Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cambodia - road to Siem Reap

After three days in phenom penh it was off to siem reap. Suzanne, Sharon and booked a hotel rooms in siem reap and decided to pay three extra dollars to purchase a $10 ticket and travel by ford van rather than bus to siem reap the van was to only take 5 hours instead of 6 hours by bus and we thought a van might be more comfortable. WRONG. The van was loaded with 10 people and no room for luggage (they said they did not realize we would have luggage - who are they kidding). There were a couple of people oin the van that i believe were friends of the driver and were hitching a ride to Seim reap. With luggage loaded in the isle we were off for an uncomfortable 5 hour journey.
The roads in Cambodia are like driving on our roads 40 years ago. Potholes, one lane, dirt on the side of the road. Our driver was a manic, driving at incredibly fast speeds for this type of highway making us all a little nervous. About 2 hours into the journey, all of a sudden it felt like we hit something and we were all jolted from our seats. The driver did not stop and it was only 20 minutes later when cars were passing us and pointing did he pull over and found out we had blown a tire. I noticed a spare under the van but the driver said they needed to send for a tire so we would be here in 36 degrees heat for at least one hour until the tire arrived. We got out the van in nowhere Cambodia (funny that he pulled over at a place that fixes tires with a stack of used tires and there was an outdoor restaurant and market). As soon as we walked out of the van we were besieged by little, shoeless, dirty children wanting to sell us fruit and trinkets. They saw the canadian flag on my bag and each one knew it was Canadian then each one knew we spoke French and English in Canada, it is cold in canada and you could ski. Interesting that each child had perfect English and knew the exact same facts about canada. They all also had knowledge of the similar facts about england. I might be a little cynical but I found these children very well rehearsed and none of the adults approached us to buy anything which is highly unusual. The adults just stood in the background watching us.
We wanted to keep the van in sight as we weren't comfortable with this while situation. We went to the outdoor restaurant purchased some cold bottled water and Sharon purchased food (which by the way she says was disgusting) while keeping the van in sight. You would think the ford transit company would have bought us a cold drink but they did not
While we were drinking our beverages we noticed an older woman holding an infant and she was counting a wade of bills. When we paid for the water and food we noticed the people taking the money had a wade of bills which seemed odd for a place in the middle of nowhere. When we got up to leave the children followed us and so did the lady with the baby. Even though the girls purchased from a couple of the kids the rest were coming up saying 'you purchase from me now - you have money and I need to go to school only $1'. Then the lady with the baby who we saw with the wade of cash approached me for money to buy milk for the baby'. Luckily the woman who owned the hotel in PP warned me about these scams and advised us not to buy from street kids as this encourages their parents to have the children sell rather than attend school. Quite frankly I felt the whole thing was a scam and was glad when a new tire was put on the van and we were on our way.
The only problem being we were behind schedule, the driving was more erratic and it was dusk. The road had no lighting and the driver did not slow down as we went through a number of villages with people biking on the edge of the road and of course they had no bike lights. At one point a youngster darted across the road on his bike and the driver swerved to miss him jostling all the passengers to the point we felt he was going to roll the van. This was the scariest transportation I have encountered in Asia - do not take ford transit van service!
We finally made it to Seim Reap one hour late and we were dropped off at some secluded street in the dark (no street lights) with a bunch of tuk tuk drivers - thank god Sharon, Suzanne and I were traveling together.
The scenery from PP to Seim Reap is full of roadside garbage, anorexic animals, wild dogs, children working in fields with no clothes on and very poor living conditions with no apparent clean water or sewage. Overall not a pretty picture.

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