The Road to Cambodia

Trip Start Jan 07, 2010
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13
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Trip End Jan 06, 2011


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Where I stayed
Mitri Guesthouse

Flag of Cambodia  ,
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

An early morning bus took us from Bangkok to the boarder town of Aranyaprathat. While waiting for the bus to depart an American girl got on the bus followed by a Thai women yelling "wrong wrong" and waving money at her. After a lot of yelling she figured out that he had tried to pay for her bus ticket with counterfeit money given to her in Bangkok. Good old Bangkok, always with its dodgy surprises.

We had read in our trusty lonely planet about the scams that occur at the boarder.
Still feeling a bit seedy from the good old Bangkok belly we traveled for 4 hours to Aranyaprathat. There we shared a tuk tuk with Kara (counterfeit girl) to the boarder, however on the way the tuk tuk driver tried to stop at two different places to sell us Cambodian Visa's for a higher rate then at the boarder. They had all the paper work, dressed well and spoke English however we had read up on the their scam of overcharging for visas and insisted that we be taken to the Cambodian boarder.

We cleared customs and exited Thailand then walked a couple hundred meters where we were scanned for swine flue and then able to purchase legit visas. Another 100 meters and we joined a line of about 40-50 people which moved at a snail pace. We waited in line for about 2 hours in the sticky heat, excited every so often when we moved forward into the relief of a fan. Finally we were stamped and clear to enter the Kingdom of Cambodia. A bus took us from the casino town of Poi Pet to a bus station where we got a share taxi with Kara to Siem Reap. We paid a hefty $40.00us total for the three of us to be taken the hour and half long journey to the front door of our hotel.

Just outside of Siep Reap we pulled over and a handful of English speaking Tuk Tuk drivers greeted us. Before we knew it our bags were out of the boot and on a tuk tuk. The tuk tuk driver insisted that the Taxi was not allowed into the city and we would cause trouble for the driver if we proceeded with the taxi.He claimed that the tuk tuk was part of the taxi company and was a free service associated with the taxi. All that they wanted was our business the next day to visit the temples which was roughly 15.00USD which we were not ready to commit to. I walked across the street and asked the police if our taxi could take us into the city and from what they understood of my English they said yes.

The tuk tuk driver was very heated as we refused and got back in the taxi,  only to be driven another 100m and dropped again at another tuk tuk station on the side of the road. The battle continued and they continued to insist that the ride was free. We knew better than to believe that it was free as nothing is free in Cambodia. We hailed a tuk tuk on the side of the street, feeling like we would rather pay a dollar or two then get sucked into this "free"ride with the obligation to use their service the following day.

Angry that we had hailed down an unrelated tuk tuk, the persistent tuk tuk driver pulled up and said again it was for free, we insisted that we would not give him business the next day as we did not know if were going to the temples. Kara jumped on for the free ride and we followed, something we regretted later. We asked to go to a particular guesthouse and instead of turning right to the signed guesthouse he turned left to another guesthouse and parked out the front. We thanked him for our ride and started to walk towards the guesthouse we had asked to be taken to. As we were walking away another tuk tuk driver asked us if we were going to pay our driver or give him a job for tomorrow. We told him the driver insisted it was free and part of our taxi service which we paid 40.00USD for. He then yelled at us that NOTHING IS FREE IN CAMBODIA, YOUR F***ING SICK, TYPICAL TOURISTS!

And this was our welcome to Cambodia. We both felt mixed emotions, tired of the constant attempt to scam us even though we tried to be very clear with the driver what we wanted we still walked away feeling like we had done the wrong thing.

Unfortunately, our soft souls got sucked into another scam?!? While asking for direction to a restaurant for dinner Ethan got approached by a homeless looking women in tattered clothes holding a baby and empty milk bottle. Feeling like we needed to redeem ourselves after being abused by the tuk tuk driver we went into the corner shop to buy some formula. While paying for the formula we looked out the window and there was another women also with a baby and empty bottle. We asked the lady to share with her and she grabbed the formula and hightailed it down the street. We justified our donation after realising at the end of the day that someone less fortunate will benefit even if she sells the formula.  

On the bright side our guesthouse was beautiful and we shared our first Khmer meal at family run restaurant.

After our initial challenging first day we soon fell in love with Cambodia and its beautiful people!

A restful sleep left us ready to take on the sights of Siem Reap. Lunch at the Blue Pumpkin and the afternoon spent cruising the outskirts of the city. Out of the hustle n bustle and tourism, which has seen Siem Reap grow from a sleepy town to a go-to hotspot we were greeted with many smiles, waves, hellos and extended stares as we navigated the bumpy, rocky amd dusty road on sketchy pushbikes. On our way back to the the town center along the heavily polluted river lined with thatch houses built on stilts we decided to follow sings to an art gallery. The path took us even further into the backstreets of Siem Reap as we passed schools, little shops and farm areas. After a maze like adventure, we arrived at a large gated house that had the same logo that we had been following on the signs. The gates were closed and we were beginning to mount our bikes to return home when they opened up to a lovely Cambodian smile. It was the wife of the artist and she happily greeted us and showed us around the exhibition.   

Dinner on bar street, a narrow cobblestone street, light up with lights and the energy of everyone as they enjoy dinner after a long inspiring day at the temples. A rather quiet town during the day came alive at night!

After a rough start, our experience in Cambodia had already smoothed over and we were keen to explore the magic of Angkor Wat.




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Comments

Mom on

Hello happy campers - good to read your update, seems some of the Cambodian people are super pushy. Glad you worked through all that. Keep the blogs coming, they are so fun to read and look at the wonderful pictures. Wish we were with you. lots of love mom

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