Siem Reap:Crossing the border
Trip Start Jan 25, 2010
9Trip End Feb 23, 2010
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Where I stayed
Aran Mermaid Hotel
So, I left Lampang and headed south, to Ayuthaya. What happened was not as strightforward as all that (of course) and I was trying to ride my bike to the bus station (in a dress, of course) and not fall over or have my skirt get caught in the wind for obvious reasons. Anyway, I made it, and when I came4 out of teh 711 (with snacks--an icecream, candy, two bottles of water, a juice for about $2.50NZD) I saw that my back tyre was flat. Now, there is probably a reason for this (as you will see from my previous blog) and so I traipsed through the bus station across the street where there was some guy who could fix it. He pulled it out and saw that it was pretty much split, so got on his moto to go get a new one. I sat on a plastic red chair out the front of the shop like a freakshow for people to look at. (for some reason these places have like 4 or 5 people "working" in them who never seem to help or do anything. They usually are the ones who stare the most and say things I can't understand.) Anyway the guy came back, fixed my tyre up and off I went. (after giving the guy 80b, about $3.)
So, after many oohs and ahhs about my bike awesomeness (common occurance) they manage to get my bike onto the bus and off I go. I had planned on arriving in Ayuthaya at about 8 or 8:30 and looking for a guesthouse, it's a pretty touristy city and should have places to stay galore, right??
WRONG. But anyway, first I was on the bus. There was a security checkpoint, where the army guy asked me about my bike and since he had a gun I thought I''d better be chatty :) He pointed to his bike and told me so, and waved goodbye to me when the bus pulled out. Weird.
Anyway I got a bit cold and got changed (I had the two seats next to each other--it's a good thing to be a foreigner sometimes) and tried to squeeze myself into some position to be able to sleep. My hair flopped over the side of the chair and I hadn't really brushed it or anything, so I guess it must have looked like a fro for sure. Anyway I tried to turn, my feet were up by my head, I was upside down, one leg was up, I was in a ball, my knee was by my ear, nothing worked. Just as I was drifting off, however, the door opened (I hadn't realised the bus had stopped) and there was the driver, "hey, come on, Ayuthaya, Mam, get off" and I was like PING and trying to pick up all my stuff, hair flopping around the place, managed to get everything and then suddenly I was on the side of a random highway (later than planned, about 11pm) with my bike and my bags, helmet, bike pump and sarong all in a pile.
It was dark but traffic was going by as it does on highways late at night. I was confused, wasn't I supposed to be at the bus station? (I would later query google with my question and discover that tehre is no real bus station in Ayuthaya.....whoops.)
SO there were two taxi drivers at that place. I couldn't even think about what they would charge me to take me to a guesthouse, so I just figured I would bike. One of the drivers came to talk to me. The usual "hey where you go, where you from" conversation....BORING and "hey you only one?"and he looks around for someone else who I guess could have been hiding behind me. Nobody except a few homeless people swinging in a hammock nearby. So I say nope, just me, and tie my bag to my bike, put my helmet and backpack on, make sure my lonely planet is securely fastened and try to decide what to do. The guy tells me that Ayuthaya is on the opposite side of the highway, so I have to carry my bike up the stairs, over the bridge and down the other side. They ask me if I want help carrying the bike (with my stuff loaded onto it) and of course like an idiot I say no I'm fine. It takes me a couple of tries to lift the bike properly but I make it up in good time, and when I turn around at the top a crowd of sorts has gathered (my Thai peeps) and I'm given a bunch of thumbs up. It's a bit less graceful coming down the other side, but no one was there to see. Having been warned by the guy in Lampang about the infamy of dogs in this city, I try to keep in the middle of the road (then I might as well be hit by a car) but it doesn't take long for me to have the first incident. For some reason, these dogs just love chasing bikes. Not mopeds, not tuktuks, ,not cars, but me, on my bicycle, in the middle of the night. Anyway teh first incident wasn't bad. What happens is they spot you coming and if they smell any fear at all (or you happen to be going faster than walking speed) they will either run up the road beside you and try to cut you off or run directly at you from wherever they happen to be looking through rubbish. This first few went directly for me and I swerved into the middle of the road. There wasn't much traffic but enough that they were scared to cross, so I was OK. Please bear in mind there are not alot of places open now but Thais are still around laughing at these dogs trying to attack me. This incident was pretty harmless really but I wanted to find a place to sleep as soon as possible. I tried to follow some signs but there weren't many lights on and I hadn't seen a single guesthouse or anything remotely friendly at all. Insert here 4 or 5 more dog incidents which freaked the heck out of me. I kept biking. I went under a weird bridge thing which curved around and back, and I saw some dogs ahead. (Read: number one dog incident on its way) but there was a guy on a moped who said hello so I thought I'd try to sneak past with him. I tried to bui;d up some speed but motos are faster than me and so he left me behind just as we passed the dogs. I have to take deep breaths just describing this because I was sooooooo freaked out. I had been travelling all day and biking in teh freaky dark for about an hour and now dogs were setting apon me, and they were big.
