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Sunday 12 February 2017

[Saturday 11 February 2017]

Saigon–Siem Reap, Cambodia
[i] (UTC)–05:45 (UTC+7) Vietnam Airlines VN50 London Heathrow–Ho Chi Minh City
12:00–13:05 Vietnam Airlines VN3825 Ho Chi Minh City–Siem Reap
Tara Angkor, Charles De Gaulle, Siem Reap, Cambodia.
[i] Previous day
[ii] Contact number: 00855 63 966 661

We landed at 6.29am, a flight time of 11hr 16min; and on arrival in the terminal building, the four of us followed the signs for “transfers”, stopping at the transfer desk, where P enquired about the issue of boarding passes to us.

Initially we went to a snack bar, then went our separate ways. Janet and I wandered past souvenir shops, looking at the items on sale, including Asian conical hats and bottles of Vietnamese rice liquor. The way to Gate 10, from which the flight was to depart, was down a lengthy staircase to a sizeable seating area with a small duty-free shop and a counter serving refreshments. P and Y were already seated down there when we made our way down, and we joined them for the interminable-seeming wait for the flight. We had to board a shuttle bus to the location of the aircraft. The boarding pass showed the provider as Cambodia Angkor Air, so it was a surprise when we were deposited outside a plane painted in Small Planet livery. Inside, I noticed the word “išėjimas” next to “exit” on some of the signs, though other signs had stickers with Khmer words on them. Ironically, the Small Planet logo on the forward bulkhead, a picture of the globe, only showed the western hemisphere! The cabin crew looked Germanic, not Khmer. Entry and exit forms, and customs forms, were handed out; and I completed Janet’s and mine. After we taxied, we still waited several minutes. Take-off, scheduled for 11:00, actually occurred at 12:39, and we landed 43 minutes later, at 13:22 at Siem Reap. “I had an excruciating journey,” Janet wrote. “With all the sitting, my sciatica had kicked in, and I just could not get comfortable on that plane either.” The terminal buildings at Siem Reap airport looked oriental on the outside, with pitched roofs. In addition to the forms already completed, there were additionally visa application forms to be completed; then we had to queue at a desk to hand forms, photos, passports, and $30 each over; then we had to queue at an adjacent desk to receive back passports with visas in them;—

Cambodian visa in the passport

—then at the immigration desks for additional stamping of the passports.

At this stage, there was only the “12 FEB 2017” stamp on the passport page.

P and Y were through before we were. Then we had to collect our cases from the baggage-claim carousel (at least they were there; they hadn’t got lost in transit!), and deposit the customs declaration forms in a pile of them as we passed through the customs barrier, before we met up with the other two again at the exit, with a young man in a Ministry of Tourism uniform, named Sōk, and our driver. We boarded a minibus, and were first taken to a restaurant for a very pleasant four-course Khmer-style lunch: four-course, arguably more because one of the courses had several food items. One or more of the items, with which P and Y were served, were different from the ones served to Janet and me; that was because they were — not vegetarians exactly, because they did eat fish. Janet said “pescatarian”,[iii] a term I hadn’t heard before, but which she’d heard on TV food programmes. I recalled also that, on the flight, P and Y had been served meals before the rest of the passengers. Janet wrote: “I had freshly squeezed lime juice and soda water, thanks to P and Y’s input, and it ‘hit the spot’.” This would be her staple drink for the rest of the trip. I had a 640ml bottle of Angkor brand beer, 5.0% a.b.v., for $4, and Janet’s was $2 (15:15:22 on the till receipt).

[iii] a portmanteau of the Italian pesce (“fish”) and the English vegetarian

I had to excuse myself twice to go to the rest room to avoid an accident from my “parlous” gut. It was ca.4pm when we finally got registered at the hotel and taken up to the room (Room 148).

(The arrangement was to meet back in the lobby to be taken out to a restaurant for dinner at 7pm. Janet wasn’t going to be there, but I was expecting to.)… Then I dropped on to the bed and fell asleep. It was 32 hours since we’d seen a bed! Janet saw P & Y to tell them that neither of us would be joining them for dinner. I woke up again after 6pm. Logged on to the hotel Wi-Fi.… Looked up “išėjimas”; it’s Lithuanian. Did some diary update, partly with the aid of internet lookups (19:13–20:50), before deciding to brush my teeth and go back to bed.

[Monday 13 February 2017]

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