On our final day in Siem Reap we relaxed. Tomorrow we have the journey that has contributed to the vast majority of negativity about Cambodia and that give it the supposedly apt name of Scambodia. That is tomorrow we make the journey to Bangkok via the Poiphet border crossing. You just have to search for Poiphet in Google and instantly you will see endless tales of scams and problems. One of the most common ones is the bus that goes from Siem Reap to the border. It leaves in the morning and breaks down every day for 4 hours right outside a cafe in the middle of nowhere at lunch time. If you are lucky it gets ‘fixed’ and continues to the border. If you are unlucky then not to worry, because a bus will pass that just happens to be going to the border and will take you no problem, for a hefty fee. If your bus finally does make it to the border almost all will stop about 3miles short saying they can’t get any closer. Again, don’t worry, some tuk tuk drivers just happen to there and will be more than happy to take you to the border. – Expect the same all the way to Bangkok. I couldn’t find a single good review of getting the bus direct to Bangkok and found only a small handful to the border.
So I have arranged for a driver to take us to Poiphet, it’s a 2hr and he wants $25, from poiphet I hope to catch a bus onward to Bangkok, we leave at 0730 and so hope to be in Bangkok by about 5pm the same day. We shall see though.
So before we make the journey we decided to find a pool for the day, I was feeling a bit delicate after being force fed $0.50 beers and the kids needed some down time from the heat. So I found a nice 5 star resort and asked to use their pool, they agreed we could use the pool for the whole day for $5 for the three of us. A bargain if you ask me, particularly when the pool was gorgeous and surrounded by palm trees and beautiful chalets.
We really didn’t do much else other than walk around Siem Reap and make the most of what is an amazing place. I really could live in Siem Reap, it is probably the most laid back chilled out place I’ve been. Everywhere you want to go to is $1, food is stupidly cheap and for breakfast we had 6 cans of soft drinks, 2 bacon butties and a plate of Veg Noodles for $6.75. The dual currency works well and so long as you assume that 1000 Riel is $0.25 then $6.75 would be $6 and then 3000 Riel.
I have never seen so many disabled people, particularly amputees as in Siem Reap and we found ourselves bothered constantly by them. Most are victims of land mines and tell a tale of a savage and brutal history of suffering and torture. As a foreigner the advice is not to stray off the beaten path as there still remains thousands of land mines in the country side. Additionally I was surprised to see so many child workers, the vast majority of people selling things are kids and they are very persistent, they will stand while you eat and stare at you and I found it very uncomfortable and sad. They are of course only doing what they are told to but as a father it is difficult to dismiss and ignore a 5 year old girl who is just trying to make a few dollars. The reality is that by giving them money you are contributing to them being exploited as workers. The best way to help the poor kids is to find a charity that distributes things evenly and that actively works toward a future where children are not forced to work.
Sex is also big business in Cambodia and I saw a few knocking shops, all were on the fringes of town and women pimp themselves out for $10 for full sex. It’s a sad state of affairs and one which speaks volumes about the country itself and the obvious problems that still remain here. That said it was only 30 years ago that almost 20% of the population were wiped out in the infamous ‘cleansing’ whereby people were tortured and killed for the simplest reasons. The long and short was that the regime was eventually overthrown by Vietnam. The country has obviously come a very long way since those dark days, and whilst on the surface it looks to have completely moved on, the reality is extreme poverty still remains and it really doesn’t look like a change is on the horizon anytime soon.