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Published: February 1st 2010
It was still dark at 5.30am when we got dropped off at Pakse in Laos. We had been quite settled on the Sleeper Coach and hadn't expected to be hauled off half-asleep :-( While we were waiting at the bus station, a hippy girl was handing out slices of Dragon Fruit, which is a really unusual fruit with a white middle with black seeds, and it's texture I think is a lot like Watermelon.
We had done loads of research for Thailand but had fallen a little behind with the other countries so we made it our mission to research Cambodia as soon as we arrived at our hotel late-afternoon. To be fair we'd always planned for Laos to be a chilled out boozy trip, but I think if we'd done some research before we arrived, we may have found other things to do - Four Thousand Islands for example.
We watched orange robed Monks in single file collecting food in their baskets from villagers who knelt by the pavement with their offerings. Boarded Another minibus to get to Another bus station to board yet Another coach. The 24-hour journey we'd paid for was slowly becoming longer and longer, with more stops and vehicles involved. Drove for hours until we reached the Laos-Cambodia boarder, which was tiny in comparison to the Thailand-Laos version. A man had to point a temperature gun right next to our foreheads to test for Swine Flu, and I felt a strange tingling sensation on my forehead for the split-second when my mind questioned what it was really loaded with.
We got a snack from a cafe at the boarder while we waited for other passengers to get their VISA's. We were invited to sit at the family dining table with the Cambodian owners and while there was a massive language barrier, there was a lot of smiling and nodding going on. I watched transfixed as the heavily pregnant woman rushed around after the men, fixing drinks and noodle soup for them. She even gave up her chair for one of them, which would never happen back home - at least I hope not! She seemed happy enough though - I guess she doesn't know any different. We left when Ellie sensed that we were taking up the last two seats. I'm not sure if we would have been expected to give them up (as they did seem really friendly) but I'm glad we didn't stick around to find out.
Finally we'd arrived in Cambodia!
It was here (at 2pm, having done over 24-hours) we were told we'd arrive at 6pm. Another 4 hours to go. We were pretty annoyed that the Tourist Info guy had lied to us when he sold us the tickets, but there was nothing we could do.
Drove past green fields, lots of palm trees and picture-perfect Bamboo huts on stilts. Any of this scenery wouldn't have been out of place on a postcard! Laos is a much poorer country, and although we'd not seen a lot of Laos (and I'm sure there will be some beautiful areas), we'd got used to the dusty roads and run down buildings, so our first sights of Cambodia was a wonderful contrast.
We arrived in a busy town but were informed there was only one ATM which was out of order. I'm sure this wasn't the case but the driver was reluctant to help us. The evening before, we had decided not to get cash out in Laos because their currency would be useless once we crossed the boarder. If the Tourist Info guy hadn't lied to us about timing, we would have known to get some currency exchanged before we left. We'd survived on a few crackers and biscuits since breakfast and were hungry and grumpy by teatime.
6pm came and went, and we were given the new ETA of 9pm at the same time as being dumped yet again in the middle of nowhere. 16 of us were piled into a 12 seater. At the final service station stop, we watched with jealousy as our fellow passengers stocked up on food. Close to the end of our tether we cheered each other up by singing to goat that was wandering around aimlessly wagging it's tail. We named it Wiggy.
At 10.30pm we finally arrived at our destination and a Tuk Tuk drove us to a Guesthouse near the French Quarter in Siem Reap city center. Didn't even stop for a shower - we were straight out for some comfort food and I tucked in to a Shepherds Pie at Molly Malone's Irish Bar, before collapsing in bed.
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