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Published: April 13th 2016
Today we leave Cambodia and I’m a bit sad. My last and only visit here to Siem Reap left me wanting to see more and I am happy to report that once you have explored the country a little further, outside of the international tourist destination that is Angkor Watt, the country does not disappoint. I have had an excellent time here and I dare say I will visit again in the future.
So, what’s the itinerary for today? We have booked a VIP (yeah sure) minibus to the boarder, at which point we will need to switch to another bus once we are on the other (Thai) side. That bus will then take us to Pattaya in Thailand. The chap on the desk in the hotel who we booked the bus through advised that we should be in Pattaya by 16:30.
At about 08:00 we were picked up by a relatively new air conditioned Toyota SUV. This was a surprise as we were expecting the usual Toyota Hiace Minibus. It also wasn’t that uncommon however, sometimes a car will take you to the local bus depot where you are then transferred onto the minibus, so
off we went.
We arrived 5 minutes later in the centre of Battambang where our driver stopped at the side of a busy road and disappeared. I couldn’t see a bus anywhere, nor were we in a bus station. “Fuck sake, what’s going on now?” We’re sat there thinking. All we want to do is get on with the journey. After another 5 minutes or so we are told to get out of the car and into another, this time a shitty old saloon thing that stank of fish. We just did as we were told. Maybe this car is going to the bus station? Sometimes this seemingly nonsensical behaviour is to be expected, so we just let to happen.
We get into the crappy fish-mobile and we’re sat there for another 5 minutes while the new driver is loading boxes into the boot, before he also gets into the car. We tried to ask him what the crack was but he didn’t speak any English. Fortunately though, we managed to speak to the previous driver who did speak a little, who confirmed that this was our transport to the boarder. VIP bus my arse on both counts.
This journey was $18 dollars each and while that isn’t a lot in the UK for the 300 miles we would be travelling, bear in mind you can travel the same distance, in an actual minibus in richer Thailand for half of that. This was not good.
Off we go for what was quite frankly a terrifying experience. I soon realised that this guy wasn’t even a taxi. I can only think to describe him as being a kamikaze courier. I have never been in a car in SE Asia that has hit the 70MPH speed we are used to, and there’s good reason for that. There are no enclosed motorways here where everything else is banned, where chickens and other live stock don’t run into the road, where mopeds don’t pull out randomly, where there are multiple lanes for overtaking safely... This guy was insane, at points he was doing over 70MPH on busy, barley two lane roads while he was weaving in and out of traffic overtaking. Did I mention for the entire journey he was always on one of his many mobile phones? Better buckle up. Err... No! No seatbelts in the crazy courier fish mobile.
Every few miles we would stop and deliver fresh produce including eggs, rice and of course a big box of fish. Well at least the smell was subsiding.
About half way into the journey my passenger door was opened and a guy was stood there staring at me. I was like “Yes? Can I help you?” Next thing I know he’s gesturing me to move up into the middle seat. For FUCK SAKE! So there we are from left to right, Tina, me (just waiting to be fired through the middle of the car and down the road through the windscreen) and our new friend, all squashed up nice and cosy, VIP style.
Fortunately all deliveries and logistical movements had been concluded for the day so we headed for Poi Pet (the border town) at warp 9.9. Once we arrived our new friend left the car after giving the driver the equivalent of £1. He was there for about half the journey too, so we can conclude from that, that we should have paid about £2 each, or $3 each. I’m still struggling with where the $18 we were charged went.
Soon after we were dropped off
within walking distance from the border but were told we would need to wait in the shop we had pulled up outside of. It looked like a Fed Ex depot. What do we need to wait here for? I tried to speak to the woman in the store but she couldn’t really tell me anything other than to wait as someone would be coming. Tina decided it would be a good time to take out her frustrations and used this woman to do so. Fortunately she never understood a word Tina said.
After another 5 minutes or so some guy turns up and sticks two green stickers to our chests with the letters ‘PY’ and tells us to head for the border. We following him up the road while firing a barrage of questions at him. All I can get from him is that we are to go in that direction, as he’s pointing towards Thailand. No shit Sherlock Holmes, but why do I need this sticker? Where do I go once I’m through the border? Will we find someone waiting for us at the other side? I don’t like this. As silly as it sounds I’d rather just
turn and do it bit by bit by myself, that way I don’t feel like I’m just wandering like a lost sheep to the orders of a guy who quite clearly, doesn’t really give a shit.
