CURRENT LOCATION: Siem Reap, Cambodia
We left you last having just arrived in Koh Chang. We stayed in Bang Bao, at the South of the island. It's a tiny, sleepy little fishing village, with a long wooden pier crammed full of seafood restaurants. It was a great place to relax and recharge our batteries for a few days.
Bert, our yurt, was awesome. In conjunction with Victor, our fan, he kept us comfortable for our three nights on the island. We had a few night time gecko visitors, but other than that we slept amazingly!
We spent the first day wandering around Bang Bao and the surrounding bays, and ended up at Rasta View for lunch. Let me tell you, the people of Koh Chang, and Thailand in general, have a real thing for reggae. I'm definitely sure it's the music they're in to. This place was amazing - filled with Bob Marley posters and blaring reggae, it was built on the side of a cliff, poking out to sea, and the view was incredible. We had some delicious fruit shakes and spring rolls and sat admiring the view for a while. Then we hit the water. Sadly the beach at our accommodation was super rocky, so it was a little perilous, but the water was perfect. At dinner that night, Zev discovered something that surpassed my love for coconut ice cream: coconut milkshakes. Coconut ice cream, coconut water, coconut cream or milk, and ice are put in the blender, and if you're lucky, it's served in a coconut. Stop wasting your life drinking anything else.
The next day was a beach day (cue more coconut shakes on the sand), and an early night in preparation for heading back to Bangkok the next morning.
And then the heavens opened. Halfway through breakfast the next morning, it began to rain torrentially. This made getting everything packed, and getting a shared taxi to the ferry a little more tricky. As a result, we didn't manage to get on the ferry from Koh Chang until 12.30pm. We we weren't too worried as we had accommodation booked in Bangkok, but we were hoping to be there by 7.30-8pmish. We managed to meet an American couple who caught the bus from Bangkok for the same price as our minivan, and they assured us it left from the ferry terminal, so we decided to tag along with them and have a more comfortable ride back to the city.
We're idiots. Better the devil you know. Sure enough, at the ferry terminal, were told we have to take a shared taxi to the bus station. Alright, that's fine. The bus station was a dairy at the side of the road, but the man was selling tickets so we bought them, and crossed our fingers. And then a bus turned up, YIPPEEEEE!!!!! We couldn't believe it, everything was going so well!!!
Until the bus broke down. We were stranded at the side of the road, while the bus driver tried to fix a 'spark plug' (based on my limited knowledge of bus engines, I'm pretty sure the problem was not the spark plug, but occupational overuse syndrome) with a piece of wire and a knife. Another bus stopped to help, and offered a lift to anyone who wanted to go to the other bus station in Bangkok. That worked out well for us since we were booked into a place that was really close to the other bus station, in preparation for ANOTHER long day the following day. On we hopped, and made our way to Bangkok. Really. REALLY. Slowly.
We arrived to Mochit bus station at about 9.30pm. We hadn't eaten since breakfast. I was seriously hangry. We jumped into a cab to get to our accommodation. We made it about 100m when the guy pulled over to check his GPS. He assured us he knew where he was going. He took off, jumped on the motorway and drove for 5 minutes, took a turn off, and pulled over again. He looked at the GPS. "OH!!!!" He again assured us he knew where he was going. I don't think he realised how much danger his life would be in if I wasn't eating something in a matter of minutes. We did a U turn, got back on the motorway and went back where we came from. We pulled off the motorway again. Right next to the bus station. I vaguely recall Zev trying to calm me down as the red mist began to descend. We found the right street, but it still took another 10 minutes of driving up and down, asking for directions before we found the right place.
After some dinner that night, we got into bed and laughed about how awful our crappy bus day was. If only we knew then what we know now....
At 6.00am the alarm went off. We were leaving Thailand to make our way to Siem Reap in Cambodia. We had our visas sorted and we were ready to go. We hit the road bright and early, and were at the train station by 7am. "Two tickets on the direct bus to Siem Reap at 8am please!" "Sold out. You'll have to catch the bus to Aranyaprathet, walk across the border, then catch another bus from Poipet to Siem Reap". Bugger. But not even that news could dampen our spirits. The direct bus only started running a couple of years ago, so it obviously wasn't difficult to do the old fashioned way.
