>Lao and Kampuchea

>So our trip into Cambodia started off with a bang. Not literally, of course, that would have been frightening. I mean the sort of bang like…well…ok it was just confusing and uncomfortable. BANG! You know? You knoww…..

So we hop on a boat in Si Phan Don, in the south of Laos. Simple enough. Except there aren’t enough seats. No probs, I’ll chill on the bags. Mid lake, they tell me I have to switch boats. Yep, just me. Ok, no problem, almost dumped a boatful of people into the lake, but at least now I got a seat. Little did I know this was ominous foreshadowing for later in the day.

Back on the mainland, we hop on another bus. Uh oh…not enough seats. “You come here, my friends!” exclaims a happy Laotian man who ushers us to a minibus. “To Phnom Penh??” we ensure before getting aboard. Laotians have a mysterious way of not really answering your question while still ushering you in the direction they want. (Much like in the city when you are following them to a hostel and repeatedly asking “GOOD GOD MAN, IS THERE HOT WATER?!” with minimal intelligible response…yet you still somehow end up at the hostel, which not surprisingly, doesn’t have hot water) Anyway, we get on the minibus and book it to the border. By booking it I mean stopping every 20 metres or so for the driver to yell out the window at who we could only suppose were his friends. Bizarre behaviour, but not as much as our driver in northern Laos who would stop at random intervals in our trip and hand out bags of unknown contents to seeming specific individuals chillin by the road. We could only assume he was Santa Claus.

At the border, which was pretty much a single deserted road except for a few huts to shelter border officials from the unforgiving sun, as we were getting in line for our departure stamps, our van (complete with our bags) peels out and leaves us in the dust. Apparently we have to walk the half kilometre to the ENTRY point of Cambodia. Feeling appropriately like sweaty, forlorn immigrants, we bumble down the road to wait in another line for more stamps. Yay.

Do we look like sweaty, forlorn immigrants? Survey says…yes.

OK, last bus! Even though our bags are spilling into the aisles a bit, there are enough seats for all of us! I sit down, and wonder which side of the road they drive on in Cambodia. Thailand is on the left, but Laos is on the right. As we start on down the road, I try to figure it out and have a good laugh at myself…we’re in Asia, they drive in the MIDDLE of the road!

Off to Phnom Penh! Or so we think. Tire go boom! Whaaaat! 2.5 hours of tire fixing later, we’re finally ready to hit up the capital of Cambodia! But in REALITY, we only get the bus to some craphole town in between, where half of the people are spending the night before heading off to Siem Reap, and we get the bus all to ourselves to rest of the way! NOT. We exit the bus too, and are told to bring our bags with us. “But why?”, we ask. “Don’t we take the bus from here??” “No no my friend,” comes the reply, “You take minibus from here.” Alright, whatev, just get me to Phnom Penh tonight!

The minibus pulls up, and we start to pile in. I laugh as I see the trunk, which couldn’t fit 6 bags and still close properly. We had 14 bags. Half loaded up, we start to realize…we’re not going to fit. There are only 11 seats. The Cambodian men have started to pile the bags hanging out of the back of this van, and roping them down, apparently planning to drive the remaining 2-3 hours with the back of the van hanging open. “In get in, I am sorry my friends, we are late today, I am sorry all of you!” repeats one man over and over. “We don’t mind that it’s late, we mind that it’s small!” someone calls out. Despite our protests and attempts to get another van, we squish 3 extra people along the footspace at the front of the van. Comfy! As I settle in, I detect a distinct FISH odour lingering in the van, followed by a wave of poop and something suspiciously resembling dog urine. Dog specfically. Yum.

As the engine finally roars to life, the small crowd of people around the van (and probably laughing at the stupid farang inside) gets closer, and one woman points at the space near my feet, which consisted of just enough room for my feet (odd, isn’t it?). Someone opens the door, and this woman starts to climb in. Seriously?? Another? On my feet?! I’m already on a makeshift seat with no back, and there are 3 Chileans crammed in the front of the van that smells like fish and poop! Now a Cambodian woman is sitting on my feet?!

Well it turns out she wanted to share half of my makeshift seat instead, which meant I got to sit on one buttcheek for 2 hours, tilted sideways to try to share some of kims backrest. Who called a trip to the chiro! Anyway, I don’t want to complain, I did manage to put my head down on kim’s back (she was sitting beside me, I dont know how that worked) for a few minutes, so all wasn’t lost. Besides…if it isn’t a good time, it’s a good story!

It’s amazing how you can become accustomed to the prices in a country. When once I spent $30 on a dorm room for one night freely, I now shudder at paying more than $5…for a private double room with bath. Meals over $3 frighten me. Beer over $2 (for 600 ml) is ridiculous, when in Germany we were ecstatic to find 500 ml beers for 2 euros. I have slept in a hostel for $1 a night (although that wasnt the cleanest place in the world…and their sink had nothing beneath it, so it was hilarious to watch unsuspecting people spit toothpaste all over their feet). In other news…

Cambodia is pretty much owned by Toyota. I thought it bizarre that on our busride into the city, I saw two green approximately ’94 Camry LE’s (Dad’s baby back home) right behind each other. Imagine my amazement when we turn the corner and I see no less than SIX green approximately ’94 Camry LE’s all parked within 20 metres of each other! When I started counting on the streets, I would say about one in every three cars is a toyota, the vast majority of those camrys, followed distantly by corollas. Thankfully, they are not all green approximately ’94 Camry LE’s. But there are a LOT of them!

Alright see ya later! Pictures to come soon!


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