Alive in Cambodia

“Alive” has been the theme of my headlines when writing home to parents.

But really, That’s what came to mind when writing the headline for this particular entry. The last 2 nights after I wrote my last entry, it did rain in so we had to stay another night in Ton Sai, Krabi beach. Beautiful beach it is but very very mellow. We didn’t end up getting our bags until the day after, on the way to the airport. We stopped by Aung Na beach which was filled with shopping and travelers, very fun there. We caught our 8 pm flight to Bangkok and took a taxi to Khao San Road (can’t wait to go there my last night and go shopping!!!). Which we stayed at a random guesthouse called Mom’s Guesthouse for 10$ a night. Our thoughts were to find the cheapest, centralized hostel to stay at, but it ended up being in the midst of party central. Loud music blasted through the thin walls which was shared between clubs, tempting me a bit to go out. But I was so exhausted from the day traveling, I wandered downstairs to order some food, had a beer and went to sleep.

At our hotel in Bangkok, they sold Bus tickets from Bangkok to Siem Reap (destination in Cambodia where the Angkor wat is), or Bangkok to the border of Cambodia. All of Lonely planet and the internet warns you NOT to ever take that, that it is the ultimate scam, either because it will take 12-18 hours to travel, or they’ll pack it on, or busses will “break down”.. blah blah blah. So we decided to do the recommended way from past travelers:

We took a rickshaw to the North Bus Station where the busses leave to Cambodia. The bus ticket was only 200 baht = 9 bucks, and it took us to the border in 4 hours. At the bus station we had 15 min before it left, so I ran to the food court to get food. Got some noodles on top of rice, very bland and gross but I scarfed it down in fear i may not eat for hours (nightmare!!)

The bus was filled mainly with backpackers so we were assured we’d find people to share taxi’s with and go through the scary border (the Thai/Cambodia border is INFAMOUS). We were warned all over the internet (i did a lot of research) that once the bus arrived near the border, you have to take a tuk tuk to the actual border 10 min away, but that they’d stop by offices before to ask you to buy visas (scams or rip offs). We met 3 guys from the bus we decided to take this journey with.

2 americans and a french. Indeed the tuk tuk stopped by some office in a secluded area with men haggling us to get off the tuk tuk, fill out departure forms, buy visas from them, blah blah. Us 6 were all very alert, so we said NO take us to the border. They tried to argue with us telling us the border officials may be gangsters and corrupt, overcharge us, blah blah. I demanded “take us to the fuckin border”. Then the tuk tuk took us next office over (these 2 offices were next to each other in a big area with no other offices) that had the sign “Consulate of Cambodia”. We knew better, we demanded the BORDER.

The drivers finally took us to the border. What a hectic border! So first, we had to go through the thailand officials to leave our departure card which was a 10 min line. Then we walked a bit and a cambodian guy in a pink shirt, some badge on started enthusiastically touring us around, aiding us in the process of getting in. We told him up front we werent gonna pay him anything. He insisted continually that he worked for the government and he wanted no pay, he was just there to welcome us. I’ll admit, he had quiet high energy that was somewhat reassuring.

Then as we walked towards buying our visas, they asked us to go through a ‘Quarantine’booth. We had to fill out some form that asked if we had been sick the last few days, blah blah, put a light to our eye, and there, we were ‘quarantined’with a paper. Finally got to the visa office which was the most concerned issue for all of us.

The internet and tour books have warned that everything about Cambodia was a scam. In front of the office said 20$ USD for Tourist Visa. VERY CLEAR in a sign. We were warned to pay only that. Chad had gotten his Cambodian visa already in the states, but none of us had. We approached the office. The official behind the counter asked for 1000 baht, that’s 33$. I was with one of the Americans, who between the 2 of us had been the most aggressive and outspoken in fighting these retarded wanna be hustlers. We said no idiot, it says 20$. You could tell this guy had no where to go, and all the time in the world to fuck with us. “It clearly says 20$ on the sign”. He said something of nonsense like “Thats what you pay if you’re from thailand.” He kept bringing us in circles about how he wont take us dollars, only baht. His math was completely off, trying to tell us that 1000 baht was less than 20$, blah blah. The american guy i was with, Justin, said “Is your mind working ok? Do you need a coffee?”The official had fun fucking with us, he was laughing the whole time, but it was our time that was money, not his. So we agreed on 800 baht = 25$ which isn’t so bad.

We then went through arrival booth for Cambodia, and from there, were haggled for taxi’s, busses, tour guides. Now im not sure which border is more disgusting, Tijuana border or Cambodian. Those 2 are on a comparable level. A few begger children w flies all over them asking for money. You could already see the difference between Thailand and Cambodia. Almost all of Thailand i’ve seeen have had good infrastructure and much more sophisticated people.

Now the next issue is, get a taxi from here to siem reap, 3-4 hours, or take the ‘free shuttle’ to the ‘bus station’for a bus or taxi? It seeemd better to take the free shuttle (5 min away) that the ‘government guide’who had followed us suggested. we took the bus there. When we got there, a lady had read in her lonely planet book, “do not fall for the scam shuttle bus”. Wow, what an adventure just trying to get in. Anyways, we were able to get a taxi for 35$ which was standard to siem reap for 3 people to a car.

We picked up another friend along the road, a lady from Slovenia that had been traveling for 9 months ish.. She joined us as the other 3 boys took the other car, we told the drivers to stick together.

Well here we are in the beautiful town of Siem Reap, the city center is where everyone stays, a few blocks of hotels, posh restaurants, pubs. We’re at Greenhouse guesthouse which is actually realllllly cool, awsome vibe filled w young travelers. 3$ a night for a triple room.

We got in around 6, had a few beers here downstairs at the hotel restaurant, then all 6 of us met up and took a walk to dinner.. Cambodian food and all of the other SE Asian food are all similar, curry dishes, rice, noodles, ginger, garlic, spicy..

Diet doesn’t seem like it’ll start for another 2 weeks (when im back). In the states, it usually starts monday and ends thursday. You’d think traveling in a foreign country u’d lose weight. Maybe some people due cuz of stomach issues or not enjoying the food. I always seem to gain weight. 1) Theres nothing to do once you’ve seen the place but to eat. 2) i’m having a beer or 2 at the end of every day to relieve all the adventure/adrenaline/stress from haggling. 3) it’s all carbs im eating here, and not a lot of meat.

The conversation over the dinner table was fun-filled. I sat across one of the Americans, Mark, who had been backpacking with Justin for the past 8 months-ish. They’re from Chicago and had been through Central america, south america, india for 3 months and now SE Asia.. They’re love for adventure parralled ours and the stories we shared were great. They had 50 cent beers – Angkor beer is the Cambodian national beer – so we had a couple and enjoyed each others companies. The slovenian girl had a tonsssss of stories too. We got back at a decent hour and passed out by 12.

It’s 8 am now , and were about to go see the Angkor wat. I think i’ll buy a 3 day pass and thoroughly check it out… And then im inquiring about schools to volunteer with, debating to stay in Cambodian for the rest of the trip or not..

IM ALIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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