07.11.2009 - 10.11.2009 90 °F
Miles traveled Total for day...230
Our transport north from Koh Chang along the Cambodia/Thai border turned out to be a minivan with only Sara and I occupying it, which departed from our hotel at 7:30 am. The driver, who seemed half asleep, drove as fast as he could at all times, with tires screeching on most turns. Everything went smoothly, in its manner, until we reached the border at Poipet.Our minivan dropped us at the tour company for visa completion and lunch. The lunch was reasonable, but we were charged double the true visa fee…strike one. We then departed on foot to the border with two orange stickers exchanged for our tickets as proof for the next leg…suspicious but what do I know?
After navigating through several queues at the border, we were whisked in a free air con shuttle to the international bus terminal…(cue ominous music). We were then told the bus would leave in one hour, two hours, or maybe four hours for the next stage, but we could get a taxi instead for $50 if we wanted. Very helpful ha! We decided we could wait patiently along with four others. They turned on the ac in the bus and then the driver got off and locked the door. This is bad, folks. We share travel stories along with the “additional fare shakedown” (see Managua, Nicaragua) with a friendly Norwegian, Oevind while we wait.
After about, forty minutes, and numerous vain attempts to open said door and hail assistance, one of the other passengers decides to leap out the window to freedom. He is successful but we choose to exercise Buddhist calm and remain inside without food, water, or toilets. Twenty minutes later, the door is opened, but no new passengers arrive and departure does not appear imminent. An additional two hours later, three new passengers get on the bus, and the bus backs out and begins to move.
It stops at the bus terminal gate. Then it backs up. Then it exits the gate, hurrah hurrah! Then it backs up inside the gate, from the street, and parks. WAH WAH WAh! Finally after another twenty minutes six more passengers enter the web of deceit with some haggling over prices and asking questions of the bus crew. The bus backs up again. We head for the gate. Another man in an unmarked polo shirt gets on the bus and begins asking for fare from a few passengers, and we stop again.
One unlucky soul, who has previously paid at said bus door, is set up for an “additional fare shakedown”. The poor man stands firm despite threats of “police” and “only take the bus if you are happy to” by the unmarked man who says, “This is my bus. I either need to see a ticket, a sticker (aha!) or you pay me!!” I stand up for the brave passenger, who is now being threatened with “give me your passport” and who is being snapped by digital camera of the driver. “ I saw the poor dweeb pay Mr. X,” I say loudly. I whip out my camera to take photos of the “boss” and driver while demanding their names as well. A near melee promptly ensues.
Finally, the tourist agrees to pay, but now “the man” will only let him stay if he signs a letter saying he is “happy to ride the man’s bus.” Finally, this straw breaks his resolve and he refuses to pay again. He goes looking almost relived to the polic station with the corrupt bus officials refusing to sign such lies. STRIKE TWO! Now, I have a very bad feeling and I am mad. The bus leaves and everything is very quiet.
We are informed that we should arrive at Siem Reap in about 4 ½ hours. It is now 4pm. A motorcycle soon passes us, and I think “ The bus is driving suspiciously slow.” Soon, a horde of taxis pass us…then a tractor. Finally, an old man bicyclying and a boy running pass our bus. Very, Very, suspicious. After two hours of this we stop, for a break and dinner where the staff seem very familiar with our bus driver. Sara and I refuse to eat for fear of controversy or other mischief. STRIKE THREE, all trust is now destroyed.
We choose a coke and bananas from a nearby vendor for 75 cents. We take photos of the bus license, and note the company Heng Tep Tours. We remount for the final two and a half hours. A beautiful Cambodian sunset glinting of the water of the rice paddies signals night’s arrival. Still no city is in sight. Finally nearing 8:30 PM we begin to see palatial five star hotels all of which contain within their name “Angkor.” In the midst of all of this we stop, and are instructed to leave our bags on the bus because they will be handed down to us when we are safely tucked in a friendly taxi. We do not fall for this one. We grab our bags and make a break for it.
Thank God, after minimal shouting and running away from the deviant bus crew who are trying to push us into their friend’s taxis and send us to their ‘preferred’ hotels… with a quick “No Thank you. We have our hotel. Thank you.” We walk quickly to the nearest fancy reception hall. With the help of a friendly bell boy (God Bless him) from The Angkor Miracle Spa and Resort ( I believe), we finally arrive at our hostel.
Total distance traveled in the last 8 ½ hours…approximately…..one hundred miles…ouch.
Next episode WATS UP!