Crossing into Cambodia

I got into Bangkok on Monday at midnight, booked the first room I could find on the infamous backpacker ghetto/haven Khao San Rd., regretted my decision immediately (Khao San Rd. is exactly as depicted in Hollywood blockbusters starring the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and/or Claire Danes etc- I think they actually modeled the road after the movies), got up at 6 the next morning and paid a 75-year-old Thai woman $10 to take me to the border. I needed to get the hell out of Bangkok ASAP- I had been there with my fam back in ’03 and what I was currently witnessing was far from the Bangkok I remembered when I was innocently visiting temples and ancient sites instead of watching white-ass western males trying to lose their virginity to Thai whores (?). Anyway, the old woman ended up putting me on a bus (could it be one of the notorious scam buses that I’ve heard so many nightmare stories about between the Thai-Cambodian border?) that dropped me off just 7 km from the border where I hired a tuk-tuk to take me the rest of the way. The driver attempted to scam me as well, dropping me off at several fake Cambodian embassies (one even had a sign proclaiming “Kingdom of Cambodia Consulate” with men dressed in fake government garb), all of which I had to evade yelling “No! Border! BORDER!!!” at the driver. They really try to get you here in a million ways; “You can’t get a visa at the border”, “It takes hours to get it there because they send them here, it is much quicker here”, or “It is more expensive there, ask this other traveler” (pointing to a pale-faced, swollen-eyed, naive backpacker sort). I held my ground and eventually the tuk-tuk took me to the border.

phew.

The visa/border-crossing effort was long but relatively painless. And I was all the while escorted by a real government aide whose job was to protect tourists. Of course, it took me a while to trust him, “Mr. Bao”, but after a friendly chat throughout the lengthy border-crossing process, I not only began to learn the beginnings of Cambodian culture and history, but also about the life and aspirations of today’s Cambodians. Mr Bao was the first of many friendly Cambodians I have met who don’t treat foreigners as walking ATMS (as many do, only because they want to live), but as a chance to engage in convivial banter and practice their English.

 

Mr. Bao wants to learn English so he can move to the USA, where everyone is friendly and he can become rich quickly, and everything is perfect (I didn't mention the current recession). Mr. Bao also wishes he was pale-skinned and tall, like handsome Americans.

Mr. Bao wants to learn English so he can move to the USA, where everyone is friendly and he can become rich quickly (I didn't mention the current recession). Mr. Bao also wishes he was pale-skinned and tall, like handsome Americans.

Mr. Bao put me in a government-issued cab to drive me the remaining 3 hours to Siem Reap. Taking a cab was significantly more expensive than the other options, but I was exhausted (it’s been about 3 1/2 weeks since I’ve gotten more than 3-4 hours of sleep) and not in the mood for any more shenanigans. 

And so I am here, now, in Siem Reap! Still running on the same adrenaline that took me through the multiple treks in NZ last month, I jumped on the back of a motorcycle the first day and rode 70 km through small village towns to Beng Melea, a site of ancient temple ruins strewn with jungle branches woven into the ex-architectural masterpiece.

p5062492p5062497p5062501And to continue my insomnia-spree, some roosters in the back yard awoke me this morning at the ungodly hour of 4:30 am. Knowing full well I would never fall back asleep, I jumped on the first motorcycle I saw and told the driver “Angkor Wat! Go! Go! Go!” (I was anxious to make it there by 5:30 for sunrise).

 

Angkor Wat at sunrise

Angkor Wat at sunrise

and now for some more ruins…

 

Ta Prohm- the king built this for his Mom. I'll think about something like this for you, too, Mom. Happy Mother's Day!

Ta Prohm- the king built this for his Mom. I'll think about something like this for you, too, Mom. Happy Mother's Day!

 

tomb-raider style

just in case you forgot what I look like

Seeing that it is now 5 pm here, it feels like my bedtime and I think I’ll hit the hay. I’m headed to Pnohm Penh tomorrow and if you don’t hear from me then, I’ll write you Live from Vietnam!

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~ by ceciliabien on May 7, 2009.

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