Saturday, June 15, 2013

Holiday in Cambodia (Part One)

I write my blog today from Poipet, Cambodia!  

It's sort of a disjointed, stream of conciousness, journal-like entry as it was entirely written on my laptop as I traveled great distances.  Now that I'm back at my hotel, I can post... Enjoy.

Oh, Merikay said that the map I posted last time I left Bangkok helped her follow along with the action, so we'll do that again: 

The Khmer (the language of Cambodia) is being bantered  back and forth quickly. The queen of this bus company sits imperiously behind her desk, negotiating, issuing fares, directing seemingly everyone and everything.   I wait for my transportation to Siem Reap, gateway to Angkor Wat.  A Cambodian man is trying to read this over my shoulder.  I think the queen ripped me off pretty good.  She got me for $9 for my share of 4 or 5 people in a cab for the trip.  It’s a two hour drive. 
Queen of the Bus Company, pulled from the video to follow soon.

What am I doing in Cambodia? I had to leave Thailand.  It’s a visa/immigration thing too complicated to explain, suffice to say I had to step across a border and then re-enter Thailand.  As I didn’t need anyplace that had an embassy or anything like that, I took a 4-hour van yesterday afternoon from Bangkok to Poipet, Cambodia, a seedy, dirty, rambunctious border town that has a real gritty feel to it, and I don’t just mean the dust and dirt than ends up in your eyes and nose.

Now, it’s an 8 year old beggar boy looking over my shoulder at this wondrous, glowing computer device. 

I arranged the first part of my trip pretty well.  See, there are many, many travel companies in Bangkok that organize and coordinate these “visa runs” that expats need to perform on occasion.  After my vast experience in my two months in Thailand, I decided I wouldn’t be using their services.  Mostly what they do is get you to the border, help with the paperwork, feed you lunch and then drive you back.

But this is a weekend!  If I’m going to go to Cambodia, I thought, I want to make a little holiday out of it.  Go see Angkor Way.  I’ve always wanted to see Angkor Wat. 
Now, I’m on the bus to Siem Reap.  Yes, the bus.  I didn’t overpay for a shared taxi.  No, I severely overpaid for a bus ticket.  I have decided I shouldn’t think about it too much.  Can’t let it ruin my good mood as I ramble along the road here in this beautiful, rural Cambodia countryside.  Besides, it is a rather nice bus.  The AC is powerful, the ride is smooth and there’s a never-ending run of 

Khmer pop music videos to distract me up front.  Of course, I can’t understand what they’re singing, but the 70% of them have exactly the same ‘story line’.  Pretty, young Khmer girl dates and falls for bad-noy Khmer boy. He gives her teddy bear, necklace, phone, what have you.  He then starts dating different pretty, young Khmer girl.  First girl sees bad boy together with second girl.  Shock, dismay and crying ensues. First girl gives teddy bear back, breaks phone, etc.  Band boy realizes his mistake and goes back after first girl.  She spurns him.  What are the other 30% of the videos?  Exactly the same, just have bad boy signing the song song or have the girl being the one two-timing the boy.  
This is the first time I have ever been in a formerly communist country.  There are a few signs of that legacy here and there.  I’ve passed a couple places that were called ‘such-and-such Commune’.

Made it to Siem Reap, which in Khmer means ‘Siam Defeated’, or ‘Thailand Beaten’.  Interesting name for a town.  

 Getting off the bus, I had a tout immediately attach himself to me, offering me a motorcycle ride into town. I said ‘no’, and retreated to the periphery of the station to collect myself and get my bearings.  Very little of the information I have found online about traveling in Cambodia has been very accurate, but I knew that the temple complex (it’s actually a bunch of temples) was a ways from town.  Motorcycle taxi guy did not give up; he approached me again and when I asked how much for a ride to Angkor Wat, he replied with “How much do you want to pay?”

Well, I’m here now.  At Angkor Wat.  Finishing lunch.  Time to stop typing and start touristing!  

Heading back to Poipet now.  In some ways, it may have been kind of silly to have ridden in a bus for 3 hours to visit a temple which took 90 minutes, and then head back to Poipet to do… what?  

 There were half a dozen other sites of ancient interest within a short Tut-Tuk ride of Angkor Wat.  I might have explored them and then headed back to Poipet.  See, one thing I only learned when my motorcycle taxi driver friend told me is that there ARE NO buses back to Poipet in the afternoon!  I had just assumed there would be.  My only way back to poipet was by private taxi… which could cost upwards of $50 and I had no idea how to hire one. 

After seeing Angkor Wat, I thought to myself that no other temple could offer more than what I had just seen.  This was the Holy Grail of interesting, ancient temples!  Built in the 12th Century, appropriately dilapidated, immense; what more could a guy ask for? 

Looking back, I should have stayed the first night in Poipet and booked a room in SIem Reap for the second night, but as I stood there at the edge of the temple grounds, talking to the tuk-tuk drivers, I figured I should not risk it getting late, not having a ride and being stuck in Siam Riep. 

Besides, now I can get back, shower, rest and explore Poipet some more before it starts raining again (which I think it will).


  1. What an adventure. And when you have to go again you'll have a much better idea of how to do it. I like your maps because I know nothing about that part of the world.

  2. I like the way you are experencing the places. In a way it is better to be alone because you have more flexibility. You have us riding with you.

  3. And I'm enjoying the ride too. Thank you for sharing your "mini vacation" with us.

  4. I took many visa trips to Hong Kong from Taiwan...yours looks like a much better value for money.


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