It was time to say goodbye to Thailand and hello to Cambodia. Most people making the trip from Bangkok into Cambodia head to Siem Reap for the infamous Ankor Wat, but we had a different idea in mind. Having already been there, and not having much time in Cambodia, our plan was to make it all the way across the country right away and into the capital, Phnom Penh. This was quite the unusual plan, but we were set on trying to achieve the impossible. And we were dead set on not making it happen by buying into a “tour” service.
We left our hostel fairly early and took the subway as far as we could go. We then hopped a taxi and made our way to the bus station (Bangkok has many, the one we needed was the furthest). We found a bus leaving for the border and hopped on. The ride was supposed to take under 3 hours – it took 6. It was insane! And it did not help our plans for Cambodia.
When we eventually made it to the border we got out of the bus and headed straight to the custom’s office. We passed touts trying to lure us into visa cons and instead had to bribe the custom’s agent for our visa with extra US dollars. Still, we were making it on our own. We then lined up to go through the border and made it through, and into, Cambodia just fine.
With one leg of the trip done, we now faced the second: getting from the border to somewhere else than Siem Reap. Every other tourists at the border was on an organized border crossing (a tour-like money grab that can actually make your life easier) and we all piled up together into a shuttle to head to the bus & taxi stand. Everyone went off in their organized tour ways and we attempted to get a bus out. There were none. In an other money-grabbing scam (these are the norm at the Thai-Cambodian border), our only option was to take a taxi. Yet, no taxi driver wanted to drive just the two of us to the capital: they wanted two more passengers.
At this point, fighting frustration, we noticed another couple that seemed to be in the same situation as us. They had actually been in line in front of us at the border, and they seemed like nice people. We got talking, and they were indeed waiting for more passengers for their taxi. We learned that they were heading to Battambang – we had no idea where it was aside that it was past Siem Reap, nor what there was to do there, but we made the spontaneous decision to head there with them. It made sense really: we were now enough people for a taxi and we would be successful at getting further into the country.
We finally found a taxi to take us and off we were into the unknown. Over the next hours we talked about travel, work, and home (they from Tennessee, us from mixed North American origins). We got to know Natasha and Pete and discovered that we really liked them. Thus far on our travels we had not met any travelers that fit our style of travel, nor our personalities. At our age, we are either too old for the party crowd or too young for the older travelers out there. We never seemed to fit, and it had been pretty lonely thus far (if that makes sense, traveling as a couple). It was lovely to finally meet an awesome couple.
Once we arrived in Battambang we found a room but there was only one available at the hotel. Pete and Natasha went to look for a room elsewhere, and so we parted ways. We did not know at which hotel they ended up, and we were sad as we sat on our hotel’s rooftop for a beer. We should have exchanged contact info, or set up a meeting time for dinner! Thankfully not long after they showed up, feeling the same way! Overlooking the city we talked some more, ate dinner and drank beers.
It might have been a long day, and it might have been more complicated than necessary, but in the end we had had a good day. We had made it into Cambodia as far as we could get, and we had met Natasha and Pete. Cheers to that!