At 3am in the moning of Sunday 4 May, just before leaving the Overstay Hostel in Bangkok, one of the guys, a Liverpudlian who ocasionally works behind the bar, told me he had a friend also taking the train, like me, to the Cambodian border that morning. He said she`d probably appreciate the company, especially crossing the border which can be a little confusing depending on which website you read and is notorious for money making visa scams. From the border train station in Poipet, Tuk Tuk drivers may take you to an unofficial visa office where you`ll pay more than the official visa rate. And indeed our tuk tuk driver tried to do just that but we insisted in being taken to the official visa office which is at the actual border.
Kora , from Liverpool but with no discernable accent, is a young lady with funky hair and an open and outgoing personality which isn`t loud or over the top. She was an ideal travelling companion and I was happy to spent a short time with her even after the journey once we`d reached Seim Reap. (You`ll be able to see her on my next video about this particular part of my journey). I knew what she looked like and kept an eye out for her when I borded the train at 5.45am in Bangkok that morning and it wasn`t long before I spotted her moving along the train looking for a seat.
It turns out Kora was a seasoned traveler having been brought up by adventurous parents and had had numerous journeys traveling overseas especialy with her mum. She was the odd one out at school, the black sheep as it were, with strange ways the other kids couldn`t understand. She`d recently being staying with reletives in Northern Thailand but had now come to the end of her Thai visa and so decided to visit Cambodia for a few days before going back into Thailand to a yoga beach resort.
So we hooked up on the train, journeyed across the border and then caught the bus together down to Siem Ream, a fun journey in the her company even though the weather just got hotter and hotter as we traveled further towards and eventually into Cambodia. The train had open windows which was great until there was a delay and then a slow moving section during which time the breeze disappeared and we sweltered in the heat. Once into Cambodia where there are is no railway, an air conditioned bus took us on a further 5 hour journey down to Siem Reap.
It was dark when we arrived and as Kora hadn`t booked a hostel in advance she decided she might as well come with me and see if there were any beds in the one I had booked. Afterall it is low season here (because of the heat) so it was likely not to be fully booked, which it wasn`t. Also, of course, it makes sense to share the cost of a tuk tuk. I had booked a private room (just for a bit of privacy to get some writing done really) but she settled on a dorm room in the Adans World Hostel, a pleasant, clean and quiet hostel about 5 minutes walk from the centre of town.
Later, we had a walk around the many street markets in town and what stood out was the hassling to get you to buy something from the traders, something that you don`t experience so much in Thailand. Also, drugs! It may have been Kora`s funky hair and new age hippy look or my crazy old hat that attracted them to us but we were apporoached at least 4 times during our less than 2 hour stroll that evening and offered everything from Marajuana to Cocain and Heroin. We, of course, said a firm no.
I must admit, next morning when I had to leave to continue my journey towards the south of Cambodia and Kora decided to try out out another hostel she`been recommended by a friend and was pobably busier than Adans World, I was a little sad to say goodbye. She was great company. And anyway I`m pretty sure our paths will cross again one day.
Eventually, the tuk tuk arrived to take me from the hostel to the bus station for my onward journey south to Phnom Pehn, which is where I am now, in the bar of the White Rabbit Hostel writing this blog post.
I arrived at about 8pm last night after a 7 hour bus journey through rural Cambodia and having briefly exchanged traveler talk in the latter part of the journey with Ruby a very nice young lady from Holland. I insulted her by saying I thought she was from the U.S. having heard her speak but it didn`t insult her that much because we shared a tuk tuk to our respective hostels in the same downtown district of Phnom Pehn. Ruby was on her way via Phnom Pehn to Vietnam the next day. (today).
Nation Highway 6, the main route from Seim Reap into Phnom Pehn is an eye opener. It takes you through the Cambodian countryside, through villages and townships both large and small. Cambodia is very flat (well, this part is anyway) and you can easily see miles of scortched land in the distance . Numerous simple little dwellings on stilts at the roadside, some made from wood and some from straw and mud with boney looking cows and calfs roaming around them. The cattle wander along the road from time to time even in the towns. You can see from all this how simply the majority of people live here. The road itself is unfinished. It often turns into no more than a dusty dirt track.
Quite a suprise then when you finally reach the centre of Phnom Pehn with its bustling sreets and bright lights. And a few high rise and very impressive looking hotels and other business buildings.
So, here I am at the White Rabbit. A very friendly, clean and extremely cheap hostel (under £5 a night) very near the centre of Phnom Pehn. I now have to travel further south for a few hours to a rural area to reach the CPOC Orphanage where I`ll stay for around 10 days before moving on to my next project just across the southern Cambodian/Thai border. I was supposed to leave today but I`ve decided to stay put for another 24 hours or so and catch up on a little writing and perhap I`ll do some video editing too. I also need to get my head around the local currency here. 4000 Riels to the US Dollar. Needles to say, even with only £40 worth in my bumbag, it is somewhat bulging at the seams.