As Adam promised, the detailed blog of what actually happened on that fateful trip to Cambodia is now here for your entertainment.
Lets start at 6am Saturday 21st Jun, an obnoxious time for tour bus to leave in the first place. Yes, thats right, we had booked a tour bus from Bangkok all the way to Siem Reap and ignored the Lonely Planet's advice not to do so. Their reasoning was soon to become first hand. At first it has to be said our impressions of the bus to take us 4 hours to the borer were pretty good, we were promised an air-conditioned bus, an air-conditioned bus was delivered. Apparently functionality isn't a big deal in Thailand!
A sweaty four hours went by with a distinct lack of air-conditioning, as the bus pulled up were were expecting Cambodian flags and border controls but instead we feasted our eyes on a small family run restaurant about five miles from the Thai/Cambodia border. It just so happened that this "family" happened to be the one that also ran the tour company, co-incidence - i think not!
Both Adam and I were growing impatient of the situation evolving in front of us as it almost perfectly mimicked a cautious piece of literature written in the Lonely Planet. It goes like this: Tour company picks up bus of westerners going to Siem Reap, tour company takes bus to remote location and demands over the top price for Cambodian Visa, tour company piles westerners on a painfully under built, non air-conditioned bus the other side of the border and drives them for 10 hours across dirt roads the slow and long way to Siem Reap so all passengers are so exhausted they stay at the guesthouse they are dropped off at, one that this tour company just so happens to get commission from the guesthouse for filling beds.
At this point we were rather dubious about what was about to happen when the pigeon English from a thieving Thai lady spouted, "1200 Baht for Visa, you pay now and hand in your passports. We wait here till Visa done and you can go". After kicking up a fuss it was rather clear that it was either pay up or be left at the hands of an overzealous family of Thai's that you have just refused to pay for their following weeks meals. We had to get across the border, we paid, we waited.
Oh, and did we wait. Two hours sat in the blistering heat waiting for our rather expensive Visa's, refusing to buy water from this "family restaurant" to make us feel just a touch better, then the bus drove off with all our bags on.
Thankfully it just did a circuit and returned at which point we were herded back onto the sweat pit and thrown smoothly across the border. Once our passports had been returned and our eyes had caught sight of this "lonely planet" reminiscent rickety bus waiting for us, Ad's and I along with another couple had had enough. We promptly arranged a taxi and headed off towards Siem Reap, finally we were comfortable and relaxed and out of the vice like grip of this gluttonous tour company.
Nothing can quite prepare you for the crossing from Thailand (which is by no means a westernized country) into a poverty stricken, quite evidently third world country like Cambodia. The pictures themselves speak volumes and a whole lot more than was said in the taxi full of four rather dumbstruck westerners out of their comfort zones in country that's never seemed so foreign and one Cambodian wannabe rally driver.
All was peachy until about 2 hours into the 3 hour journey when the taxi broke down. Head in hands is the polite way of describing how we handled the situation. Mr Caterham stepped up but unfortunately to no avail. Then, just in view a bus trundled along, some serious arm waving and follow up niceties saw all four of us on an comfy, air-conditioned bus all the way to Siem Reap.
You either laugh or cry in these situations, as we settled into out modest accommodation walking distance from the aptly named "pub street" we were all definitely laughing.
Adam again showed his bartering skills getting a Tuk Tuk driver for the whole day, starting a 5am for sunrise I might add, for the grand total of $12. Nice one Ad's.
From entering into the Angkor Wat temples the story can be told from the pictures, the sheer scale and complexity of the temple here built in the 10th and 11th century is awe inspiring. Whilst hundreds of Japanese tourists tried their hardest to ruin the early morning tranquility at Angkor Wat it most certainly prevailed.
Check out the pictures. Enough said.
A day was spent looking at enough temples to last us both a lifetime but what a day it was. Mat, you were right, Angor Wat can be done in a day!
Later we had to check up on another one of Mat's recommendations, the Angor What? Bar. We scribbled our keepsakes into the walls, tables and chairs and a quality night. Traditional Khema food was a delight but we had places to be and islands to see. A quick trip to the travel agents and we were both booked on a morning bus to Bangkok.
The journey was a breeze, we had less than an hour in Bangkok and we (including three others we had shared this Cambodian bonding experience with) were on a bus down to Ko Tao. 36 hours of travelling later and we were on the beautiful island of Ko Tao, Adam…… All yours.