A couple of years ago I was on holiday in Thailand when I decided to visit Cambodia.
Angkor Wat had been on my to-see list for a while. Then a girl I met in Chiang Mai gave me this heart wrenching book so, in a sea of tears, I thought I would pop by Siem Reap.
It didn’t seem too far and flights looked expensive (100 USD, that at at the end I spent twice on the way back because I booked the wrong flight. I’ll talk about this on later occasion…)
Plus, I really had the feeling I wanted to spend 10 hours on a Thai train. I decided to go by land.
The trip starts in a horrid hostel close to Bangkok train station, Hua Lamphong. I choose to stay there in order to make it for the only daily train to Aranyaprathet, that would leave at 5.55am to arrive at 12.30pm.
The ticket is only 58 thb (around 7 euro) and the train is on time. During the journey I make 2 friends: an Italian 40 years old guy who can’t believe I am making the trip alone and a little Thai girl. The 8 hours journey fly.When we get to Aranyaprathet I realize the sunburn I got in Krabi the previous day will give me a hard time to carry my backpack, so I ease down a towel on my shoulders and carry the backpack on it until Cambodia.
From there to the border I would need 40 minutes walking, but the Italian guy of the train offers to give me a ride in his Thai friend’s car. After a few seconds of hesitation I am all merry in the car of these strangers, who, due a traffic jam in the direction of the place where they had planned to vivisect me and sell all my organs, actually enter the way to Poipet and surprinsingly leave me at my destination.
A bit stunned by the local market, I look for an ATM to withdraw money as I had to pay for my visa in dollars and I only had euros and thai bath. When I get to the ATM I realize it would only give me kilos of Cambodian money, which is as useful as toilet paper, just a bit prettier.
Therefore I go to a bank and exchange my grimy Thai bath with showy American dollars.
(One day someone will tell me why American dollars need to be a must in every trip on the other side of the world where Americans are not involved.)
With my rich loot I am headed to the border. It’s quite easy to find as every now and then you bump into tourists.
On the way there are a few scamming traps due to people that give you wrong info about the visa process in order to bring you to their shop and charge you 10 usd more for your visa.
I knew that, plus I come from Naples (this non written rule also applies in Cambodia) so I manage to avoid them and carry on to the border.
There are many tourists, you have to fill in a few forms, you have to queue to pay, to queue to hand the forms, to queue just for queuing. I cough up my 20 usd and I am finally admitted to the glorious Kingdom of Cambodia.
I have a few metres left until I enter the country and I feel the shiver of crossing the border walking.
I imagine how upright it would be if everybody could just do the same. A queue, two forms and I am in another country. Unfortunately, only me and few other dimwits, that won the white privilege at the lottery, can do it.
Anyway, once I am in Cambodia, formally Poipet, I realize the way to Siem Reap is still long!
Many Cambodian people ask me to finance their education, I can’t really do it, so I make myself a way among them and manage to sneak into a bus headed to Siem Reap. Too bad it won’t depart for the next hour.
Finally we go and I enjoy the following 2 hours and a half ride from my window seat.
When we get close to Siem Reap, the bus leaves me there and I don’t know how to get to my hostel. Finally I jump in a tuk-tuk together with 2 Italians chavs that were randomly there. Obviously there is no space for the 3 of us, so I make my half an hour journey almost hanging from the tuk-tuk and holding my backpack at the same time.The streets are not real streets, people are barefoot, the tuktuk driver keeps not bringing me to my hostel but bringing me to his friends’ hostel instead (saying it’s my hostel). I finally get to my destination.
I enter my room and I smell a disgusting fish stink coming from my backpack. People are watching me and my backpack and I don’t get what’s happening. I leave my backpack isolated until the day after, when thanks to the sunlight I apprehend the big stone I had taken from Thailand sea the previous days in order to keep it as a souvenir was actually a LIVE FISH I had joyfully carried from Thailand to Cambodia.
I was stinking out the whole area.
I regrettably get rid of my stone-fish and I go discovering Angkor Wat.