|Siem Reap to Bangkok
Wednesday February 6, 2013
Day 28 of G
We are all in the lobby by 6. Except Ray who arrives shortly thereafter. We have a bus waiting to take us to the border. Andrew has arranged for us to have these unique (eunich) little to go breakfasts consisting of a hard boiled egg, a piece of baguette, two slices of bread, some weird little sausages and bacon plus two tiny bananas, butter, jam, salt and pepper.
It is 2 1/2 hours to the border. When we arrive we get off of the bus and give our luggage to porters who take our luggage and put it in wooden carts that are to be pulled manually by them across the border. The carts look very heavy and primitive. i would prefer to see water buffalo pulling them not men. We won't see our luggage again until we emerge in Thailand but sometimes you just have to trust the system.
The smell here is very, very bad. It is so bad that many of us put eucalyptus balm under our nostrils. You would think that we would be impervious to bad smells by now but this is quite the olfactory assault.
We are surrounded by old world Cambodia here but right across the road there are fancy high rise hotels and casinos. It is a very weird dichotomy. We are hot, sticky, smelly and the regulatory process of leaving Cambodia seems very disorganized. After waiting in a queue that Andrew says is very short but slow we get both of our hands finger and thumb printed again and our photos taken. We then walk across no mans land between Cambodia and Thailand and enter Thai immigration. There is another longish, slow line in a hot building and finally it is my turn. I said hello in Thai and got a big smile and a laugh from the immigration official. Chris says that I probably didn't say hello at all but asked her how her armadillo was or something equally ridiculous. Anyway I like making people laugh even if it is at my expense. We had another photo taken for the Thai government. There was lots of stamping of papers and we are finally through. It turns out we could have paid $10@ and skipped the line in Thailand entirely. With different organization we might have been able to cut 1 1/2 hours off of this trip today. I'm sure all of us would have paid if we were given the option.
I was one of the last of our group to get through Cambodian border control. Some of the group is waiting in the nicely air conditioned, nice smelling casino in no mans land for the rest of the group to gather. Kim takes a good look at me carrying my lunch in a pink plastic bag, Jeff's new musical instrument wrapped up in newspaper and tape, my purse slung over my chest, my backpack on my back and my camera around my neck. She says to me " you don't look...rich." I think that was her way of saying that I looked like a bag lady.
We wait about 1/2 hour for our transportation on this side of the border. I go to use the WC. It costs 10 baht. I have a choice of one western toilet or five sqat toilets. There is no toilet paper available. If you use your own toilet paper it goes into the bucket next to the toilet. There is a drawing of a person squatting with their feet on top of the toilet seat. There is a line drawn through it and it is posted above the western toilet. Warning to the Asians, if you want to squat use don't use the western toilet. Though I do admit I squat above the toilet (but with my feet on the floor) above the western toilet because as squeamish as I usually am not, I don't want any contact with that seat.
Two vans arrive for us that are marginally acceptable for this long of a ride. We stop for a couple of short breaks. My sandwich from last night is decent. Jeff eats half of his and gives the other half to Claude.
We arrive at the Bangkok Centre Hotel around 3. We are all hot, tired, and a bit cranky. I think naps were on order for most of us. There is a nice symmetry to starting and ending the trip at the same hotel. I will rate this hotel very badly in my post trip survey. The staff is not well trained and the hotel itself has few redeemable qualities other than it is in a great location and is very cheap. with the amount of business G adventures provides the hotels they use I'm sure that they could do better. this hotel does not reflect well on them.
The wi-fi which at least I knew to ask for this time is very spotty and inefficient when it works which is seldom. The reception desk is still hiding the hotel cards where you can't see them and you have to request it to get one. There are still no maps available. The first room we were assigned smelled so badly of cigerette smoke that we hauled our luggage, which we had just hauled upstairs, right back down to get a new room. Chris and Kelly were right behind us with the same problem. Funny but Andrew says that this is a non-smoking hotel. I don't think so. Now our new room is less stinky but we have twin beds again. The receptionist was too dumb, poorly trained, just didn't care enough, or was punishing us for complaining to give us a double bed like we had requested and were given in the first unacceptable room.
We met as a group at 6:30 in the lobby. It is the last outing where we get to follow Andrew like little ducklings. It is amazing how many of the Thai people stare at him and even whip out their cellphones to take his photo. I think that it is because he is so tall. Why they stare at me I'm not sure.I'm fairly certain that it is not my height.
We took the MRT, or subway, for 6 stops. 27 baht each way. Then we walked a few blocks to the Cabbage and Condom restaurant. It is an NGO that has been awarded a million dollars from the Gates Foundation. The restaurant is used to raise money and to raise the profile of the organization. It was quite large and quite busy. The philosophy here is that condoms should be as cheap and as available as cabbages. They provide sex education particularly to the hill tribes who used to have 10-12 children and now more often are down to only 4 or 5 children per family.
The food was excellent but it was a trifle sad knowing that it was our last evening together as a group and that we would have to say goodbye soon to all of our new friends.
I sat at one end of the table with the Brits. We started discussing their accents and I made the mistake of saying that Kelly's accent sounded more "educated" to me. She thought that was great and said it is because she comes from the posh part of town. I think I offended Ray. He let me know that he has a masters degree. He does have the sharpest wit. I think he has made us laugh more than anyone else on the trip. He also has a soft spot for the down trodden, be they human or animal, that he tries to hide.
I asked Ray to do me a favor. I requested that he go over to Chris and say, with his best Liverpool accent: "You're not a Beatle!" I don't think he quite got why I wanted him to say it to Chris but he shrugged and did it for me anyway. I videotaped how Chris reacted. She was utterly delighted, got a huge grin on her face and jumped up to give him a big hug. He was quite surprised at her reaction. I loved it.
Andrew did not order his usual vast amount of food. He said that he wasn't feeling that well but then he went on to help me, Jon, and Phyl polish off our dinners. Ray, Jon, Andrew and Kelly went out for a drink but the rest of us went back to the hotel without them by the train. We were so proud of ourselves that we could find our way back without our fearless leader. Or fearless eater as he has also been called. It was already 9:30 and a new adventure begins again tomorrow quite early for most of us.
At the hotel we said our goodbyes. Kim whispered in my ear with a twinkle in her eye, " I know where Chicago is." See my entry on foot in mouth experience. Well Kim, if you know where it is come and visit us sometime.
I do hope that most of us stay in touch even if it is sporadically by email. Hint-hint.
Phyl, Clive, Jeff and I had a nightcap in the hotel bar. We had to track down someone to serve us and it wasn't easy. Clive and Phyl treated. As we were leaving I told Clive that I would miss teasing him about his dong. It is very sad to be at the end of the dong jokes.
I can't get the wi-fi to work and the staff is not being the least bit helpful over the phone. They want me to come down to the lobby so that they can show me how to do it. I am not the problem and I am already in bed so I guess you will all have to wait with bated breath for this installment of my exciting travel journal.