20.01.2012 - 20.01.2012 32 °C
It was an early start at Hualamphong Railway Station. We jumped (literally as the train was still moving) onto a train to Aranya Prathet. Benches claimed, windows down and food sellers in fine form – this was a fascinating journey through the city into the countryside.
Bangkok has a population of around 7.7 million people. It is chaotic, crazy and noisy with people constantly on the move. Apparently most of them were on the move at 6am in the morning. The roads around the train barriers were packed with moto drivers negotiating the train barriers to make a quick break across the tracks just in time to avoid being hit by our rickety train.
We passed by hundreds of slum houses made of odd shaped bits of wood, metal and plastic. I could literally reach out and touch them from the train as we rocked past. They were mainly empty, the residents already hard at work selling the food they’d been preparing since the early hours of the morning.
Numerous fires were just starting to fade and the smell of freshly cooked buns and waffles mixed with the rubbish and dirt on the tracks. Behind the slums hotels and apartments towered high above. A stark reminder of the gaping chasm between ‘modern’ Bangkok and third world Bangkok.
The train passed through miles and miles of paddy fields, stopping a various stations along the way to let of school children, workers and residents. The majority of backpackers were on for the full journey to Aranya Prathet.
From Aranya Prathet we made the short journey by Tuk Tuk to Poipet and as promised on numerous websites we were dropped off at the ‘Cambodian Visa Office’. One BIG scam. The visa office is on the Cambodian side of the border…luckily we’d already bought an e-visa so we escaped without too much hassle much to the annoyance of the waiting touts.
We crossed the border without too many problems and were shepherded to a nearby bus station where we were told the next bus didn’t leave for another four hours (by now it is the hottest part of the day). The only option left was an expensive private taxi, but after saying we’d wait we were shepherded onto a minibus (“Always room for one more?”) full to the brim with bags and tourists for the two-hour trip to Siem Reap. Window open we watched countless lorries, cars, motos and weird tractor carts pass us by, overflowing and overpacked with everything from pigs to motorbikes – usually stuck to the car with sellotape! I would have loved to take some more pictures but I was crammed with my face squashed against the window and the camera well and truly wedged under a Chinese tourists armpit for half the trip.
We arrived in Siem Reap sweaty and ready for a serious shower. Thankfully the Cashnew Nut Guest House greeted us with cold flannels and the helpful manager helped us plan our first few exciting days in the area.
Now time for some spring rolls and fish amok (Fish curry)…