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    Tropical Storm Tour: Cambodia Part 1

    Friday, July 3, 2015
    Siem Reap, Cambodia

    On the bus from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
    On the bus from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    It was a miracle I woke up on my own at 5:00 am today, because the alarm on my iPod touch got drowned out by the fan right above my head. (Maybe I unwittingly had the volume turned down? I could have sworn I turned it up before I went to sleep.) By 6:30 am, I made it out onto Thanon Ratchadamnoen Klang to wait for bus number 15. Luckily, it showed up in a few minutes so I didn’t have to waste a bunch of money taking a cab to Siam. Down there, I boarded the SkyTrain up to Saphan Khwai, where I tried to hail a taxi cab to the northern bus terminal in Mo Chit. After hailing two cabs, neither of which contained drivers who spoke English, the third one was the charm, and understood when I said, “bus station” to him.

    Upon arrival at around 7:40 am, I went to look for my gate so I’d know where to head after I ate something decent for breakfast at a food stall nearby. Right when I walked up, a man in a uniform asked to look at my ticket and told me my bus was at 8:00 am instead of 9:00 am. I think the 8:00 am bus must have had an open seat and since I arrived an hour early, he wanted to stick me on there and hopefully sell my seat on the 9:00 am bus to someone else. What it all meant to me was I had no time to eat. Instead, I had to go buy a couple of packaged snacks at 7-Eleven–a really tiny, thick pizza and some potato chips–and scurry onto the bus. At least I’d arrive in Siam Reap an hour earlier in the evening.

    Welcome to Cambodia.
    Welcome to Cambodia.

    Right when we boarded, the attendant gave each passenger a small paper bag containing a couple of slices of baguette bread, a cookie and a tiny cup of orange juice. I think it was supposed to be breakfast. I was surprised that most of the people onboard were white. Usually, buses that depart from Mo Chit contain mostly Asian passengers. A couple of hours later, I ate my 7-Eleven snacks, then right after, unfortunately, the attendant gave us another snack for lunch, which consisted of a container of rice with a small bit of meat. At one point later, we also stopped at a buffet joint for food, where I ordered an egg on rice. So, yeah, I got my fair share of rice today. Too bad it was white rice instead of brown, as brown is better for your health. (I’ve read that white rice acts like sugar once it gets inside your body, but brown is better as it still contains the husk.)

    Somewhere around 1:30 pm, we finally reached the border area between Thailand and Cambodia, where the bus stopped and the driver informed us that he could get our Cambodian visas inserted into our passports for a fee. Some passengers took him up on the offer, while others opted to save money and do it themselves. Of course, I was one of the latter. After about a half hour, we finally proceeded on to the actual border, where we had to be processed through three buildings–one to get an exit stamp on our Thailand visas, another to get our Cambodian visas inserted into our passports and a third to have our photos taken and our Cambodian entry visas and arrival cards stamped.

    It seemed ridiculous that the two Cambodian buildings couldn’t be combined into one. At first, I accidentally passed up the visa building and went straight to the photo / stamp building. So, I had to run back a couple of blocks to the visa building and frantically fill out the applications, hoping the bus wouldn’t end up leaving me. Then the lines at the photo / stamp building were super long and incredibly slow. As always, I inadvertently chose the slowest line with the agent who processed one person in the same amount of time each of the other agents processed four or five. (The same thing happened when I arrived in Bangkok.) Someone who was right behind me switched lines and ended up five people ahead of me. That was so annoying.

    Waiting to get my visa stamped at the border between Aranyaprathet, Thailand and Poipet, Cambodia.
    Waiting to get my visa stamped at the border between Aranyaprathet, Thailand and Poipet, Cambodia.

    As I and a couple of other stragglers boarded the bus, we finally took off on the last two-hour leg of the trip through a bunch of flatland farms plowed by tractors, fields full of green grass and a few small towns. At 6:00 pm, we finally rolled into Siem Reap, a full 10 hours after we left Bangkok. The crazy amount of foreigners everywhere and dizzying array of traffic reminded me a lot of Chiang Mai. I read that the amount of tourists in Siem Reap has been increasing by double digits lately. After such a long, grueling journey, I was happy to get off the bus and stretch my legs. So, I strapped on my backpack and trundled off to find a room at the Jasmine Guesthouse up on National Highway 6.

    The place looked pretty swanky and clean for a guesthouse–it was really more like a hotel. Luckily, they had an air con room available on the fifth floor, where I promptly settled in for the night. Unfortunately, they also had a swimming pool right down front by the cafe / lounge area, which tends to invite loud people to hang out for long periods of time. After getting some grub at a food stall next door and in the guesthouse cafe later, I retired to my room, where I could easily hear people shouting and slamming doors on every floor until at least midnight, when I finally fell asleep.

    Words and photos ©2015 Arcane Candy.

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