CAMBODIA // SIEM REAP - ANGKOR WAT
January 31, 2009
Siem Reap, Cambodia
I sat in the "Cambodian Consulate" waiting for my visa to cross over the border (on foot) from Thailand to Cambodia. Not a building, but a large tent cover a couple picnic tables. I was sure this could not be real, that I was getting ripped of – but it was. I handed over the equivalent of 30 US Dollars, gaining me the proper stamps in my passport and freedom to walk across the border.
My options to get to Siem Reap from the border were either a bus that wouldn't leave for another five hours or a taxi for a couple dollars more with three strangers that were "waiting in the departures building just beyond arrivals." I walked with the driver through the Thai departure building; we then walked along with hundreds of other people across the crowded Friends Bridge to go through the Cambodian arrivals building before getting on a bus that brought us to the main station. The original cab was a hoax; once I figured this out the driver put me in different car that was supposedly leaving "right away." But first, we needed to pick up his sister. Once she was in the car we only made it a few blocks before the car broke down; he got it to run just long enough to get to a mechanic. As I was started to worry that this was yet another scam, his sister assured me he was having legit car problem and she was just as frustrated as I was. He got the car running long enough to get us to yet another cab that had room for two more. We squished in with another Thai woman, a local man, and a monk to finally get on our way. The road is in terrible condition; the route to Siam Reap is known for always being under construction. There are 15 foot tall mounds of rubble piled sporadically along the bumpy dirt road. Drivers do not seem concerned about driving on the correct side of the road, only about avoiding human sized potholes. Horns are always honking and cars are always jerking from side to side. I'm the only one that seems to be concerned with our safety.
To take my mind off of my imminent death and the rising temperature inside the cab, I started talking to the original driver's sister who spoke English quite well after three years of classes in the language. She is 25 and went to University in Siem Reap to be an accountant, however now she lives in Poipet (the Cambodian Boarder) with her family because her father decided he didn't want her to move. She had tears in her eyes as she told me that all she does is cook and clean and go to the market – she doesn't have a social life, she doesn't have any friends. It's impossible for me to understand what that type of oppression is like; being an American, I have every opportunity at my fingertips and she can't even leave her home.
When we finally got to Siem Reap, the cab driver tried to drop me off in some random corner of town where eight Tuk Tuk drivers started yelling at me through the windows to get into their ride. I refused, yelling at my driver to leave my bag.
I paid you a lot of money! You have to bring me to this hostel! You brought everyone else where they wanted to go, bring me there. I'm not moving.
I sat with my arms crossed while the driver walked around smoking a cigarette. Once he had finally finished, he got back into the cab and drove me to my desired location. The hostel only had one room which was located in the attic; I had to walk through a storage room to get to it and there was no window. After the day I had, I wasn't about to complain.