It was 6am and I was huddled in a group of backpackers on the Kho San Road, we had all been told to meet outside the alley / bar / hotel / travel agent / home to two young children, that we had booked our bus tickets at. A mini bus pulls up already half full with people and backpacks, using my basic math skills I can see that there are four more seats and six people waiting to board the bus. With my experience of what happens to people in Thailand if you’re not first I knew that I had to get on that bus and quick, I flung my backpack at the man grabbed my boyfriend’s hand dragged him to the front then jumped on the bus. My actions may have seemed rude and drastic but as we pulled away I heard the guide saying to the strays that they could get on the next bus tomorrow….screw that I was going to Cambodia today!
I spent most of my day asleep and wishing that travel could be more comfortable until I arrive at the Poipet border crossing. Our travel agent stops at a Café for hours he tells us that he needs to take our passport to sort out the visas with an added cost for the photos, he charged everyone $50 I knew this was wrong but everyone else just started handing over the money, I didn’t want to be the odd one out so I did too. He then showed us booklets of hotels that were ‘safe’ to book all at around $25 per night…this was way out of my budget so I declined. He then took all of us to a cash point claiming that in Cambodia they don’t have cashpoints or banks and that we should withdraw the money that we need and change it to Reil at the boarder…which of course we all did without question. It is amazing how you may be someone who is hard to scam when on your own, however when put into a group you all follow the heard even falling for such outrageous statements such as this country doesn’t have banks!
Once they had sucked us dry of everything they could whilst on the Thai side of the boarder we walked by foot into Cambodia. The other side was just a town full of casinos like a mini SE Asia Vegas but full of poverty. We had paid for a bus to Siem Reap however after exchanging all of my Bhat to Reil and losing a lot of it in the process I was now being told that I had to buy a taxi for some apparent reason. I was beginning to lose interest and was more interested in just getting to my destination so I just said whatever and found myself in a taxi with a bunch of Japanese people.
We arrived at a plush hotel on the very outskirts of the town, the Japanese got out and I was told to as well, they tried to pressure me into staying but I was adamant that I was not.
“I ordered a taxi to Siem Reap; I’m going to Siem Reap”
“We take you to different Hotel, closer to city, much cheaper?”
“No…take me to the high street”
A tuk tuk driver arrives
“No if this tuk tuk driver take you to high street and not my hotel then we will fire him”
WTF…this is some serious pressure
“But I don’t want to go to your hotel; I will get a different car”
“No, no you won’t!”
“Take me to the high street!”
“Do you want this man to lose his job?”
“Good then he take you to hotel”
Feeling completely bemused I reluctantly climbed in.
“Thank you enjoy your stay in Cambodia”
Yer right, if my journey so far is anything to go by then I’m going to hate it.
The Tuk Tuk takes of driving dangerously down beaten dirt pathways, then my driver pulls out a beer and starts drinking! I ask him what he is doing and he just says “oh, I’m sorry do you want some?” This was hilarious and lightened my mood slightly; the culture is so different how he could possibly think that this is what I meant.
I pulled up in some horrendous alley at my Hotel; it was a giant old European building resembling house on haunted hill. I was shown my room that was old and dusty but to be fair the man hadn’t lied when he said it would be a cheap hotel, it was $5 per night so I took it…also I just wanted the headache that had been today to finally be over.