Sunday, August 07, 2005

Day 96

A bit of a nightmare day today. The first part of the journey was OK: a few hours in a bus to Aranyaprathet on the Cambodian border (despite a blade for the engine fan breaking on the way). However, the next step was to cross the border, and that took around three and a half hours. Most of the time was spent trying to get out of Thailand—a big queue of farang were crowded into a sweaty building, and then nothing moved for around two hours. I'm still not sure why the delay was so enormous, because after that the queues suddenly started moving and cleared out in about half an hour; in the meanwhile, the Thai locals were scuttling through a fast lane and the Cambodian locals were zooming through an even faster lane. Apparently, the Cambodians cross the border to go to markets, and the Thais cross to visit a couple of big casinos that are sited in the no-man's land between the two borders.

In comparison, getting in at the Cambodia side of things was efficient and straightforward, but once across the border, we got a bigger nasty shock. The Thailand guide and the trip notes had both said that the journey from Poi Pet to Siem Reap would be around four hours; the Cambodian guide was clearly embarrassed to have to tell us that the next stage of the journey would actually take more like ten or eleven hours. And so it turned out: we arrived at around 3 in the morning.

The lower level of development was immediately apparent on crossing the border, from the roads, the clothes, the vehicles and the shops. At first, I couldn't even tell which side of the road vehicles drive on in Cambodia; the traffic was intermingled randomly, depending on where the potholes were, and little vehicles just had to get out of the way of bigger ones (but it looks like they theoretically drive on the right, judging from the position of the steering wheel on the bus). Everyone still seems to have mobile phones though (mobile moment #2: a man pushing a rickety wooden hand cart across the border stopping to take a call).


Hmm. It occurs to me that my usual attire might not go down too well in Cambodia. Not a lot I can do about it now, though (other than make sure I don't wear a blue cap).

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