I had originally planned to stop in Bangkok for a day or two but then was dropped at the bus station from which buses to the Cambodian border depart. The bus to the border turned to be leaving in 30 minutes, so I just thought that I might as well hop in it and go. And so I did. The ride, which was five hours, cost me 227 Bat, which is nothing. If I was going with a travel agency, I'd probably have to pay around USD30 to Siem Reap. And I went for about six bucks, which is really nice. So I advise anyone who is planning to travel around Thailand/Cambodia to use local transport, especially in Thailand. It's really well developed, cheap and not so difficult to figure schedules out.
Got on the bus, got my sandwiches from a bus company, unfolded my seat and very comfotably started the journey to the border.
On the bus I met a Japanese girl who was going to Siem Reap as well. We didn't talk much, just exchanged few words about the arrival time. Satani is leaving in Cambodia with her husband, as I learnt later, who co-ordinates TV projects for Japanese broadcasters and currenty he si doing something for Japanese TV in Laos. Before she told me all this, however, we got to the border town, Ayatuya... or something like this and together took a tuk-tuk to the check point, which Satani offered. Cool! Off we wnet to the border.
And now strange things started happening...
|Poipet, the border crossing, Cambodian side|
We went through Thai passport control. I'm already on the other side and I know that I need a visa so I'm looking for a place to apply for one. I've foung an office, rcking into it.The officer gives me a form to fill, I'm asking a few questions about my visa and regualtions... No, I can't get six-month business visa on arrival, just one month one. To extend it I'll have to go Phnom Phenn. Ok, cool, I'm fine with that... I'm applying for a business visa, right? To get one, the requirement is that I need a latter from an institution confirming that I'm actually entering the country on business porposes. I don't have such a letter and I'm actually surprised that the oficers need one from me... Finding out that I don't have any documents with me, the officer told me that getting me through will cost me additional USD. So, for all proceedings I'm supposed to pay USD30. And I'm fine with it. So, I'm filling the form, the passport is already taken from me. I just need to fill my arrival card and I can go. But before I'm handing theofficer a twenty-dollar note thinking that I've given him fifty bucks. When he realizes he comes to meand says that I've given him to little and he want ten bucks more. Oh, I'm sorry and I'm giving him fifty dollars. So, it's done. I've got my passport back but not a sign of my change. I'm approaching the officer asking for my twenty dollars back. I can tell that he is a bit confused, surprised with my requests. |He quielty confesses that: "I don't have small money". I'm replying that I don't care, I already have my passport in my hand, that I don't care and I want my change.
Right... Can you believe? There is no USD20 note in the whole place, at the border crossing where all the transactions are held in dollars. No money. I repeated again that I want my change back and to my surprise the officer is giving me my fifty dollars BACK saying :"It's ok, ok.... Just go". What? Now I was surprised but decided to do as I was told before che changes his mind. Went out from the office, holding my pasport in massive disbelief... started walking faster and faster, almost running to the passprta and visa control counter. And I'm thinking: "Ok, I'll probably be asked to cash there..." and was ready to pay. But NO!!!! NO, NO, NO. Nobody asked for anything and so I was let in Cambodia saving USD 30. Not bad hey? :-)
But this is not the end.
For all this time, and the whole event with visa took around 10 minutes, Satani, my Japanese friend, is somewhere around. Now, we are at the Cambodian side already and now she is telling me that if I want to I can go to Siem Reap with her. She was waiting for a driver to arrive and pick her up. Really? Is it really happening? Not only had I entered the country for free but alsno now I'm being offered a ride which the offer will save me soooo much time. I s it really happening? It was indeed. The driver arrived and we were taken to Siem Reap in a very comfortable A?C Mercedes-Benz van. The whole car just for us. Not bad, hey? :-)
In Siem Reap we exchanged our phone numbers as I'm planning to invite Satani for a coffee or something nice to eat and this way thenak her for making my life so much easier.
And yey!!!! I'm in Siem Reap. Was dropped in the Pub Street area to have a quick look at. Went to Funky Monkey for a beer, left my heavy backpack there and went to Aqua - the swimming pool where I expected to see John. Wasn't disappointed.
What a surprise, hey? I said that I'll be back :-)
Then John called Annie and after a welcome beers and a joint, I went to check in Annie's. She took me out then for a few more beers and local traditional AMOK (I'll write more about food later). I was introduced to some new arrivals in Siem Reap, people who arrived after I had left. Anyway, it'll take me some time to catch up but the begining was/is great.
It was and still is a bit surreal that I'm here. I couldn't be happier. The house is as beautiful as I remember it... my room has an AC unit, a fan if I didn't like A/C, a big comfortable bed... what else could I ask for? Perfect environment to start going with my work. But not today. Today is a day to roam the town and check the place out for new pubs, restaurants, hotels, evants so that I can write about it all here.
Cambodia... here I am :-)