"Welcome" to Cambodia.....

Trip Start Nov 06, 2012
1
7
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Trip End Feb 01, 2013


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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Wednesday, November 28, 2012

So onward to Cambodia, a country with a horrific modern history, but one which promises much in the way of sights and experiences.  

But first we had to get there...Our trip started with a 7am minivan journey from Ayuthaya to Bangkok, which was touted as much quicker, more reliable and more comfortable than the train.  It was indeed more comfortable but lasted just as long dropping us off at Victory Monument.  From here we then took the Skytrain and a taxi to the bus station for another long distance bus journey  to Aranya Prathet to cross into Cambodia (this journey was advertised as taking five hours but actually took a bit longer with the driver making unscheduled stops so that he could stock up on snacks for himself from roadside vendors!).  

The bus arrived late into Aranya Prathet and dropped off the passengers next to the fake Cambodian visa office. V had read the Lonely Planet guide to this border crossing and spent the final 30 minutes of the journey drilling into A the absolute necessity of not trusting anyone at the border and basically to assume that everyone there is trying to scam us. Memories of our Peru-Bolivia border crossing came flooding back......

With this in mind, we successfully side stepped the “Cambodian Visa” office and headed to the nearest tuk-tuk which, so the LP says, would then take us to the border (the coach was meant to have dropped us off 5km from the border).  The refusal of the tuk-tuk drivers to take us to the border, combined with them pointing at a huge gate saying “Welcome to the Kingdom of Cambodia”, was not enough to convince A or V (or, in our defence, the other tourists) that this was not an elaborate scam to separate us from our hard earned Thai Baht.  

A well dressed young chap arrived and offered to show us through the border - massive alarm bells are now ringing and even following a close examination of his ID card we remained unconvinced following him tentatively down the quite clearly official customs lanes.  Now that we are safely across the border, it turns out that he was indeed trustworthy and was genuinely helping to shepherd us onto a free shuttle bus to a coach station for onward travel to Siem Reap.  

It was at this stage that a fellow traveller from Liverpool ("Scouse") came into our lives (please, he was honest and he did not rip us off - some prejudices are far from the mark with scousers, although in Siem Reap he did offer the coach driver some new alloys, we jest of course...).

The coach journey was advertised as “non stop” to Siem Reap, which in Khmer translates as, “non stop except to pick up mates the coach driver finds on the road and a forty minute stop for food at his friend’s restaurant and the final part of the journey is on tuk-tuk to your hotel - but it is free of course”.  The 40 minute stop was met with a mixture of emotions on the bus, Scouse panicked but exited the bus to then be eaten alive by the entire mosquito population of “the a**ehole of Cambodia, I hate this country - that dog just scratched its balls and flicked something onto me, did it f**king aim for me? I hate Cambodia, la la la”. In fairness, the place we had stopped in would make a perfect set for a Hollywood film if they wanted to depict the end of the world.....

V and some French travellers (always willing to go on strike in a good cause - they were probably missing home) were very vocal in their dressing down of the coach driver, the mutiny was halted however when some Korean tourists got off the bus and headed straight to the coach driver’s restaurant of choice.  We, together with Scouse and the French, got off the bus and, out of principle, went to a place next door for a beer, which we washed down with some mosquitoes, surrounded by lots and lots of stray dogs (so no different to Thailand then!).

Back on the bus after a full 60 minute stop and we were on the way to Siem Reap (which translates as victory over the Siamese - border relations spot on there then), only to be told on the outskirts of the city that coaches weren’t allowed to proceed any further and that we had to get off the bus and continue on tuk-tuks to our hostels/ hotels (we’ve since seen a number of coaches in Siem Reap....).  This was too much for Scouse, who shall remain nameless, (we’ve changed his name but V will soon be adding him as a friend on FB so you can track the guy down that way if you’re interested) to take and he decided that he would get the same tuk-tuk as us to our hotel, despite it being on the other side of the town.  For the following 25 minute journey, I think it is safe to say that Scouse was worried for his life, not from the tuk-tuk driving but generally in Cambodia. His favourite phrase being “I’m so glad I met you guys”.

We arrived safely at our hotel (at approximately 9pm) and were greeted with cold towels and fruit juice - the place is absolutely stunning - this entry is being written from the terrace outside our room.  V’s delight at seeing the bathroom was something to behold!  We ate a delicious meal at the hotel restaurant and decided that tomorrow we would head out to Angkor and see the temples from sunrise, by tuk-tuk - one of the best decisions we made.....

Scouse headed off into the Cambodian night on a tuk-tuk arranged by our hotel, trying to get to his hostel....

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