Nat and Beck Go Large!
We started our journey to Cambodia yesterday (02/12/2005) at 7am. We were picked up from our guesthouse in Bangkok in a cramped minibus - very different to the VIP air-con coach that was described to us! Anyway, took a bumpy 4 hours to get to the border, where we got our visas and were escorted through immigration by our "helpful" guide. Once on the Cambodian side of the border, we were driven to where we thought we'd be getting back onto the bus. However, our "guide" took us into a money exchange where he told us we would have to change our money into Cambodian riel, when every guide book has said that US dollars are acceptable everywhere. Having no clue about the exchange rate and how riel works, we've just worked out that we're around 80 quid out of pocket between us - so be warned! Anyway, we then got on another bus and proceeded to drive down the worst pot-holed road imaginable - we were warned about how bad it would be, but it's something that has to be experienced to be believed! Took about 4-5 hours to drive 150km - nightmare! Once we finally arrived in Siem Reap at 8.30pm last night, the driver took us to the guesthouse he works for, on the understanding that if no-one wanted to stay there, he would take us somewhere else. Had a look at the rooms, were very basic but ok, only problem we had was with the area it was in - very dark, and wide open for anyone to walk in off the street. The majority of the people on the bus wanted to be taken elsewhere, but now the driver was refusing to take us - how rude!! We ended up walking (there was around 12 of us) down to the main street, where we negotiated with some tuk-tuks to take us to a hotel for free, even if we didn't end up staying there. So now we're in a hotel very close to the main square, with loads of other people, and despite our bad luck with the money situation, have treated ourselves to air-con and hot water - fab after a week of cold showers - plus it feels a lot safer being with the other people who we travelled up with. We went out for dinner last night with a few Irish girls, and had a couple of drinks. There are kids everywhere begging - one boy, around six years old, was carrying a baby in a sling and begging in the street, and another followed us back to our hotel trying to get money out of us. There are loads of amputees as well - quite horrific to see. Glad we've got a big group of us to go out for dinner while we're here, as we wouldn't want to go out on our own. DON"T WORRY PEEPS - we're moving on on Monday!