Saturday, May 19, 2012

Playing tomb raider I

Nope, I haven't watched the movie nor have I any plans of doing so in the future. I just got reminded was just told that some parts of the movie were shot in the Angkor Wat Complex in Siem Reap, Cambodia - where I just had the privilege of visiting, backpacking style.

Going to Cambodia from Thailand by land was not such a hard feat. Well, every westerner seems to be doing that and I don't see any reason why a brown monkey like myself shouldn't/couldn't. So packed with little money, and a handful of courage, I tagged my friend along to join me on this adventure.

As I said, it's so easy to do. You just have to hop on a train or a bus (whichever you prefer), close your eyes, then you'll wake up to a different world (err, land I mean). Well, at least that's what most of the travel sites I consulted on the Internet said - take the bus from Bangkok to Arunyapratet (5 hours), go pass Thai immigration, go pass Cambodian immigration, take the bus from Poipet to Siem Reap (3 hours). But what the sites didn't exactly mention were the delays, the bumpy ride, the womanizing tour guides, the 40kph speed limit which took the trip longer than it should have been.

We knew that we'd be burning our butts on the bus, so my friend and I decided to equip ourselves with these neck supporters. OK, they didn't have anything to do with our butts, but these little darlings helped us feel comfy while we sleep the time away. My friend had a red pillow while I had mine in my trademark color pink.

We left Khon Kaen (a city somewhere in the north-east and in which we work) at around 1:30 am. We actually went to the bus station at around 10 pm and all the seats were booked. We're just lucky to have squeezed in the last trip. Why we hadn't thought of reserving tickets earlier, I'm still figuring out up until this moment - Flighty flighty us.

We reached Bangkok after 6 hours (7:30) and raced our way (since we didn't have much time to lose) to the ticketing office of Air Aran Pattana which would take us to Aranyaprathet where the border market or Talat Rongklue is located. That means another 5 hours of travel.

We arrived at the border at around 12:30. We were starting to get a little tired and hungry. Good thing I packed several sandwiches because I knew we'd be spending much of our time on the road and food may not be readily available. Later my friend would complain that all she had on that day were sandwiches. Not being a heavy eater myself, I just smiled and stashed yet another sandwich on her hand to gulp down.

I have learned about touts on the Internet, so we managed not to get involved with any of them. We just walked our way to the immigration, which is, interestingly, quite a breeze save for the long queue  and people who do not have a concept of falling in line.

That's the Thai border over there. And this is me in my unglamorous travel outfit.

There's Cambodia waving her hand.

Once we passed through the Cambodian immigration, we were asked to wait for the free shuttle bus that would eventually take us to the International terminal. I didn't know what this meant at first, but as soon as we arrived at the station, I realized that the terminal is meant only for the foreign tourists. I would have wanted to take the local bus and feel how it's really like to live the Cambodian rural life. But like little children enticed with the piper's music, we just followed where the guides led us. The 9 usd ticket price for a 3-hour trip (or so we thought) to Siem Reap was fair enough.

The promised 3-hour trip was extended to almost 6 hours. They specified the travel time but not when the bus would leave. We ended up waiting for more than 2 hours for the driver to turn on the a/c and half an hour to ignite the bus and go.

Yes, we finally arrived in Siem Reap at past 8, contented though worn out. We beat the road, and our energy was refilled by the thought of this sight waiting for us to marvel at - Tomb Raider within our grasp.

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