Anyway we queue up for Cambodian immigration, which was chaos by the way, and get stamped out of the country after about 30 minutes of waiting in line. We leave the other side of the immigration office to be presented with a shit load of building work. Where do we go now then? Our guide (if that’s what he was) had rather unsurprisingly disappeared. We go through a hole in the temporary security fence. Of course! That is the official way out of Cambodia. Try not to get run over by the dump truck through as you pass through.
I’m sorry of you can sense my frustration. The memory of this experience is whipping up some still-raw emotions.
We head toward the Thai border through no-man’s land, which in comparison to this is like some kind of beautiful air conditioned palace on the horizon.
What a difference. We filled in our Thai immigration cards and were stamped through in comfort
and quick time. There were signs and everything pointing to directions we were supposed to go in. It was great.
We leave the Thai immigration office through the other side and just start walking straight. What do we do now? Will we find a bus waiting for us somewhere? Have we been scammed and no one is waiting and now we can’t do anything about it as we’ve left Cambodia? As we’re walking down the street we pass a guy who appears to be ushering tourists towards minibuses. I point to the green ‘PY’ sticker on my chest and ask him where one may proceed to if they are sporting such credentials.
“Ahhh Pattaya. Yes, over there! Walk straight until you see a big man in green!” Thank the LORD! Sure enough, we walked a few more minutes down the road and we were ushered into a minibus and were soon on our way to Pattaya. We got in the bus at 12:00 on the dot.
In relative, un-smelly, air-conditioned comfort once again, and having navigated ourselves to what seemed like certain sanctuary (eventually) we settled into the journey. Unfortunately this didn’t last. This wasn’t a direct
minibus either, but instead the driver kept coming off the motorway to stop, drop off and pick up people in villages.
We did eventually arrive in Pattaya at 17:00 and had a 30 minute walk to our hotel. What a journey.
After checking in and dumping our stuff we went out to see what Pattaya had to offer. We had three days here , so plenty of time to get about.
So it seems we booked the hotel outside the sexy soapy massage parlour where bus loads of men would visit every night for a sexy soapy massage. I’m not sure what a sexy soapy massage is, I’ll ask my mum later. Further up the road one could find bar after bar after bar featuring many the young Thai ladies, waiting patiently for the older western gentleman to come and sweep them off their feet with all their handsomeness and personality, along with a little bit of money. It was a classy place to say the least.
After quite a few weeks of missing our western comforts we just headed to the shopping mall and grabbed a McDo before hitting the supermarket where we bought some recognisable branded foods to satisfying our junk food cravings, which Cambodia and Laos struggle to do. Why McDo though? I don’t even like it really, nor do I ever eat it at home. I can’t remember the last time I went there in the UK. Well... I was thinking about this and I’ve decided it’s just convenient. It’s easy, it always has air-con, it has Wi-Fi, and it’s brainless and sometimes that’s nice. It’s tiring looking at a menu every day, three times a day for weeks on end, trying to figure out what that badly translated dish actually is, while also trying to decide what you actually fancy eating.
Later that night while we were back in the hotel I expelled my McDo at great force and through a flurry of bursts though a certain lower orifice. Great! I had a bad stomach.
After multiple trips to the lavatory during the night we had a bit of a lie in before heading out into Pattaya. We didn’t do a lot, just walked about trying to decide what to do the following day. We took a walk up the famous ‘Walking Street’ but it was too early for anything to be happening really, already though I could tell it was a total sleaze- fest. I did not like what I was seeing.
We got back to the hotel later that evening for it to transpire that Tina was also not well, although she was particularly bad. Not only was she showing the same symptom as me, but unfortunately for her she was also losing fluids from the other end. Meanwhile her stomach was cramping a lot. She was in a lot of pain and looked a right mess.
The next day was written of completely as Tina continued to be very ill. Nurse Rob looked after her as best as he could but other than provide hydrating beverages all I could offer were words of encouragement.
Tina continued to be ill on our second full day in Pattaya. We decided not to extend our stay despite what was happening and instead booked a flight to Krabi for the following day, with the idea of heading to the nearby West Railay beach.
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