Today was the day to move from Chiang Mai in northern Thailand to Siem Reap in Cambodia. We learned our lesson on the overnight train from Bangkok to CM - we were not doing that again. Instead, we booked $100 flights back to Bangkok which required rising at 4:30 AM. The flight on Asia Air was fine. We then waited an hour on the curb in front of Bangkok's Don Muang airport for the local bus to take us to the cross country bus. That bus ride took about 45 minutes. At the bus staiton, we quickly bought the last two seats on the "1st class" bus to the Cambodian border. The bus was leaving immediately, so no chance for breakfast. I was already hungry.
I wasn't really expecting the bus to be a lovely experience, but it was considerably less than lovely. The only seats available were at the back of the bus next to the toilet.
Turns out we did not buy the last two seats, since 5 or 6 more people got on and off in route and had no seats to sit in. Drew, being the chivalrous man he is, gave up his seat for an older women. He sacked out on a bag of rice in the back of the bus for a few hours until she got off. Others had to stand.
The guidebook said the trip should take 4.5 hours. It took 6, which seamed like 9 with the sad excuse for air conditioning. We stopped once at a convenience store where I bought some nuts and cookies. That was it for food for a while.
Once we arrived at the border, despite reading all the advice not to get sucked into a scam, we did. We followed the sign for Visa on Arrival, which was really a Thai business that would give you the visa and shuttle you across. We ended up paying about $10 more than we should have for the visa, plus we had to pay in Thai baht, of which I did not have enough, so another $10 charge at the conveniently located ATM later, we had our Cambodian visas. We finally wisened up and just got out of there with out there special taxi. Chalk up $20 to being American.
The border crossing was a bit unsettling. First there was immigration exiting from Thailand,
We were in Cambodia.
What is very different from Thailand and interesting about the buildings is that they are quite ornate and show French influence. Even the run-down buildings had a sense of royalty about them.
The taxi ride took about 2 hours but took 20 days off our lives! The driver was a mad man, driving 60 miles per hour with oncoming trucks, cars, and bicycles weaving this way and that. There were several near misses. Contrary to drivers in Thailand, Cambodian drivers are not afraid to use their horns.
The scenery slowly changed from the dirty shops and buildings to more open deforested flat lands with an occasional hill. Farmers were burning their fields, so the air was thick with smoke - and just when we thought we would be out of city air pollution.
The traffic was really horrible and so much more congested than we expected from this little town. At the end of this long, long day, the very friendly and welcoming staff at the Happy Guesthouse was the best thing we could have imagined!!!! (Many other tourists had no lodging booked for the night - we later learned it was very difficult to find a room that night.)
We ate hungrily at the guesthouse restaurant, as our dinner (veggie noodles for me and a hamburger and fries that was more like beef jersey for Drew) was the first real food we had eaten all day. Then went directly to bed. Welcome to Cambodia!