I wanted to go to Cambodia for one reason only – to see the Angkor Wat Temple Ruins in Siem Reap. Reputed to be among the most beautiful ruins in the world, Angkor Wat has been discovered by tourists in the last few years and each day they descend upon the complex by the bus load. The Cambodian government is doing little to protect the ruins and damage is occurring; it is only a matter of time until parts of the site are closed to tourists in order to preserve these valuable antiquities.
Most people who make the side trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap fly but the $350 airfare would have blown my budget. Instead I decided to take the bus for $60 round trip, booking through the tour desk at the Royal Hotel where I am staying. The tour desk employee booked me through a company named Unseen Travel (should that have been my first clue that something was fishy?) and said the bus would pick me up at 7:30 a.m. in front of the hotel and that I would arrive in Siem Reap around 5 p.m I was dutifully waiting in the hotel lobby at 7a.m., but by 8 a.m. no bus had arrived. Finally, one of the hotel transport drivers called the company for me. Within a few minutes a short, round man with a Fu Manchu mustache and two-inch long fingernails arrived. Manchu grabbed my suitcase and headed across two major highways to the waiting bus, with me trailing behind. “Hotel street one way – bus not go,” he explained. An inauspicious start, but as long as I made the bus I wasn’t worried.
The Thailand part of the journey was without incident and around 12:30 p.m. we reached the border. That’s when things started to go wrong. Continue reading