Sarah and I pull ourselves out of bed to get a taxi to the Western bus terminal. We get there, book the bus ticket and head to the bus. It's Sarah's first bus journey! It’s also far too early. We get comfortable, we each have two seats, and Sarah arranges herself in her area. Everything neatly stacked and ordered. She attaches a plastic bag to the back of her chair and says “rubbish bag” with a raised eyebrow. She is so organized, I love it. She doesn’t however have a neck pillow, so it’s nodding dog head for her. I do give her my spare eye mask, always useful. I try to stare out the window to watch Bangkok come alive in the hazy dawn. But I’m quite comfortable and soon I fall asleep. There is a loo on board the bus, so I don’t think there are any stops on route, very convenient. We both get some more sleep. The rubbish bag comes in handy for the tasty looking white bread and possibly cheese sandwiches we’ve been given (plastic fantastic). Then all of a sudden we arrive somewhere and stop. I assume it is a refreshment break, but we’re actually there earlier than expected. We grab all our bits, which because off sudden arrival aren’t neatly stored away yet, and fall into the bus station office to get organized. We’re all bags.
We need to get to the border and decide on a tuk tuk driver, after some persistent (Sarah won’t be broken), haggling over the price. Fifteen minutes later we’re at the border. It feels like we're in the Thai Wild West. The tarmac has disappeared and the road is reddish brown dirt. There are makeshift huts and covered stalls along the road. We are approached by countless hawkers trying to entice us on taking their offer of a taxi to Siem Reap. Still not sure exactly sure what we're supposed to be doing, we head by foot towards the border. There are no tourists lurking here so no one we can really ask advice of. We need to find a bus. We clear customs, with loads of Thais or Cambodians with children, chickens and pets in tow. Then we arrive in Poipet which is on the Cambodian side of the border, yuck. It’s been raining so the dirt road is now muddy and filthy too. The rubbish is piled up and stinks. There seem to be loads of giant casinos, all gaudy and they look awfully out of place in what is quite pleasant countryside, subjective point of view, maybe locals think they look good? We stop off at a cafe for a coffee and deliberate what to do next. I rename Poipet; ‘Dirty Vegas’. I don’t recommend it. I nip into a casino for a pee. It’s vast, full of gambling Thais apparently. It’s about 10.30am, what a scary world gambling is? I run back to Sarah, just as we’re about to leave the café, there is a loud explosion behind us. A man up a metal ladder has dislodged an electricity cable. The cable is free and dancing in the air like a bionic serpent. Sparks are flying, the man is OK, but not really sure how he’s going to sort this out? Sarah and I edge out of the café, in search of a bus. It appears we still need our passports stamped by Cambodian officials, although I thought we’d gone through customs? Into another office, here we meet two guys from Iceland; they are also trying to get to Siem Reap. It’s decided to take a taxi the whole way, bugger the cost, the road looks bad, and the wait for the bus is ages. We walk into town in search of a cab, and find one a little way in.
$60 for four of us on a three hour drive to Siem Reap. We cram our packs into the boot and are immediately overcome by a putrid smell. It is emanating from something wrapped in soggy newspaper, I think it’s durian? Hodi sits in the front because he’s the biggest. Sarah, Krissi and I, on fill the back seat. We head out of town. After five minutes the driver pulls over and halts the car by the side of the road. A young Cambodian woman, runs from a house and opens the driver side door, she gets in next to our driver. Remarkable! A tandem driver seat? They're both quite small so can just about fit on the one seat. We trundle out of town bursting at the seams, three in the back, three in the front, along the dirt road bound for Siem Reap. I wonder if his insurance covers this scenario?! The road doesn’t get any better. The further we get out of town the muddier it gets. We're ploughing deep grooves in the road towards Siem Reap. Either side are paddy fields which stretch as far as the eye can see. There are skinny boys riding water buffalo, which are submerged up to the belly. There are women in their gingham headscarves working in the paddy fields. The houses are all on spindly stilts and seem to float above the water filled fields. We overtake motorbikes pulling trailers in which twentyodd, Cambodians sit, balancing on sacks of grain and shopping. It rains and thick mud splatters the car from vehicles which overtake us. This drive is going to take a while. We've been in the car for over an hour, so the repulsive stench from the boot has tamed our noses and I hardly notice it. We stop for a fag and wee break. As soon as we stop, and smell the fresh air we realize how revolting the smell in the car is. It’s hard to get back in. Another hour or so later we hit a traffic jam. We all get out again and refresh ourselves with clean air. The road is so muddy and the car tires a quite flat, the car is floundering in mud. Ill be surprised if we'll be able to drive out of this. We all wait for about an hour, not really knowing what’s going on. Finally there is some movement. Unfortunately the wife of our driver has run off somewhere (we think to see what was going on). He looks frantically for her, we have to move now. Cars, trucks and motorbikes start to overtake us. She’s no where to be seen. He skulks about, calls her name, and asks passing cars if they’ve seen her, but no sign. Begrudgingly he gets back in the car and tries to start up. The wheels spin and we all hold our breath. Then they hold, and our driver edges the car out of the mud hole. Slipping and sliding all over the road we inch along. But where his missing wife? Then she appears up ahead. Our driver is furious, seething in fact. He has a few harsh words and they both get back in. He gives her no space on their shared seat, so her face is pushed against the window. She looks really uncomfortable. We’re all silent, not really sure what to do? They speak no English, we no Cambodian. Two hours, two more wee stops and some beers later we arrive in Siem Reap. The poor wife has been squashed against the window all this time and looks miserable.