We loaded on to the bus to Aranyaprathet, and got comfy. We stopped for a pit stop, and one of the conductors asked where we were going. When we told him Siem Reap, he told us we needed to switch buses. Sure thing! We jumped on the other bus as it took off towards the border. And then came my new least favourite words. "You pay me money now." Oh no, my friend, we've paid. We showed him our ticket. It turns out this was the direct bus to Siem Reap (but not the government run one we tried to book in the morning), although I highly suspect he was just trying to fleece us. After asking us for another 500 baht each, he was very cross when we told him we weren't paying, and that we would get off at the border. It was a little embarrassing when we had to do the walk of shame down the aisle at the border and get our luggage out from under the bus with everyone watching....
We grabbed a tuk tuk to the border, who of course dropped us off at some shifty 'visa agency'. Some days you feel like a walking dollar sign. Luckily we already had our visas sorted, so we knew better than to go in there. We hoofed it for the border.
Clearing Thai and Cambodian customs was a piece of cake. We breathed an enormous sigh of relief, gave each other high fives and relaxed a little. From here it was easy - a free shuttle to the bus station, then a bus to Siem Reap. We hadn't managed to get any US dollars (which is the most widely used currency in Cambodia) in Thailand, so we had a few hundred baht left, and planned on getting cash out at the bus station.
So we waited for the shuttle. And we waited. And we waited. About an hour later, it arrived. What felt like about 300 people sardined in, and we headed toward the bus station through the depressing, trash-filled border town of Poi Pet. Until we stopped. This was beginning to get ridiculous. They let some air out of tires. We headed off again.
We FINALLY reached the bus station. It was about 4pm by now, but we only had about 2.5 hours by us to go to Siem Reap. But disaster struck again. No ATM. Bus tickets were $9USD each, and we had 320 baht - about 8USD. UH OH. And the we had our first taste of amazing Cambodian generosity. A staff member, who I had previously written off as a total dick, paid for our tickets. Pretty incredible. We gave him all our baht, and a $5 NZD note. He seemed happy with that.
So we waited for the bus. And we waited. And we waited. At 6.30pm, the bus pulled up. Thank god. By this stage, Zev had lost his sense of humour, and he looked like I did the night before. I was getting bored, because I broke my kindle (I'm not ready to talk about it just yet), but it didn't bother me so much. 6.30pm, with a 2.5 hour bus ride - we'd still be in Siem Reap by 9pm. Again, we all piled in. The bus driver announced the schedule. 3 hours to Siem Reap, with a pit stop half way. Okay so we'd be there by 9.30, that's cool. Two hours into the trip, we stopped. The driver announced we'd be stopping for 40 minutes. 40 MINUTES?!?! Are you kidding me?? Now I'd lost my sense of humour. And let me tell you, 40 minutes was actually an hour. At 9pm, we got going again.
At 10pm, we got to the 'bus station'. Anybody could see, this was NOT the bus station. But clearly this was where this bus was stopping (you can tell this by looking out the window to see our driver throwing people's luggage from the compartments located under the cabin out on the ground), so off we got. By that stage I needed to get off to stop myself from beating the living shit out of the driver. We grabbed a tuk-tuk driver, and had him drive us via an ATM to our guest house. He was a very cute and sweet guy, who you'll likely be hearing more about, as he's driving us around for the next few days. His name is Mr Smey - which he was very proud to show us that he had printed in English on the side of his tuk-tuk.
We checked in and headed out for food, and we could tell straight away that we were going to love it here. Everyone is smiling, the people are so friendly, they're not aggressive or pushy, and there's so much going on, but it doesn't feel overwhelming or sinister. We've already booked another 3 nights here.
Today was our first full day here, but I'll fill you in on that in the next post. For now, it's bed time - tomorrow is day 1 of the Temples of Angkor!!
Lots of love,
S & Z
(Original post date: 21st February 2015)