I could swear that I could hear it raining outside so I wasn’t in a rush to wake up or get out of bed, but when I did pull back the curtains the sun was shining and the ground dry so it was time to yet again pack the bike and clock up a few more miles – about 290km today that would take us all the way south from Surin to the Chong Chom – O’Smach border crossing between Thailand and Cambodia, and from there down to Siem Reap, home of the fabled Angkor Wat collection of temples.
Karen launched herself into packing our gear so whilst I bumbled around trying to wake up and retrieve the bike from the narrow corridor I’d slipped it down yesterday so it would be parked out of eyesight overnight, she had everything ready to throw on the bike. About 08:30am we got moving, looking for a place to get some breakfast.
Karen spotted a coffee place so we doubled back there, parked the bike, and cocked up our drinks order. We had intended to order a coffee and a tea – but presented with three columns of figures adjacent to each item on the drinks menu which suggested a sliding scale of cost as you up sized through small – medium – large – we ordered a large coffee and a medium tea but they came out as iced drinks served with a straw – only then did we notice that the column headings were hot – ice – something else that I can’t recall offhand. Duh !!!! We ordered hot drinks – and even then Karen wasn’t fussed on her Ceylon tea as it looked like carrot juice topped with frothy milk, so all-in-all it was a bit of a breakfast fail – even the 2 x ‘American Egg Breakfast’ we ordered would have been unrecognisable to any Americans ….
We refuelled just down the road and that was a bit more successful, and then headed for the border, chipping away at a nice pace in the light traffic. Exiting Thailand was very simple – I just handed in our ‘Simplified Customs Form’ that had been issued for the bike and get that stamped, and then our departure cards were checked and our passports stamped out at another hut, and then we were on our way to Cambodia – about 50m away.
We didn’t have any US$ on us and I’d checked the Thai Baht – US$ exchange rate last night – approx 1,100 THB = US$30, but I wasn’t surprised when we were told we needed to pay 1,300 THB each for our Cambodian Visa On Arrival. I argued a bit with the two guys behind the window but wasn’t getting anywhere, so after voicing my disapproval I paid the money and got a stamp in my passport from one of the guys which showed his title – some senior police dude in charge of visa services. Hmmmm – I should have filled out one of their feedback forms that invited comments on their visa services.
From the Immigration Office building we could see a couple of resorts just a stone’s throw away – apparently a lot of Thai’s cross the border to try their luck at the casinos here, before heading home again.
Once we had the paper visa stamps glued in our passports we then went to the next window where another officer meticulously poured over our arrival cards and passports, comparing the various entries, before stamping and counter-stamping and stamping again in our passports and on the forms, before rechecking all of the stampings and all of the forms. Very diligent. This officer told us to ride down the hill a bit to look for the Customs place where we could register the bike, so we thanked him and raced down the hill to get in front of a line of trucks making their way slowly down to the same spot.
The Customs place wasn’t much more than a box with a window cut in it, and here we just filled out a simple register which I signed. No carnet, no importation forms, no fees – yippee!!!!
Only one more checkpoint to get through – the final passport check, which was nothing more than a cursory glance a chuckle or two from the officer – and then we were on our way into Cambodia, back to riding on the right hand side of the road.
As a special treat for Karen I decided to avoid the shorter main route down to Siem Reap and instead opted for the back roads way there, so we turned left (east) at Phong, just south of O’Smach, and headed to Anlong Veng, before turning south for Siem Reap. This road was marked as a minor road on the map but was in good condition (though bumpy in places) and we made good time towards Anlong Veng.
A lot of locals had spread out some vegetable thing on tarpaulins on the side of the road – we passed km after km of this thing drying out in the sun, occasionally seeing people raking it over or spreading it out by hand.
Originally I’d planned to slip past Anlong Veng and scoot straight for Siem Reap without stopping but Karen was feeling thirsty so we left the bypass and headed into the centre of town, which looked a bit like Shitsville to be bluntly honest. The first ATM we tried wasn’t working, but after a bit more riding and then watching Karen do battle with the next ATM we found, we were finally cashed up – but in US$. Just near the cross-roads in the middle of town we stopped to get some cokes and condensed milk (Karen plans to make rice something-or-other sometime), and we were then back on the plan and heading down to Seam Reap.
The road was sealed, wide, and carried few cars but enough scooters and farm trucks. Scooter riders here are manic – they don’t check before veering off the road in any direction. We pushed on at a pleasant pace, enjoying using 6th gear for a change as up until a few days ago we haven’t needed or used it for ages.
About 30km or so north of Seam Reap the road narrowed and started to get bogged down with lots of tuk-tuks carrying tourists out to see the temples scattered around Angkor Wat, so this slowed our progress, and then the road surface became very pot-holed so that was another obstacle, but not nearly as challenging as the shit-for-brains car drivers we encountered when we finally entered Siem Reap proper.
We had to ride from one end of town to the centre and a bit beyond before arriving at our guesthouse, and it was almost like being back in India I thought, with cars and trucks and buses and scooters all over the road – coming at us on our side of the road, doing u-turns into oncoming traffic, stupid stuff like that. I was relieved when we arrived at the Panda Guesthouse, and we saw that Aad and Mike had beaten us here as their bikes were already parked down the side of the building.
We unpacked, caught up with Aad and Mike briefly when they returned from lunch, and then we nipped outside for a late lunch ourselves, before seeing the guys again and collectively arranging three days of temple sight-seeing via tuk-tuk, starting 09:00am tomorrow. I can’t wait to go see the temples (again) – but for now I need to dash and go charge the GoPro.