Siem Reap, Cambodia
Getting to Siem Reap from Bangkok was not difficult, but was bone-jarring because the road from the Thai border to Siem Reap is, with small exceptions, awful. The “highway” is currently under construction. As such, it’s comprised mainly of dirt that takes on a pretty muddy and almost impassible consistency when combined with the ample rain that falls daily. The conditions of the road made stretched the 280 km journey to about 13 hours. My only frustration with the journey came from the frontier police, who are unapologetically corrupt. When you arrive at the border, you stand in a short queue to obtain a visa. On the front of the visa, the price (20 USD) is clearly marked. The staff demand 1100 Thai Baht, which is about $32. You can point out the price of $20 if you like, but the consequence is that you’ll be told of an incredibly lengthy queue with wait times of about six hours…which magically vanishes if you cough up the extra $12. A similar situation exists on the other side of the border when negotiating for a taxi. The police (aka Taxi Mafia) step in to take a cut, effectively doubling the price of the ride from Poi Pet to Siem Reap. While enduring all of this, you find yourself surrounded by glimmering casinos, situated right inside the Cambodian, where gambling is legal – unlike Thailand and Vietnam. Ugh.
Notwithstanding my distaste for the local constabulary, I met some nice people on the bus, including a pair of Japanese women on a mad adventure, and a Vietnamese woman named An, with whom I spent the next couple of days exploring the spectacular temples of Angkor Archeological Park.
At the fine Hilton Angkor Guest House, I met a couple of hilarious Brits who encouraged me to join them in beer drinking and (what else?) football watching: Arsenal won four nil. It was a fun time and for only $4 a night, it was hard to beat the price. After a couple of fun days in Siem Reap, I packed my things and headed for Phnom Penh, where I hoped to meet up with Patrick, one of my cousin Simon’s closest friends.