First came the growlling and then the running. I think it's much scarier when you can see them running along side you, one ran ahead (they were faster than me because I think my legs froze in fear)and the otherone came right for me, literally snapping at my heels doing some crazy growling barking combination. I WAS SO SCARED. There was nobody around and these dogs were after me, I lifted my legs up and tried to curl into a ball as much as I could on top of a bike and I can't be sure but I think I closed my eyes and tried to turn my head away. I tried to scream as loud as I could but it came out like a pitiful aaaaaaaaarghhhhhhhh agh aaaghhhhhhhhhhhh and really thought I was going to be maimed.
LUCKILY the guy who was on the moped had stopped up ahead and scared them off with a bit of Thai (handy language to have.)(Actually I think your supposed to yell at them, but I don't think my scream counted...they can smell fear) and I whizzed up past the bridge bit again and tried not to cry with joy at being alive or fear that I had almost been mauled by Thai streetdogs. The guy pulled up next to me laughing. How dare he! I couldn't really understand what he said but he wanted me to go with him and I was like "noooo thanks..."
There was a random bus stop where a guy was sitting and I couldn't handle biking around any more so I made the hands next to head sleeping signal and followed him on his moped down a dimly lit street. Why am I always doing these things? I have to be honest though I felt that the first guy was dodgy but that this one was perfectly fine, and I was right. I made him go all the way down the street with me and tried to make it clear that I was now afraid of dogs. He took me to a really cheap place and helped me park my bike out the back (actually some old lady walked off with it which was a bit dodgy but I got it back no worries the next day.)
Since then I've had a strong grip with my left hand on my bike pump, which Ive discovered has multiple uses, not all of them bike related, ie dog bashing related.
The room was fine, the toilet and shower were outside and there were ants, but WHATEVER I was so happy even though it was really hot and sticky even at 1am. I had a television with 3 thai channels!
OK so the next day I took a deep breath and left to try and find the bus station to see if I could get to Aranya Prathet (border of Cambodia) as it turns out as previously described, there was no bus station, but I found a bus going to Bangkok and everyone said there was no way to get to Aranya frm here, even though there is clearly a road on my map. So, I had to go to Bangkok AGAIN.
Got to bangkok and amidst the öh you velly nice bike" I had some noodle soup and managed to find the bus going to Aranya that night, the next one was at 5pm. After trying to get my bike onto that bus (some of these buses have small luggage compartments) I was promised that it would fit on the next bus at 6:15. I hoped so as that was the last bus :) In teh meantime I found the same donut store as we used to have in Japan and ate 3 donuts....and felt consequesntly very ill!
I got on the bus to Aranya and we arrived (you guessed it) at about 10:30pm. I'm not doing this again"I thought, and asked where a hotel was, to my joy, right across the parking lot! It looked nice....the tuktuk driver told me he would take me to a cheaper one for 70 baht but I couldn't be bothered bartering and lugging my bike or riding in the dark or having dogs chase me so I went into the nice hotel much to the surprise of the staff. It was only 30NZD a night anyway and I thought I deserved a nicer place for once!
