Can you keep it down please...I am trying to sleep ;)
So, Sam and I had decided it was time to move on from Bangkok. We bought some beers to take back to our hostel and started researching and planning our journey. Outside our small fan assisted oven of a room was a very inviting seating area which would be our camp. We soon realised this may be a hard and treacherous trip as we read countless articles on people being scammed, taken to 'official' looking immigration offices with 'official' looking workers who would try to part you of your cash.
" w***!! Have you read this? Perhaps we should stay one more night?" neither of us could be bothered with the hassle, so delaying the trip was an enticing thought.
" No sowy we fully book" the sweet Thai lady tells me. Damn! In reflection this may have been the push we needed but this wasn't the answer I had hoped for. So we were committed, we made our plans, booked our room and finished what was an enjoyable beer.
Nearing the end of our beer we were joined by our neighbours who we had met queuing for the shower the previous night. We caught up on the day's events, swapping our eventful tuk tuk stories and opinions of Bangkok. As we sat laughing about the sheer brilliance of the tuk tuk drivers; a disgruntled head appeared on the stairs, we soon learned it was owned by an equally disgruntled woman who had come to complain.
"My room is directly below you and I cannot sleep because of the noise!!" she squawked. At first it seemed like a fair complaint, the walls are thin and noise does travel well through the building. "Ok, we will keep it down" we reply. We soon realise it's only 9:30 pm, the miserable American woman would have to wait to sleep as I had just bought more beer. Hooray for beer!!
Time passes and with a dreaded train journey, leaving at 5:55 am, ahead of us we say good night to our neighbours and finalise the packing ready for tomorrow.
We arrived at the station with time to spare, purchased our tickets (48 baht each or about £1) and made our way to platform 6. We board the train and try to select a seat where we may be left to enjoy the sweaty 6 hour ride in peace. As we sit back on our rigid straight backed seat, the train departs. I sit waiting for the train to change gear and start accelerating but it never happens, it just plods along clickedy clack, clickedy clack. The view isn't much but at least it's nice and peaceful, I find myself thinking. "MWAH TEN HAWRY SU PA!!" a women selling goods enters chanting loudly my peaceful train is no more.
Despite the noisy chanting lady, the man who had also joined her, the uncomfortable seat and the now very sore bum chafe I had; this was a very enjoyable journey. It felt like an adventure had just begun. Talking of adventures; the toilet on the train, should you need a poo, is a stainless steel bowl with steps for you to place your feet. I can only imagine that an embarrassing and traumatic experience awaits anybody daring to try and stand or squat on this slippery, shaking receptacle.
We were meant to arrive at our destination by 11:35 am but 12:15 pm came and we were still trundling along. A small amount of concern was now setting in that perhaps this wasn't the train we needed at all or perhaps we had missed our stop! At this point we turned to a foreign couple who sat adjacent to us and asked "Do you speak English? Is this train going to Ataraabjdhjdkebdjhe?" we started chatting about our destination and the scams that lie ahead and before we knew it we had arrived.
Now for the difficult bit. Before we had even got off the train, tuk tuk drivers are pointing and shouting trying to tout for our custom. To be specific Sam's custom as she's so white this surely means an easy score. They would literally see her, point at her exposed lily-white legs and run to speak to her. The couple we had been chatting to started speaking with the first tuk tuk driver they came to, we on the other hand waded through the vulturous crowd and made our way to the exit of the station. We spotted a sleepy tuk tuk driver who wasn't bothering anybody "Perfect! Let's get him". We engaged in haggling costs and made sure he understood that we wanted to go straight to the Thai immigration "Direct!" I kept saying. Price negotiated (100 baht or about £2) we hopped on and hoped we would be taken to our intended destination. We came to a fork in the road, we went one way everybody else went another, all apparently heading for the same place. I frowned at Sam "What do you reckon?" we laughed.
We came to what looked like a market; lots of stalls and the unlikely place for a border crossing. The tuk tuk driver pointed and said "Just round corner". I was sceptical but we dismounted the tuk tuk and headed in the direction he pointed. Fortunately we were lucky and actually had been delivered to the place we requested. People who joined the queue after us had not been so lucky. We listened to their stories but they didn't seem too bad. More of an inconvenience than a real problem but everyone had done there research in advance. Anybody planning a similar trip see www.seat61.com for a full description of the scams and full border procedure.
Annoyingly we were overcharged by the Government Officials by 200 baht. I would have argued that the sign clearly states $20 not $20 plus 100 baht but at this point they had my precious passport in their hands and I was not willing to create problems for myself over a measly £2. We paid the money and proceeded to the next task of getting to Siem Reap. There was a saying in Cambodia; "If a Government Official is required, money must first change hands". It seems this is still the case.
Once across the border you enter Poipet. This is not a place I can imagine anybody would wish to stay for any amount of time. It's been said that the best thing about Poipet is the road out of it, I would personally have to agree.
There is a free Government bus that takes you to the bus station some 15 minutes away, we climbed aboard, thanked our blessings and made our way out of this mind field. It is maybe worth mentioning that we never did see the foreign couple from the train again, I wonder if they ever made it………………….