Crossing the Cambodian border
So leaving the hustle and bussle of Bangkok (or Bangcock as I kept writing it!!! oops. Dan was always soon to correct me, as always). Yet again we are travelling on a bus/coach to Siem Reap, a 7 hour journey across the border and for yet our 3rd country of SE Asia to show us what they've got. The next chapter begins...
Although our LP (Lonely Planet) is 2 years out of date we do always read up about the country we are going to. So when we saw in the LP a section titled, 'Bangkok to Siem Reap: The Bus Scam', we were quick to pay attention, 2 years old or not! The LP read, "Since the bus operators make their real money from Siem Reap guesthouses paying them commission for bringing guests, their goal is to make the journey as long and uncomfortable as humanly possible".
Well, we were not going to be a part of that scam we thought, so to be ultra safe we had asked around as usual and we even asked our guesthouse! Our guesthouse assured us that it was a COACH picking us up at 7.30am and we would be in Siem Reap at 2.30pm. Brilliant we thought! We'd managed to avoid the scam so at 7.30am we waited to be picked up. Though not a coach came, but a man, who walked us to the main road and sat us at a cafe. Upon waiting for 30mins he shooed us across the road, ready for the Coach. At 8.30am a small mini van pulled up with 'Cambodia' written on the front. We had landed ourselves directly into the scam!
With virtually 0% leg room, no recliner seat, and a broken air con we were in for a rough day. When I pointed out, "Hey, it could be worse, at least we're not in it for that long, only until 2.30pm, right?"
WRONG!! We stopped for 15mins to get petrol at 11am and then stopped again at 12.30pm for an hour to have lunch, and we hadn't even reached the border!! There was no way we were going to be arriving in Siem Reap at 2.30pm, instead we estimated 6.30pm! They had it all figured out, when we stopped for lunch a guy tried to get us to agree to 400baht accommodation a night when we arrive in Siem Reap, we will get free transport there to make our lives easier as it will be dark! Me and Daniel tursley disagreed and sent him begging/scamming to the next customer.
After a long day of unhelpful scamming and con artists we finally caved in and decided to book 1 night accommodation at the 'green banana'for 30,000 riel. good thing we waited until we crossed the border and onto the next bus because 400baht is 8 pounds but 30,000 riel is 5 pounds 50p, it was worth it in the end!
The moment we crossed the border there was an instant difference. Small wooden wagons that were severely overloaded (1 must have had a bundle that may have been 10 metres high and 3 metres too wide on either side of the wagon) were being hand pushed by thin, sweating men and women. The roads appeared dusty and the fields were over-flooded by recent rains, for miles we could see men chest deep in the flooded fields, while there may have been a dozen or so people at the side of the road, overlooking the man doing his work. We would eventually find out that they were hunting snakes for food! The floods have not only covered the fields but had also surrounded peoples houses (though houses are on stilts) but it did not deter them from their daily chores as we saw women waist deep in the water hanging their washing out.
On the way to Siem Reap we stopped at a pokey drink and snack stand on the street. A group of Cambodian men all in a circle squatting beckoned Daniel over, thinking they spoke a bit of English (as the shopkeeper had told him they do) this would be his first brush with the locals. But conversation was lax and Daniel ended up eating a snake!! Yes, a BBQ'd snake with chilli sauce and 'Cambodian wine', which Daniel described as tasting more like Rum!
It was dark when we arrived in Siem Reap but we got picked up and taken to our next home. Roy the guy that thought my name was 'fluffy'organised an entire day trip around the Temples of Angkor the next day for US$25 - everything is in US$ here, they charge you in US$ but you can still pay in the local currency which is riel, though they have to get a calculator out and work out the exchange rate for their own currency if you wish to pay in riel, its very confusing! Excited and tired we ate and trotted off to bed to get some beauty sleep before a long, exhausting but an amazing next day....