humid so my sweat glands would be turned to the max anywhere outside of an air conditioned room. Undeterred by sweat that instantly covered my body temple, not heeding the muddy road before me, I proudly stepped forward in a completely random direction.
Omnipresent Tuk Tuk Drivers
There were several Tuk Tuk drivers just outside of Two Dragons. I did not see the one who drove me in last night from the airport among them. It could be because he was sleeping. He had to wait for me there till late hour and deliver me to the guesthouse and it was still very early morning. As I stepped my foot outside, I was immediately jumped by the Tuk Tuk drivers who seem always ready to get right down on someone who doesn’t look Khmer (Cambodian). Being immediately approached by every single Tuk Tuk driver in vicinity plus a few dozen who you don’t even know where they came from is a given, every Tuk Tuk driver does that, however if at the same time you are seen leaving the guesthouse, it would be almost a sin of they did not jump you right away. I have heard a lot about vicious and omnipresent Tuk Tuk drivers of Cambodia, but I did not think they were gonna get right on my neck the very second I step out of the guesthouse.
Even though I was entirely and completely clueless about where I am and where to go, I have gracefully rejected their “generous offers” to get me to the best restaurant, etc. in town and at the same time I managed to strike a conversation. Somehow in this melee I have successfully made a point that I don’t want to go anywhere and only want to take a general walk in the area on my own so they all stopped insisting on giving me a ride somewhere, yet at the same time I was able to stir a conversation and get a general sense of direction from them. I did not know which way was which after I stepped out of Two Dragons. But after brief convo with Tuk Tuk drivers I knew which way the river and the downtown area was. I still made it sound as though I was merely after brief walk in the neighbourhood, but with good sense of orientation, I set on my merry way to go towards downtown of Siem Reap on foot.
I have only gotten as far as few steps and new set of Tuk Tuk drivers started approaching me with offers to give me a ride. They have watched me reject previous batch yet they still wouldn’t leave me alone and had to ask. Like broken machines that never quit. I have simply said that I was good and further ignoring everything else they kept saying, I was pacing my way with confidence. Knowing where I was and where I was heading, I no longer looked dazed and confused which made me less vulnerable to ever preying Tuk Tuk drivers.
Navigating Through Siem Reap with Guide Map
All I had for the map of Siem Reap was that simple illustration in Angkor Siem Reap Visitors Guide which has everything you’d need form a simple map. To my pleasant surprise, Siem Reap is not a large town and can easily be done on foot. As a matter of fact, it has only taken me a few minutes to get from Two Dragons guesthouse which is rather remote to the downtown area where Old Market and Pub Street are. Entire Siem Reap can be covered on foot easily.
Exploring on Foot vs Exploring from Tuk Tuk
The only challenge is extreme heat tripled with even more extreme humidity a guy like me who just came to Cambodia from Canada is not used to. I was leaving a sweat mark behind me everywhere I went like a snail. You can’t keep up with wiping the sweat off your face with your short sleeves as they instantly get drenched in sweat after first few wiped. Taking that into account, a ride in a Tuk Tuk would make it easier on a person as you wouldn’t put your body through physical activity (walking) and you’d get your sweat washed off by the flow of the air you’d be run against in an open Tuk Tuk.
If you like walking and don’t mind a little bit of sweating, then don’t bother with a Tuk Tuk. It’s fast and easy to get from anywhere in Siem Reap to anywhere in Siem Reap on foot. Plus walking won’t drain your wallet as fast, even though Tuk Tuk rides within Siem Reap should not cost more than one dollar (if you are asked for more, take another Tuk Tuk). You can’t go anywhere in Siem Reap without running over 10 of them.