5 hours after leaving Bangkok on a government bus, I awoke from a nap to find we were near the Cambodian border. I had no idea what to expect and was feeling quite nervous… were we going to be accepted into Cambodia? What if we have forgotten something important regarding our visas? How do we even go about getting the visas at the border? The closer we got to the border the more anxious I was getting.
About 10 minutes from the border, the bus pulled in to a dusty car park outside a building that looked a little like a government building, one of the bus attendants stood up and announced we were close and that he is going to sort out visas for anyone that hasn’t already got one. Brilliant we thought, he will do it for us! He gave us a form to fill in and asked us for our passports, money and for a passport photo each to attach to the visa.
** Luckily, we had been warned we would need passport photos in Thailand so we went on the hunt for a photo shop. We eventually found one near Khao San Road, a dusty room that looked like a garage run by a little old lady. She sat us on a chair and put us into position… then took the most awful photos, which she then tried to Photoshop, badly! See pictures below… need I say anymore? (please note: look at her computer) **
Once he had all of our passports in hand, he hopped off the bus, got on a motorbike, and drove off. Meanwhile I was having a pee break, although the toilet was so close to the wall in front that my legs didn’t fit so had to sit sideways… WTF Asia? I got back on the bus and a few minutes later the bus started to drive off. Lewis looked at me with a worried face and said ‘I haven’t got our passports back’… the old panic radar started flashing red in my head but in an attempt to worry less, I said ‘oh, well I’m sure it’s fine, STA travel recommended this company so it should all be legit.’ Are you as amazed as I was? I stayed calm and had a sound, rational mind… If only! Inside I was thinking, ‘shit, shit, shit, this is like one of those scams everyone has been telling us about, he’s not coming back with our passports, our identity is going to be stolen, WE’RE GOING TO BE STUCK IN THAILAND!’ but I casually said to Lewis, ‘If you’re that concerned then ask the driver’. I was so secretly relieved when he ran to the front of the bus to ask where the frick our passports were, ‘ahead’ the driver stated, ‘he gone to do visa so no have to wait’. Lewis didn’t look convinced, I too had my own reservations, but I kept repeating to myself STA had recommended this, it will be fine. And guess what…. It was! After all that worrying and panicking, when we finally reached the border, the man jumped back on the bus and handed us back our passports, with the visa inside!
We had a short walk from the bus to the Thai border control office, about 2 minutes. The bus was not allowed to drive us over the border so we had to walk. This was pretty cool, I have never walked between borders before and it felt kind of amazing, to have one foot in Thailand and moments later another foot in Cambodia! When I was walking out of the Thai border control office, I came across an American girl on the stairs, looking very distressed, she said they wouldn’t let her into Cambodia because she had less than 6 months on her passport. In her tearful American accent, she huskily said ‘I don’t know what to do, they won’t let me in, I’m gonna have to get my bag off the bus, geeze where will I go now’. I felt really sorry for her, she was in the middle of nowhere with no transport as her bus was going to Cambodia, with or without her. It all of a sudden hit me, this is real, this could easily have happened to me or Lewis. We really don’t understand the visa requirements for any of these countries. What on earth would we have done if this was us! I don’t know what happened to the girl in the end, I saw her getting her bag off the bus and then she disappeared.
Once we had been stamped out of Thailand, we had to walk under a big sign and then walk a couple minutes to the Cambodian border control office to be stamped in. This was all very easy and we were soon back on the bus. I felt so relieved, we are finally in Cambodia and nothing bad has happened… to us anyways!
We reached Siem Reap bus station about 6.30pm after a 10 hour bus journey. The driver explained that the bus company provides a free lift to your hostel by tuk tuk which we thought was fantastic, massively takes the hassle out of bargaining with dreaded tuk tuk drivers. Nothing is free though, as my parents love to remind me! I am starting to think they are right, as soon as we were in the tuk tuk, the driver started selling us tours, ‘you book tour for tomorrow and you help me and my family’, ‘I give you free lift to hotel so you book tour, we need the money to live, me and my family’… yes I get the point, you have a family and now you’re trying to blackmail us, woopy freaking do. We did actually need a tuk tuk as we wanted to do a sunrise tour of Angkor Wat the following morning, so although overpriced (we didn’t have our bargaining A-game on at this point) we booked him.
