It was an early start when we left our Bangkok hotel, at Sukhumvit Soi 18. Thankfully we only had to walk a few minutes before we saw the first taxi driver approach us. It was surprisingly warm – despite the time, it was 4.30am. ‘To the main railway station, please’.
Today we were going to travel to the Cambodian border by train!
After being separated for six weeks, as Ben went back to the UK to work, we were finally reunited. It was strange seeing him at the airport. It was as if he had never left. We just continued on our journey together as if nothing had happened. It didn’t feel like we had counted down the many days prior to this moment. Everything happened so quickly. He ran out of money. He flew back. I carried on to Vietnam on my own. Then with a friend through Laos.
And finally, I rented a small studio apartment in Chiang Mai for two weeks to catch up on some work.
I literally buried my head into my work with long 8 -12 hour days. I had much longer days than that when I worked in London. It seems like long hours when you are travelling though – because you are supposed to travel. That’s the joys of travel blogging – you constantly play catch-up. Two weeks in Chiang Mai went by in a blink of an eye.
We were reunited, eating breakfast at the train station – ready to board a Thai train.
Wooden benches. People smiling and staring at you, once in a while. Doors are wide open – like in India. Argh…wooden benches for 5 hours. Plus we hadn’t slept much the previous evening, so we kept nodding off with our heads bobbing forward, only to wake up every time we are almost touching the person next to us – who by now looked a bit irritated. Ben looked absolutely shattered. He had worked 7 days a week for the last six weeks to save money as soon as possible.
He wanted to be back out on to the road.
Finally we arrive at the Cambodian border, we get our passport stamped after standing in the queue for what seems like an eternity – especially if your backpack is way to heavy and just provokes a feeling of irritation every time I have it on my back (what was I carrying in there…?!). A lot of Germans around us – all carrying a Deuter backpack like mine. Plus a few brits in front of us – early twenties. I envied them. Somehow, once you hit your thirties, life seems to feel so ‘real’. Back then, you think you have so much time.
Nowadays, I feel I don’t have enough.
A friendly man approaches us and directs us to the correct bus. ‘Do you know if there is an ATM nearby? We only have Thai Baht.’. ‘Yes yes no problem, my friend take you on motorbike’. A bit suspicious of the offer, Ben and I glance at each other. We trust our gut. He seems genuine. ‘You wait here?’ – ‘Yeah. Good luck’ I tell him and plonk myself on one of the plastic chairs. After ten minutes he is back. Cambodians can be trusted, I think.
They seem really genuine and friendly.
After a short journey we are dropped off to another bus terminal – we were going to continue to Siem Reap. Others drive directly to Phnom Penh. I was looking forward to the beautiful hotel we have booked for the next three nights. It was going to be comfortable and have a touch of luxury – just like the type of hotels we would chose back in London. We upped our budget for the first few days – we were going to ease Ben back into budget travelling slowly.
In the next bus, another friendly Cambodian informs us about the onward travel. ‘Why do you want to take my ticket?’ a young German asks behind me. He seems rude. The guy is just doing his job. ‘If you don’t like the way we do things here in this country, go back to Thailand’. The German apparently made fun out of him by rolling his eyes. The Cambodian guy reacted with a forceful answer. In my eyes, he was right to say this.
Some travelers can be really rude – especially if they come with expectations from home.
After a few hours driving, we arrive at our depot. Tuk Tuks here are called Tricycles. They seem from a bygone age. I feel too underdressed in my typical traveler outfit to be sitting on a leather bench and being chauffeured as if I’m royalty (because this is how you feel when you sit in one of those). Ours even had curtains. I feel as if a horse was going to pull us through the city of Siem Reap. But the chariot is attached to a small motorbike. Somehow it seems too big for the bike to handle – but, as we were about to find out, we were not going to have to worry about anything.
Even when we speed over potholes – our mode of transportation is robust enough to handle anything.
A giant Buddha statue greets us at the entry. This is my kind of place, I think, and greet the hotel manager who is an absolute darling. And he is gay. Khmers are polite, friendly and open-minded too.
I’m liking this country more and more. I can’t wait to explore Phnom Penh too.
What were your first impressions of Cambodia? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.