So after showering and prancing about my beautiful room, I watched an episode of Scooby Doo which was all they had in English and went to bed.
At ten I woke up and got my stuff together, and looked on the internet quickly for what I should do to cross the border to Cambodia. There are a BUNCH of scams. First of all the internet advised me to change money before I get there (which I didn't do as I couldn't find a bank) in order to avaoid being charged a terribe exchange rate. Then there are a bunch where the tuktuk driver tries to take you somewhere else to pay more for your visa, or tells you you need to pay an express fee or whatever. I made sure I knew what I was in for (but you never really do no matter how much you read.) So I biked the 6km to the border. There were a bunch of trucks and some guys waved me to go through, so I went to them and there was a guy sitting with a clipboard in what looked like a parking lot next to the border crossong. he was like "hey you going to cambodia"and I looked around and thought...alarm bells....and rode right out and past the trucks and stuff to wherever, I just wanted to get to the real place. I asked some people going the other way and they told me to get the "leaving thailand' stamp so I locked my bike to a post and went in. I met 3 cute Australian guys who had been duped into paying 2x the amount at some "consulate"back up the road. I got my stamp and then we had to enter Cambodian visa territory-this was the dodgy bit. I have been planning this trip for some time and so know that they try to rip you off. First the guy asked me for $20USD plus 100b for an ëxpress fee" and there weren't many people there, so I laughed and said nope I just want the regular one. He didn't know what to say. Then I said I've only got Thai Baht, so he said, 800. I was like NOPE what kind of exchange rate is that, it's 700, I'll give you 700, he said, OK you think I'm wrong, you can exchange the money I'll show you the place"I said no way, I know what place that is and I'm not exchanging money there, it's 700 baht, 700. This went on for awhile but I didn't care. They can rip someone else off but it was for sure not going to be me. They must make so much illegal money at that place. So the one guy was peeved and took my money and they gave me the visa about a minute later.
becky 1: Cambodia 0.
By the way I actually paid $1 US extra but it was my reckoning of the conversion and I think they would have killed me if I had said 680!
So, once out of there we had to wait in a stuffy room for some purpose and then I had opted to share a taxi to Siem Reap (which was a scam as the bus dropped us at some station in teh middle of nowhere and everyone charged the same outrageous price for taxis to Siem Reap. So I lost like $10 just like that.
Becky 1 Cambodia:1
So we got a flat tyre on the way to Siem Reap, and some people tried to sell us cans of coke for like $1.50. When I pointed out to them this was double what is was in Thailand, the kid said (with some great english might I add) "Go back to Thailand and get it then". Charming.
So I was not a big fan of Cambodia just yet.
We arrived in Siem Reap and I lost the boys in a mad tuktuk grab and decided to bike around anyway, of course at this time did not have a room and had not eaten in awhile so it made sense that I would have a desparate need for the loo. I tried to choose a place to stay-and there are alot-and for some reason I usually pick good places, usually just locally owned ones in good areas, this one is $6US a night and it is almost as nice as my room in Aranya but without air conditioning. It has a bathroom, TV (with English channels) free internet and I get to exercise every day by walking up 3 flights of stairs! It's close to the old market which is just a warehouse filled with everything you can imagine. I wandered accidentally into the meats section today and felt quite nauseated. There is everything you can imagine. And hammocks! I've been looking for awhile for one, I've got it down to $4US for two. I just can't decide what color!
For dinner tonight I went to an outdoor place and ordered some food, but there were some cute boys selling postcards so I bought them dinner...eventually there were 8 of us at the table! This german lady called me "mother teresa"haha but they were so cute..and it only cost me $9US...
Oh gosh I'm not going to last long here I can tell. The kids are so beautiful! And so funny.
Well tomorrow I'm going to go temple crazy!