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Published: October 7th 2010
Dodgy border guards, corrupt Visa Officials, fake consulates, cheating Tuk Tuk drivers, untrustworthy taxi drivers.... welcome to our journey from Thailand to Cambodia! A taxi, a train, a Tuk Tuk, walking, a bus, a share taxi and another Tuk Tuk, it was an epic journey that started from Pattaya at 2am on Sunday morning and ended at 6pm on Sunday evening in Siem Reap.
We caught a very luxurious (by SE Asian standards) taxi from Dad's apartment in Pattaya, I'd been up since midday on Saturday and had spent the evening playing pool and watching Spurs, whilst Rachel was nursing an air con induced cough and cold. The taxi ride was a couple of hours and whilst I dozed, Rachel discovered that Bangkok is truly the city that doesn't sleep, as people sat outside cafes eating and talking whilst others pushing by with their food carts. When we arrived at the train station, our eyes were opened to the start of the real South East Asian experience. The station was packed at 4am in the morning, with a collection of people sleeping on the main atrium floor, to a few bleary eyed Western backpackers warily guarding their bags, and everything
in between. We passed the time by reading and taking in the strange atmosphere of the artificially lit, pre dawn train station.
At around 5.30am we boarded our train. The train was a standard 3rd class train and tickets cost 48 Baht, which equates to a quid! We thought the journey wouldn't be too bad as we had a little booth to ourselves and could stretch our legs out to the seat opposite. The seats were rock solid, but as long as we could cope with numb bum, all would be well. With about five minutes until departure, the carriage suddenly filled up and we were crammed in like sardines. We weren't looking forward to the 6 hour journey ahead with no air conditioning and no space! At least we a seat though!
As if to tell us that this would be an all day odyssey, dawn broke as the train creaked out of the station and started our journey through the poorer suburbs of Bangkok and out towards the east side of the city. The next couple of hours passed with us dozing off, sweating and generally feeling uncomfortable as the sun rose in the sky and
the train got busier and busier. The view from the carriage window was that of flooded fields, bright green shrubs and bushes and cute little train stations and villages.
We eventually reached the border town of Aranyapraphet after six and a half hours, and disembarked along with everyone else. Before our feet had touched the platform we were surrounded by men trying to grab our bags and take us to their Tuk Tuk! We managed to do a deal with one of these men to take us to the border for a couple of pounds. Now, a Tuk Tuk for those of you who may not know is basically a little motorbike scooter with a covered trailer with seats attached to the back. Before we reached the border, our driver took a right and stopped at a little shack next to the 'Cambodian Consulate' where we were informed by the man who met us that we needed to complete all the Visa paperwork here for a charge of 1000 Baht ($28) or we wouldn't be able to cross the border. Luckily for us, Rachel had done her research and we were expecting this ruse! We refused to comply and
after some arguing we went into the consulate where they told us we could get the Visa required at the border for $20, just as we thought. Well done Rachel on that one!
The Tuk Tuk eventually took us to the border crossing and we filtered through the large queues to four seperate offical areas. Firstly, we were stamped out of Thailand and made the short walk to the Medical Area. Despite Rachel's cough and cold, she ticked the box that said 'No Ailments' and walked through. We were worried that if she admitted to having a cough or cold, then she would be quaratined with all the other people with Bird Flu! Once we were through the medical area, we arrived at the Visa Issue office, where after filling in the requisite forms and providing a photo, the officials tried to scam us out of another couple of quid each! Once again we stood firm and got through paying only the $20 fee and nothing else. Our final stop to get our passports stamped went without a hitch and we were ready for our journey from Poipet to Siem Reap and the guesthouse we had booked the previous
We had to clamber aboard an old bus to get to the coach station which is where all forms of transport into the country leave from and soon we were in the process of booking our share taxi to Siem Reap. What a convoluted, rip off service that is!! We were told it was $12 each for a taxi and they would leave when they had four people going to the same place, but if we paid $36 dollars total, we would get the back seat to ourselves, and they would leave straight away and pick someone up enroute if neccesary. Thinking that this would be the best option, we took them up on it and paid our $36. All the car in the car park were in good nick and around 5 or 6 years old apart from one. Yep, you guessed it, our one! It was a battered old thing with a cracked windshield that needed to be started by the driver doing some kind of magical witchcraft under the bonnet before it spluttered into life! We picked someone up straight away and were soon driving through the rain to Siem Reap. We settled down into
the back of the car and dozed off thinking that at least the journey was almost over and that we had made it through the day without being ripped off too much!
Two hours later we turned off the road onto a dirt track on the outskirts of Siem Reap and the taxi driver told us that we needed to jump on a Tuk Tuk who would take us for free to our guesthouse. Warily we followed his instructions and spent the next ten minutes on a Tuk Tuk being chatted to by a guy called Luke who came along for the ride. He was Cambodian and knew the Tuk Tuk driver, and was a very hyperactive and chatty fella. When he asked who I supported and I said Spurs, he replied with "Ah yes, Tottingham City, I know them, they good!" He then proceeded to ask me how old Peter Crouch was and said that Crouchy was a very handsome man. Guess Cambodians have a strange taste in footballers!? Anyway, once we got to the guesthouse, the scam was unveiled. Luke then proceeded to harass us into using him and his Tuk Tuk for our tour around the
temples etc the next day. We tentatively agreed a price, in our near zombie like state of tiredness and agreed to meet him at 8am the next day. The guesthouse owner told us that the price we agreed was a bit high so we decided that we would renegotiate in the morning.
Our eventful and interesting journey had come to an end and we were absolutely shattered but there was a real buzz about us as we dropped off to sleep. So far Asia had turned out to be fun, colourful, exciting and so different. This is what travelling is all about, long may it continue.
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