You know the saying, better work stories? Well here’s a better travel story that will make you laugh, as it sure made us laugh. After our orientation the night before, we were told that the tour bus will leave at 7am, and the included breakfast will be at 6am, so we decided to set our alarms for 5.30am, to give us the time to wake up, shower, pack, and then head down for breakfast, before heading back and packing the last of our stuff. I set an alarm, and so did Mollidy, and we went to sleep.
Then the alarm went off, and boy did that suck! Not only that, it was Mollidy’s that went off, which was set for 10 minutes after mine, so I was a bit bummed mine didn’t go off, and I said we were really lucky hers did, as it would have been really embarrassing if she hadn’t set one, mine didn’t go off, and we had someone knocking on our door saying we need to get up.
Despite that though, we were both shattered, and felt like we had been in a deep sleep, and thought we had finally cracked the back of our body clock and this would have been the best sleep yet if we didn’t have to get up at 5.30am. Because we felt pretty shit, we decided to not shower, and instead just pack and head down for breakfast. About 20 minutes later we were ready to head down, though still feeling not the best, especially me, as my tummy was playing up. I then sat on the bed and checked my wrist watch I was just putting on. It said 1am.
You see, my iPhone, iPad, and watch are all set to local time, but Mollidy has only set her watch to local time, as her iPad and iPhone never naturally swapped over like mine. So her stuff is 5 hours ahead, based on New Zealand time, and we didn’t think for a second about that when setting alarms. So no wonder mine didn’t go off, as it wasn’t meant to for another 4 and a half hours at our actual wake up time. So I raised my head and said with a mix of surprised, laughter, and relief, “it’s only 1am”, which Mollidy quickly realised what that meant and all we could do was laugh, and be relived, as it meant we could go straight back to sleep for another decent chunk of shut eye!
When we finally woke up, we kept laughing about what had happened, and because we had already packed at 1am, it gave us more time for showers and other stuff before we headed down for breakfast. The breakfast was ok, and nothing brilliant, and before we knew it we were in our 2 minivans, 8 tourists per van, 2 drivers, and our tour guide Jay, and the trip had begun!
The first leg was about 1 and a half hours as we made our way out of Bangkok to the Cambodia border, where we stopped at a rest stop for a toilet break and to fill out the boarder crossing forms. The next leg was about 2 hours, and this got us to the Cambodia consulate where we all got our visas. 5 minutes down the road and we left our vehicles and walked through the boarding crossing, and for anyone who has never done this kind of crossing before with 3rd world countries, I’ve got to say it was pretty eye opening.
There were thousands of people crossing back and forth, but luckily having got there early, meant us tourists were thin on the ground, so it didn’t take too long to get through, maybe only 30 minutes. But the sights and smells were enough to make you take note of how good we have it back home in New Zealand. Once through we were in Cambodia! We then crammed onto a non air conditioned bus which was for only 5 minutes till it drove us to the main bus station where we picked up our private coach for leg 3 and 4.
This is where we learned another valuable lesson, always get on the transport as soon as possible, as Mollidy and myself were last, and the only two remaining seats were separated. A bit gutting, but a good lesson to learn. We then had a 30 minute ride to a restaurant, where I must say the food was pretty average, and easily the worst of the trip so far. So not the best introduction to Cambodian food.
During the meal it finally started to pour down like it’s meant to during monsoon season, so to have gone 6 days here without seeing it, it was actually rather refreshing. We then got back on the bus as we had our last leg of the journey to go, which was 2 hours to Siem Reap, and it rained the whole trip. So yeah, we finally got to see what monsoon season is all about!
Once in Siem Reap we checked into our guest house, Victory, which is a mix of a hotel and a home stay, and it had a very cool vibe to it. The rooms were actually really nice, though some of the frills were missing, and the internet was only usable in the lobby area. But hey, we didn’t come all this way to have all the mod cons at our disposal 24/7. After settling in a bit, we met as a group at 6pm in the lobby, and Jay, our guide, took us on a walking tour of Siem Reap, which was an interesting mix of old school buildings and poverty, with new school buildings and a surprising level of wealth.
It was a very tourist type look around, and seeing as we are here for 3 nights and two full days, Mollidy and myself decided to find out more on those days, as it looks like a pretty cool place. We all went off for dinner, which was really good, but poor Mollidy is still feeling the effects of her bug, so didn’t eat anything. Once we were finished, 5 of us decided to head back home, as we had a pretty big day ahead tomorrow, and so we walked back through the town.
In that 1km walk, we got harassed more than Bangkok, got offered drugs, had beggars try and scam us, and generally felt a little less safe than what we had experienced so far. So, Cambodia and Siem Reap had turned out to be an interesting mixed bag, but despite all that I was still looking forward to seeing what else it had to offer.
I want to talk about air conditioning for a bit, because it’s pretty damn awesome! I think the longest we have gone so far without it was 6 hours, and that was intense. But sometimes even brief stops in shops with air con is enough to refresh you to continue. We know there will be times on this trip where we may go a day or two without it, so who knows how we are going to deal with that, but for now we relish our air conditioning. So my advice is to use it when ever and where ever you can, but don’t forget to enjoy the heat as well, because remember that’s part of why you’re traveling in a hot country, and if you get the balance right, then you can get the best of both worlds.