Onto a tuk tuk into town, we are glad of some fresh air. I hope our bags and the contents wont smell of rancid fruit? We find a cheap guest house called Popular, which it is. $6 per night, window onto a brick wall, but own bathroom. Dinner in town at the Khmer Kitchen, which was recommended to me by Paul and Nicky in Argentina, really tasty. Siem Reap is a pretty town, rough at the edges but with some really nice shops and good feel. Drinks with the boys then bed. It’s and early start to see some Wats in the morrow.
We arrange a tuk tuk driver to take us on a two day tour of Angkor Wat and surrounding temples. Bayon and Angkor Thom on day one. Just beautiful. Spellbinding. Bayon is covered in giant Cambodian faces. It’s so beautiful. Then Angkor Thom is like something out of the Jungle book, with vines wrapping and enveloping its crumbling walls, and trees growing in and on the temple (tomb raider was partly shot there too). We spend a really nice day driving round lots of other temples and through wonderful forests and lakes. The weather is threatening and we’re pooped. We head back to town before dinner. Back at the guest house we sit in the bar sipping beers while the rain pounds the corrugated roof. Sarah has a quick freak out about the cleanliness (or lack of cleanliness) in our bathroom. She gets into bed, lying on her back, wrapped in her cotton sleep sheet. “sorry est, ich ekel mich uber alles”… translated, everything is yukky and I don’t want to touch it. We’ve opted for a sunrise at Angkor Wat, fingers and toes crossed that the weather will be OK.
Out of bed, a quick check on the weather, it seems clear! Our tuk tuk driver is waiting and without breakfast we head towards Angkor Wat. We arrive with many others. But by doing the sunrise, you do miss the big bus loads of tourists which swarm the site later on in the day. It is still dark but you can make out the familiar silhouette in the dawn sky. We find ourselves a nice position on the path leading up to the Wat, sit ourselves down and wait. Dawn happens so quickly and before we know it the Angkor Wat comes alive in front of us. It’s bigger that I expected and grander and beautiful! We move and stand in front of the beautiful lily pond to the left of the site. Still trying to figure out my camera, so take about hundred shots at different settings. Then before the sun is completely up we head into the temple. We spend a good hour nearly completely on our own. Like Machu Picchu, I can feel energy here. It’s a mystical place. The carvings are incredible and the scale and spaces are breathtaking. I’m so lucky to be here with Sarah. We sit in silence just feeling the place. Sarah is about to pass out because of no food. So we start to make our way out. Of the few people we do see we bump into the Icelandic boys and we spot a woman, 40’s ginger hair which new age traveler style is all braided. Sarah points out she looks exactly like a Catherine Tate character. After a few hours (five since we got up), we head to a stall outside, for a bite. I order Thai noodles, thinking about the yummy Thai noodles you get in Thailand. I get instant ramen noodles with a sachet of Thai flavouring. Sarah laughs at me. Sadly as I’m about to discover Cambodian food is quite sketchy. When it’s good it’s very very good, when it’s bad it’s horrid. After brunch a long ride (30km) to Bantrai Srei in the afternoon. This is a small temple, with very fine intricate carvings. Which they say must have been done by women. At this point we’re both pretty pooped and templed out. We order our driver to take us home. We’ve loved Angkor Wat and all the other temples. Our tuk tuk driver has been great, so we tip him well and he’s very grateful. We decide on route home that we might be able to manage a massage, so he drops us at Seeing Hands massage school. You get massaged by the blind! In fact everyone who works in the school is blind. I lie on my front and drift away. Incredible, I’m semi aware of a thunder storm outside. An hour of pure bliss. Afterwards we get out our wallets and pay. $10 for the two of us. They are very trusting because no one can actually see what we’ve paid. We head back to the guest house freshen up then hit town for some shopping and some nibbles.
Catherine Tate woman – is it her?
Sarah’s boob being bitten by a pony.
I have a fungal toe – cant talk about it.
Cold showers + Booth sisters = pathetic. I have to properly psyche myself up for about 10 minutes, Sarah the same.
Sarah’s moist loo paper – yeah now we’re talking.
‘Rubbish bag’ – sorry too funny!
Our blow out in Siem Reap – get me out of this shop Sarah.
Buying three big wooden sculptures for the wall, which we now have to carry.
It’s quirky and bizarre, but so are we, Cambodia rocks!
Early bus to Phnom Penh...
Love my sis xxxx