Welcome to Cambodia
11.04.2008 - 11.04.2008 38 °C
Onwards to Siem Reap Cambodia. The bus isn’t the VIP trip we were promised its getting the job done and the AC is good. About 5 hours later as we approach the border we stop for lunch. A very unofficial guy jumps on the bus and says hes our guide and will get our visas sorted. Left with very little options we give him the $45 he requested for a $20 visa (do the math, something fishy?) we fill out the forms and give him our passports and he jumps in a ute and off he goes. We weren’t the only ones in this position, it was about 12 of us. Doesn’t make it any less nerve-racking! Much to everyones relief the guy is at the border with our visas and passport. We thought everything was sorted. Just a short walk then back on the bus to Seim reap. Not that easy!
Introducing Scam 1: There is no money machines in Siem Reap, get out all the money you will need (have to get it changed at the border). Luckily we were informed by a travel-savvy bus-mate he was lying so didn’t get any.
Then we hike in 35-40 degrees (yes with 20 kg on our backs) to a holding shed that would defenately be 40 degrees! We are in line here for a very painful hour. It could have been worse however, a girl ahead didn’t get a departure stamp and has to walk back to Thailand to get one then start the process over. Eventually we get our stamps (didn’t even have to pay extra, apparently the officers like a little extra) and on to the next leg of the journey. Remember the VIP bus from Bangkok? It was luxury compared to this bus! The next 6 hours are going to hurt! Apparently with a/c but according to our travel clock, its still a balmy 38 deg.
Scam 1 continues: We are taken to a currency exchange as told that you cant use Bhart in Cambodia and if you use american it will cost more (both turned out to be lies). Decided to change a small amount of our Bhart. Long story short, we got scammed and got a random (lower) amount of Reil. We were very pleased we didn’t get much changed! Welcome to Cambodia, we are going to have to get travel smart quick
The one thing worse than the bus was the road! We had heard some stories that the road was rough but apparently it had improved recently. You often hear stories about land mines in Cambodia. I would say most of them were on this road judging by the craters in this dirt road. We stop for dinner at a little road side dinner in the middle of nowhere. These guys have it sweet, 4 more buses pull up while we are there. Food was the worst we have had yet – our first taste of Cambodia wasn’t a good one. Our journey continues for another couple of hours to Seim Reap. Enter Scam 2!
Scam 2: Our bus pulls up at a fairly rough looking guesthouse. The host of the guesthouse gets on the bus and announces they only have enough rooms for half our bus. He asks us to come and look and if we don’t want one the bus will drop us at the bus station, to quote, “it is your freedom to choose, no bother to us”. He also tells us everywhere else is full and we haven’t got a hope of finding accommodation. We have read about this scam in “Lonely Planet” and aren’t convinced. A few people take the rooms but the rest of us say we want to go to the station (about 12 people). Well, “our freedom to choose” goes right out the window. We are now ordered off the bus and told the bus is going nowhere. When faced with such an obvious scam the travellors united, an us vs them mentality set in. We are determined not to stay here so get a cab to town. The scammers soon changed their tune when they realized we weren’t buying it and got us the cab. It was a good call to leave as had heaps of places to choose from, we find a nice place cheap and right in the action! We have probably the best beer of our lives, what a day!