07.10.2011 - 11.10.2011 28 °C
After a couple of more days on the beach we left Laem Mae Phim for Chanthaburi where minibuses to the Cambodian border depart. Long distant buses go daily between Bangkok/Rayong and Chanthaburi and even though they dont have any official bus stops in between, we had heard that they will stop along the road as soon as somebody waves them in. Thus, we left the village with a pickup bus, got off as soon as we reached the highway and after about thirty minutes or so of waiting we were on a doubledecker towards Chanthaburi. After three hours we arrived and proceeded to the River Guesthouse where we met some Dutch backpackers, also headed for Cambodia. The next day we decided to share a cab to the boarder crossing, very convenient we thought as all four of us would fit in the same cab and thus we´d reduce our costs by two without having to wait for more people to show up (which is usually the method for cheap rides around here). However as the cab turned out to be a minivan we realised that we wouldn´t have the luxury of sharing it between only the four of us. As we toured around the city in our Toyota minivan, the realisations kept coming for every new passenger climbing in. Nevertheless, after about twenty minutes the four of us (now fully aware of how much luxury 5$ will buy you in a Thai car pool) ten other passengers and the driver headed for Cambodia.
We arrived at the boarder, pushed our way through the usual crowd of "It´s O.K., I'll help you with you Visa so that you get through much cheaper and faster, just give me your passport" and "Sorry, the gate is closed for today but I know a cheap hotel nearby"-people and reached the Visa on Arrival area. We did some research before getting to the border so we crossed it at Ban Pakkard (instead of the north crossing where all the direct buses and trains from Bangkok unload) which meant that instead of 2-5 hours, we only had to wait about ten minutes as the boarder guard enthusiastically stamped our passports with every stamp he could find in his office and greeted us 'welcome to Cambodia!' Finding out beforehand that the official cost for a Cambodian Visa is 20$ and having two 20$-bills prepared also helped us as you are otherwise left to buy 20$ from the guard or somebody else nearby at the exchange rate they choose. (The Dutch people we were with bought the dollars from the guard with his modest commission of 66%).
Once past the boarder, the four of us shared a cab (this time only with the four of us plus driver in it!) towards the city of Battambang, which is our current location. The drive here was beautiful as we traveled between flourishing hills and temples, overtaking motorcycles overloaded with toys produced in Thailand.
In Battambang we found a great hotel whose owner also ran a small language school, adjacent to the hotel building. After a short introduction we were invited to visit the school and the visit quickly turned in to two one hour guest lectures for two high school freshmen classes. It became a mixture of geography, English and social studies and I'm not sure how much they understood of it all but at least they got some fun (and pretty unbelievable) facts, like that in Sweden they build a hotel out of ice every year, and that it probably wouldn't be such a good idea to go there by motorbike but if you did, you would have to be at least 20 years old, have a motorcycle drivers licence AND wear a helmet. Were they ever to undertake that journey to Europe they now also posses all the knowledge needed to navigate through the best ski-resorts of the Austrian alps!
Tomorrow we are heading on to Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat and some other temples, and we´re hoping it won´t rain that much as floods are sometimes a problem in this region but so far the weather looks promising. We just finished uploading pictures for the last post so check them out (we hope everybody realised how to browse through them in full size as well as watching slide shows etc using the photography link on the menu to the right) and we'll upload pictures for this post within a couple of days (as well as videos if we ever find a fast internet connection).