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Asia » Cambodia » South » Sihanoukville
December 5th 2010
Published: February 3rd 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

At the Bangkok Ekkamai bus station, I took the midnight bus to Trat on the southeast side of Thailand, 5 hours, actually 4 1/2, we were fast. I fell asleep right away and woke up in the bus terminal at Trat. I got out and immediately taxi touts crowded me and quoted me 600 baht to the Hat Lek border crossing town. I politely declined them and walked inside the terminal. I engaged into conversation this lady who was in the bus with me, she was very helpful despite her limited English, she told me to wait until daybreak and maybe there will be a transport to the border cheaper than private taxi, though she is from here she has not been to Cambodia so she cannot be guaranteed. She left right away to go home and I sat again in the corner trying to ignore the bullies, the touts!

A young woman started talking to me, also from the bus, word got out that I am a foreigner as if my huge backpack did not do the job for me, her English was better and she helped me to ask around about cheap transport to the border, she gathered from taxi drivers and toilet attendant that there is a van the at leaves at 6m on the other side of the terminal, gate #13, I later found out, spelled in English, 'Cambodia border" duhh.. I could have looked it up myself but i did not know, the taxi touts made sure I don't find out about this by distracting me and following me wherever i go, thanks to the young lady named Benz I got the scoop I need and i settled down at the bench near the gate 13 and thanked her profusely for helping me out.

10 minutes later she came to me and told me her father works for the customs office near the border, I cannot remember the town and she is getting picked up by her parents and that if I like they can drive me down to where they live and at the market there I can take a share pick up taxi to Hat Lek the border. I was reluctant but she seem to want me to come and meet the parents so I relented, the driver of the van said some words to her which she later told me, he was upset she stole me from him, big deal!

The parents don't speak great English but nevertheless very friendly and drove me all the way to their town and at the market found the taxi to take me to the border. Unfortunately the taxi doesn't go until at least 3 people are in, it's 6:40am now and the border opens at 7am, I want to make the 8am bus from Koh Kong, the town on the Cambodian side to Sihanoukville. I spoke to the driver and showed him 100 baht, listen drive me to the border, I pay you this, he refused and it went to 130 baht and I agreed, it would have been the same price anyway if I started from Trat but I got a free ride from there.

Arriving at the border around 7:15am Thai customs was very smooth and quick then comes the fun part, before crossing this border I did my research on Thorn tree, Travel fish websites among other things, let us just say I did my homework and no one can fool me, The Poipet and Cheam Rap crossing into Cambodia is notorious for corrupt officials, asking more than the required $20 visa on arrival fee. I stick out like a sore thumb though am Asian, the backpack gives me away, some dudes were calling me, it's the health check crap, I approached them they told me I need to get through them before I could head to immigration, fine but am not paying I dime1 I declared, It's free they said, one guy took my temperature with a gun thing and one dude filled out a form for me about Swine flu or whatever it was.

From the medical check I headed out straight to the visa application window, I filled in the form, some dude was bothering me trying to fill up the form for me, I gently nudged him away from me and told him I can do it myself thank you very much, they stuck around behind me in case I need their help, after I filled in the form, I took out one passport photo and the $20 crisp bill, opened the window and gave them my passport and forms, the conversation went like this:

you pay in baht!1000!

no! I pay in dollars, here's my $20

no! you want pay in dollars it's $25

I spoke to your embassy in Bangkok(never been there in my life) and I was told it's $20 fixed even here at the border!

no!no! here $25 or no visa!(shoving back to me my passport and closing the window on me)

what the hell is the problem here?(I asked as I opened the window again)

we set the rules here ok?! I am the chief police officer here and that is our fee, if you want to pay $20 go back to Bangkok and get the visa there!

(at this moment I was seeing red already)

ok I pay it but you have to give me a receipt and I will show it to the Ministry of Tourism in Phnom Penh

here no receipt, only in Bangkok!

look I have no time for this, my bus leaves in half hour here is my passport and my fee just give me the visa!

no!no! you wait for the boss, he will tell you our rules!

what time is your boss arriving?

not sure..

10 minutes had passed as I wait it out, meanwhile the touts were telling me in a hush voice, if you just pay $5 more it will be done at this instant, like hell I will give them that!!!

One officer came out and spoke to the touts and looked at his watch, I dont understand them but it seems they are trying to make me miss the bus but at the last minute retreated and the guy came back inside, opened the window and I saw his hand stuck out,

"Mr. your passport, give me!"

After 15 minutes of fighting with the bandits I finally won, in 2 minutes my visa came with the passport!

Thank you very much sir, me with a sarcastic grin, I had a look and the sticker clearly says on the top right hand side $20 visa fee!!!! thiefs!!!!

One tout was following me all the way out into Cambodia, $2 for moto taxi to bus station, I declined at first but after failing to locate the supposed "free shuttle ride" to the bus station in Koh Kong I gave in, though a bunch of guys hauling clams on their trucks offered to give me a ride to Kampot I have to turn them down, I might finish the clams before we get there!