The following morning, we were up at 4am ready for our pick up at 4.45am to go to Angkor Wat. Within 45 minutes we were at the gate and started our walk to the temple along with hundreds of other people. It was so lovely and breezy at this early hour, not a sweat bead on either of us. As we approached the lake, we began to see the hoard of people already in their spots, slightly disappointed that we had to stand behind a bunch of people, we waited for the sun to rise. After about 30 minutes of waiting, trying to pretend that I wasn’t trapped in a tight space, I turned around to see how many people were actually behind me and took the selfie below to see how far back they went. I couldn’t help but think this was the perfect opportunity for someone to set off a bomb. As usual I jumped to the worst-case scenario, here I am stood in front of an amazing temple and all I can think about is breathing in people’s germs and being blown up.
Every minute that went by, the sky became brighter and with it the giant temple became more visible. The sheer size of it was uncovered inch by inch until the whole temple was on show right in front of us, the reflection on the water made it feel even more enormous. The sun was yet to rise, we knew it was close now but still gutted that we didn’t have lakeside view for the best part! It was to my surprise that at this point, everyone started to leave and cross the bridge over into the temple. I mean, I wasn’t complaining because we had prime view for the sun rise and I no longer had people coughing and sneezing in my ear’ole, but what were they thinking? Did they not realise there was no sun in the sky? Did they not know the temple was about to be shown in the most amazing light? They have stood here for the last hour, if not more, to witness the sunrise and then left before the sun had actually risen… what a bunch of bananas! The sunrise was as incredible as I had hoped, I felt so privileged to be there.
Once the excitement of the sunrise was over, we spent the rest of the morning hopping from one temple to the next. We went from Angkor Wat Temple – Angkor Thom (Bayon Temple & Ta Keo Temple) – Ta Prohm Temple, now this was the best temple, the home to Tomb Raider and nature at it’s best! I have never seen anything quite so magnificent. The entire temple had been overtaken by trees that had somehow managed to find their own path through this crumbling concrete jungle. The only thing that slightly ruined the experience was the giant hordes of Chinese on multiple different group tours. The temple was no where near the same scale as some of the others, it felt quite intimate, narrow corridors and pathways and the big group tours really spoilt the precious experience. If we had more time and money, we would have definitely gone back early hours whilst the mass load of tourists flocked to Angkor Wat sunrise. These beautiful enormous trees had certainly won at life. They gave me a sense of hope, if they could find a way of navigating through the temple walls, then I can certainly find a way of navigating through life to grow bigger and stronger.
Angkor Thom – Bayon Temple
Angkor Thom – Ta Keo Temple
Ta Prohm Temple
Day 2 of Siem Reap we decided to have a chill day by the pool. We had been on the go non-stop since arriving in Asia and this was our last day in the calming Siem Reap before heading back to another city. The hostel (Jasmine Family), although basic, was really lovely. We had an amazing pool and free breakfast and the laundry service was fantastic, with over a weeks’ worth of washing for $2. This was such a peaceful resort and we had the pool mostly to ourselves, or at least until a big family of eastern Europeans and their entourage of children took over. We had worked up quite an appetite sitting by the pool all day doing nothing so we ventured out to a restaurant called ‘Try Me’… I know, sounds like a ladyboy fuck house, it was a very small eatery and they made THE BEST spaghetti carbonara I have ever eaten!
After dinner we ventured to the night market which was pretty cool, very busy unlike the rest of Siem Reap we visited but some amazing cheap jewellery. Lewis hates busy places and hates shopping so we didn’t stay too long. The coolest part was the container nightclubs, one container after another had been converted into a bar or nightclub with two floors, live bands, bright neon lights and cheap booze. I would definitely recommend this place to anyone going to Siem Reap.
The following morning as we waited for our bus to collect us, I couldn’t help but feel sad to leave Siem Reap, after the experience of Bangkok, I was nervous about heading to Phnom Penh (Cambodia’s capital) I felt safe in Siem Reap, the slower pace was just what we needed and we didn’t want another experience like Bangkok. After a nervous wait for the bus (hoping not to have a repeat of the Bangkok incident) it finally arrived, albeit late, and off we went.