Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The road to Siem Reap

Am in Siem Reap at the moment. The tourist city in the north of Cambodia which is a short jump from Angkor Wat, the gobsmackingly incredibly thousand year old temples that I'm frankly bored with one day into my stay.

The roadtrip from Bangkok was great fun, if a little tiring and resulting in me needing a change of spine and hair. The Thailand side of the journey was remarkably easy, heading out to the bus terminal in Bangkok and then the peaceful four hour journey to Aranya Prathet, the border town. Then the fun begins.

A short tuk-tuk ride later, I'm departing Thailand across the friendship bridge (which should probably be renamed the Opium Overpass, but the local authorities don't seem to have a sense of humour with those things). Thai immigration was easy, Cambodian immigration a tad more trying, but before long I was in Poipet. Think of Wentworth in NSW before gambling was legal in Victoria. All the wealthy Thais head to Poipet to spend their excess Baht on gambling, booze and Cambodian prostitutes, all of which had been offered to me within minutes of hitting town.

My mode of transport for the next through hours was a taxi... although the driver assured me it was a limousine and that I was travelling in luxury. So for 2 hours me and a family of 5 Cambodians plus our brave driver headed inland to Sisaphon, a town famous for nothing except being part way between Poipet and Siem Reap. The road here is completely unpaved, and super rough in some parts. Presumably it was not deliberate, but it is the width of one-and-a-half cars, but there is an incessent flow of traffic both ways. It makes for a long winding jumping journey down a straight stretch of road.

In Sisaphon I ditched the taxi and went native... well, Khmer, really. In the back of a pick-up truck just after dusk, with 7 20-something Cambodian kids looking completely relaxed and serene about the journey. The next three hours was spent with this particular whitefella clinging on to the sides, guarding backpack, bag and wallet, and scoring myself the biggest bruises on the lower back since I spent afternoons watching Collingwood lose at Waverley in the mid-90s. The problems on the journey and multiple. The road is unpaved, bumpy and too narrow. The dust flies up with incredible thickness, and a cloth to cover nose and mouth is essential. The eyes are an optional extra, and by the end of the trip hair becomes a thick dusty lattice. The inability to speak the local language caused a few problems, particularly when we deviated off the main road to one which was little more that a dirt track to no-where. For sure, the traffic coming the other way stopped, but that didn't fill me with confidence.

Finally, 11 hours after commencing the trip, the pickup pulled into Siem Reap by the side of the road. Within a matter of nanoseconds I was fending off over-eager hostel touts keen to win my business. It was very easy to take after the nightmarish trip which proceded it. Can't wait to do it again.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

How do you get to your next destination? Do you get to have the luna park ride again? How many times did you quote Bart "Are we there yet?"?

Anonymous said...

What a horrendous trip. you are lucky to be alive was it really worth the effort. be careful, cambodia notorious for ripping off Collingwood supporters s

Brent said...

Love your attitude Ari:
"The roadtrip from Bangkok was great fun"
Anything that doesn't kill you..you know the rest.

Anonymous said...

sounds amazing and what an adventure so far!! take care dont let them bully you!! xx Leanne