The ride was about 15 minutes, we have to pay the toll, the dude asked me money I said I have no local dibdobs man! He ended up paying it, 1, 200 riels barely 25 cents. He took me to the bus company office and i bought a ticket there for 500 baht! Only later I realized I may have been duped but was still basking in my glory after wearing out the officias at the border. He dropped me off at a bus stand where the bus will stop for us, 3 other gringos were there i tried to be nice and gave them a smile but it seems like I did not exist to them, 3 elderly people, hippies or loonies I reckon from the way they look. Bus trip was about 4 to 5 hours.

We stopped several times, I can't buy lunch i have no local money so i just sipped my water. At the bus terminal in Sihanoukville, touts crowded the bus, I took my pack and walked out of the station, 10 touts following me, I politely said, I will walk I know where to go(not really). As I walk almost every motrbike is asking me to get on and they will take me to the beach, it got to the point that it's beyond annoying, i ignored them totally. I found the hostel I wanted to stay, it's in downtown, called Geckozy, read good reviews from LP Thorn tree forum and Trip Advisors, but such liars!

1st the place look empty and deserted, and the woman who showed me in cannot speak good English she ended up talking to me in Cambodian or Vietnamese and stares at me expecting that i understand it as if it's a universal language! She showed me a nice double bedroom, $7 she said, no! I said, your website says $6, she refused. Ok at least is there wifi coverage in the room? we no wifi! but your advert says you have! not working! she said...I told her well then i am walking out the door now, then she stops me ok $6, I still refused, then she gave me a card for Cinderella dive shop at some beach for $6 a room.

i asked her to call them to verify before i go all the way there, she cannot get hold of them, we sat for a good 15 minutes and she kept talking to me in her tongue and waiting for me to respond, i want to tell her, bi#@h I dont understand a word you say, finally I drew the last straw and just stood up and walked out and tossed the brochure her way, I know it was rude but I am not in the best mood, starving, hardly any sleep, and fed up with the relentless touts which she just pushed me out to be devoured again!

Psst, psst i hear motorbikers as I walked up the street to find another accommodation, I completely ignore them, I found G'Day mate, and this one was like Geckozy, almost empty and no life at all, the staff spoke bad English and frustrated they told me to just wait for their Aussie boss to wake up from his nap and then he can explain everything to me, then just as I was about to walk out a dude came from out of the blue, a tout, with a big grin and showed me a brochure, GST hostel cheap and near the beach, with wifi, Take me there i said! The staff at G'Day could not do anything, well it's their loss, they can't explain what amenities they have and they start at $7 as well.

GST was ok, very busy but the room for $6 was ok, clean with private toilet and cable tv and wifi at the restaurant and 4 minutes away from Serendipity beach, sold! I am starved so headed quickly to find good eats. I found a place $1 noodle shop place up the hill and a few meters from hostels and internet cafes and ATM machines. And for 50 cents I can add quids, yay! Then headed back to the hostel and got ready to go to the beach, as I get out touts that mill around the hostel as me where I am from, where I want to go, I ignored them and walked 2 minutes to the beach, lots of people mainly gringos, I walked the length of Serendipity beach before I settled in one lounging bed thing, a guy approached me and I ordered a can of Angkor beer the cheapest in the menu for $1 but by 4pm happy hour everyone goes down to 50 cents! I enjoyed a couple hours in the beach almost falling asleep, I bought some grilled squid, the lady said 12 pieces for $3, but only $1 for 4 pieces?! well then if I buy $3 worth it should be 12 pieces then? She looked at me puzzled, never mind give me a dollar's worth, I said, they were delicious and went nicely with ice cold beer.

It rained in the eve and most of the night, thunder and lightning, oh boy did I come at the wrong season? The next morning, all sun! I hurried to get breakfast and off to the beach and like yesterday walked around the length of the beach checking out a quiet nook and settled near a pine tree, ordered a beer and read a book and listened to my mp3 and occasionally venturing in the water for a swim, the water is nice and tepid, though there are lots of tourists everyone is in the sunning, keeping to themselves mood so it was quiet.
When thunder started growling in the horizon early eve I went back to the hostel and chilled, grabbed my dinner at the local street food eateries just past the roundabout with a tiger statue in it, I found bugs, and other small critters and "balut"(duck embryo) only they call it different here. I had the small crabs with rice and beer for $1.5 super cheap.

Checked out some of the bars in the beach some with free shots to start the drinking binge with, and happy hour is 50 cents for draft beer, not bad, but I always go to my favorite place called Muesli as they have happy hour all day! They know me there already including the food vendors, I eat grilled squid, mantis shrimps which here they call lobster,made deals with the vendors so I get it for cheap, problem is on my 5 days here going to the beach religiously every day they look for me and expects me to buy from them all the time, so sometimes I hide! Ok the beach is not as pretty as say south Thailand but I like the atmosphere, laid back chill, a good way to decompress before heading to chaotic Vietnam, people are friendly, I had a drinking session with some locals, their potent whiskey was too much for me though and had to beg off sooner than later, will miss this place but now time to move on.

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