So there we were in the middle of nowhere, jungle on one side, endless rice fields on the other. At least it seemed they were endless as we couldn’t see further that the lights of our taxi reached. The air conditioning in our vehicle was full on and we started to get cold. It was hard to communicate with our driver as he didn’t know English at all.
– Can we turn the air conditioning off?
– Do you mind if we turn off? (pointing at air blower)
– Ok, we will turn it off, just for a second…
And second it was. When we turned it off the damp air and smell in the car were unbearable. So we turned it on again. The driver just gave as a look “I told you so”. After a while, when we already started to yawn, a police patrol came out of blackness. They signaled us to stop. We looked at the driver, he seemed very reluctant, but he slowed down and stopped at the same time reaching desperately for his mobile. This did not alarm me right then. The policeman came over and knocked on the window. The driver didn’t react, he kept searching for a number in his mobile. The policeman knocked again. Now we were alarmed! Thoughts running through my head went something like this: “Who is more dangerous the driver or the patrol??? Are they looking for drugs, money or does the driver not have a license??? Should we run or stay?” The policeman knocked third time and the driver did not even lower his window. Another knock and the driver turned the inside light on. Uff.. this was enough for the policeman waved us away.
Our new friend had GPS on all the way to the city, so we knew how much further we needed to go and if we were on the right track. Everything was alright until the driver turned on road shoulder on the outskirts of Siem Reap. “What the heck?” And there it started again. We asked him what’s going on, as an answer we got only silence. We tried again, still nothing. Then came the tuk-tuks (with the drivers) and told us to get out. We said we wouldn’t we paid to get to the city center and we want the taxi driver to get us there. So it went for at least 10 minutes. In the meanwhile taxi driver (very angry taxi driver) got out of the taxi for a smoke walking to and fro. We said we wouldn’t move and stopped even talking to those tuk-tuk drivers. Bare in mind there was only distant light from a nearby hotel in sight, we were in the middle of muddy shoulder 5km away from city center and very tired. Walking wasn’t an option.
Finally one of the drivers said they will take us free of charge to wherever we want to get in the city center and it won’t be a problem. We got to know him later on as Tony, really nice guy with a sense of humor. So we took two separate tuk-tuks and the other couple decided to follow us to our hotel. We liked it, they wanted something closer to the center so they went on. We got a room on the ground floor just behind the reception. It was sooo good to take a shower! But we were starving! On the way to the hotel Siem Reap did not make a brilliant first impression. You could guess it was just after rainy season. There was plenty of dust, the main street was shrunken to a strip of asphalt in the middle of the road and there were guards outside of some hotels. Obviously if there are guards there is something to be guarder from! Tired, hungry and feeling insecure we decided to leave our documents, cash and credit cards in the hotel safe. Smart huh? So we went to the reception:
– Do you have a safe in the hotel?
– What sorry?
– A safe to leave passports? We would like to leave it in safe…
– Oh yes, please put here (taking out two brown envelops)
– But you do have a safe, yes?
– Yes, yes.
We put all the things we wanted to leave in the envelops and sealed them with stapler and waited to see where the guy is putting it, the safe is what we wanted to see. So we waited, and waited until it started to be awkward. He was tossing our envelops in his hands waiting obviously for us to leave. So we went outside the glass door and really slowly started to put on our shoes. You can guess we still wanted to see where he was putting them. But he was waiting. So we moved away behind the tuk tuk parked outside the door and kept observing. Still nothing. Finally deciding it was too ridiculous we made our way towards the center. Atmosphere was amazing. Dust everywhere, little light, people standing in groups on the side of the road, car, motorbikes and tuk-tuks passing us by all the time. We could only imagine that the damage to the roads was caused by the rains. It felt dangerous.
We got to Pub Street. It seemed like all light from the city was condensed in this one street with loud club
Pub Street Siem Reap
music, restaurants and bars next to each other. We were looking for traditional Khmer cuisine. Guess what! You can get everything: Italian, Mexican, Chinese… but not Khmer! We kept walking down the street until we found some stalls with local food, cheap, freshly made just in front of us and tasty. Surprise, surprise we also met our friends from the taxi, so we shared the meal and went together to the night market. For that time we forgot all about our worries, about the hotel, safe and documents, at least until we decided to head back to the hotel. Right then we started to worry again. So we walked as fast as we could to get those things back.
In front of the entrance to Night Market
When we got back the receptionist wasn’t there. He wasn’t supposed to be back until 6 am next morning and the night porter didn’t have a key to the safe. We asked the porter to call the receptionist because it was important, he refused (maybe did not understand, I think he did though). We went back to our room and tried to fall asleep. I constructed the plan of action called “what can we do if they steal it all”. No passport, no credit card, not too much cash. Ok, the plan was: hitch hiking to Phnom Penh to the embassy and letting them deal with it. How will we find the embassy, we will use the Internet in our hotel on their cost, they can’t refuse us this. When I imagined the whole journey I fell asleep and was woken maybe an hour later by shouting. At first we didn’t pay any attention, but
those people kept on shouting and we couldn’t fall asleep so we started to listen. The issue was: the hotel overcharged American teenagers and they didn’t agree to pay the bill well just the overcharge). The porter couldn’t do anything about it and the guests were supposed to leave before the receptionist comes in in the morning. They shouted for around 40 minutes. We were certain then we were not getting our stuff back. But I fell asleep short after the fight stopped anyway, I was just too tired. P woke me up in the morning bringing in the envelops from the reception… what a relief…
We got up around 11 am to meet Tony who took us to Angkor but more about it in the next post.
Let me know about your experiences in Cambodia and Angkor if you’ve been there! Any adventures?