A 'dancing road' brings us back to Bangkok
Trip Start Jun 04, 2005
103Trip End Apr 05, 2006
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The road from Siem Reap to the Thai border is notoriously poor. The rest of Cambodia's highway system, though not extensive, is at least tarred and in fair condition, but the main route to the Poipet border crossing is a rutted, potholed, unsealed affair - a 'dancing road', as the locals euphemistically call it. Some say that the airline companies flying the lucrative Bangkok to Siem Reap route have bribed local government officials to turn a blind eye and allow the road to sink into disrepair. The last few days before our scheduled bus drive on this infamous road, a bridge had collapsed, and at one point it looked likely that we might have to fly. However, the bridge was fixed in time, and, despite heavy rain on the night before, we set off at the crack of dawn on Tuesday 9 August.
Wow, what a wild ride!!! Barely 15 minutes out of Siem Reap, tar gave way to rutted gravel and we started our epic six-hour bounce toward the border. It's unbelievable to think that this is a main route linking two countries... really, it's nothing better than the worst South African farm road. The driver spent the entire six hour drive weaving his way swerving to avoid the biggest of the gaping potholes, and hitting the milder ones. We grew accustomed to bouncing in our seats, though our jaws dropped at the traffic passing us - pick-ups (bakkies) jammed with people, motorbikes with up to three pigs strapped on the back, pedal bikes with chickens in baskets.
Around lunchtime we reached the border - even though we had traveled only 130km or so in 6 hours, we had made very good time considering it had taken another Intrepid group, who left a few days before us, over 24 hours to reach Bangkok. At the Thai side we hopped into two minivans and completed our journey with another four hours' drive on the silky-smooth Thai dual carriageway... after the morning's excitement most of us just nodded off to sleep. After all the shocks and surprises, chaos and contradictions of Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, being back in Thailand seemed like arriving in Europe - super-civilised, calm and efficient. And Thanon Rambutri in Banglamphu, Bangkok, felt like home.
After a final meal out (and quite a few cocktails) with the group that evening, we spent Wednesday saying goodbyes to all and doing some much-needed admin. Then, on Thursday 11 August, we were up early to catch our flight to Singapore, from where our truly independent exploration of Malaysia would start...