Summer travels – overland from Thailand to Cambodia

On Monday afternoon Christina and I left Dolphin Bay and signed into a guesthouse near Khao San Road in Bangkok. It was on Soi Rambuttri, the same street Carla and I stayed on 4 years ago, so that was fun for me. We walked past the guest house Carla and I stayed in, and I remembered sitting in the front foyer area soaked to the skin trying to dry off before it was time to go to the airport to fly to Australia.

After dropping our stuff we bought bus tickets to Phnom Penh and found a place to eat. They had a very tame little cat sucking up to all the customers. I ordered steamed red snapper with chili, garlic and lime – so good!

The motion-sickness, dizzy spell and insomnia of Monday made sense when I woke up shortly after 4:30am Tuesday with a migraine. Great timing… I took some pills which eventually controlled the headache but I felt really nauseated most of the day. Thankfully I was with Christina and she was great!

A mini bus picked us up (along with three others) to drive us 5 hours to the border with Cambodia. The zipping around and stop-starting of morning traffic in Bangkok was too much for me – I was about to throw up right there in the car. Christina dumped snacks on the ground to give me a plastic bag and the driver refused to pull over (“can’t stop in traffic jam”). By some miracle I held it together and climbed over into the front seat in hopes that would be easier. It was, but my stomach was cranky the whole trip.

Despite this, I did enjoy the scenery of travelling overland. Even in Bangkok, when I was feeling my worst, I enjoyed the little side streets, the raised roads, and a beautiful little avenue. I love the character of Bangkok; it has a sense of personality missing in the Khao San area but evident everywhere else I’ve been. There’s a similarity with Beijing in there – an ancient city which has become a modern metropolis but retains the marks of age. Outside Bangkok the high rise buildings disappeared and there were wider views. On one stretch of road we drove past 10 or so wooden stalls each selling fresh watermelon. The noteworthy thing is that each had round, red, slices of watermelon strung up, I assume as a method of advertising.

By the time we arrived at the border I was feeling a bit better – the migraine had passed but the post symptoms still had me feeling wiped out. We were dropped off a few hundred metres from the border and walked alongside the large trucks queuing to cross. It was my first time to walk across a border. The only time I’ve even driven a border was between the US and Canada a few times when we lived there in 96-97. The way I change countries is go through immigration to depart, fly for a few hours, go through immigration to arrive. It was strange to have only 200m separating departure and arrival! The space in between had a bunch of casinos, not something I’d expected but it figures.

After several queues in the hot weather, we crossed the border and took a free shuttle to the Poi Pet bus station. It had taken an hour from arriving on the Thai side and we’d missed the bus we were supposed to take so we had an hour wait til the next. The bus driver turned on the AC so we could sit in the bus in comfort which was nice. Then I suddenly rushed out and threw up on the ground next to the bus. As often happens, once empty I felt better than I had all day! I wasn’t 100% but it was much more manageable the rest of the way.

The bus took off half an hour later and again I enjoyed watching the countryside pass. I saw some women planting rice by the side of the road, plenty of rice paddies and palm trees, monks on motos, skinny cows, street vendors, and stray dogs. I realised that the trees with bright orange flowers so reminiscent of Sydney’s Illawarra flame trees continued over the border into Cambodia as well. They are all around Phnom Penh, although I don’t recall seeing them before – perhaps I missed their flowering season on my previous trips.

The bus stopped many times on the way to Phnom Penh, to pick up or drop off passengers, and some rest stops for food etc. In the end it took 8.5 hours to get to Phnom Penh; we arrived at 10:30pm and took a tuk-tuk to Christina’s house. I crashed out quickly and slept the longest and most sound sleep I’d had on the whole trip.

Today we moved to a house where Christina is housesitting this summer. (I’ve met the daughters of the house on previous trips to Phnom Penh). The garden is beautiful – not even the Shunyi houses in Beijing have such a big, nice yard. Later we went to the airport to meet Susan, who will be here for a month. She’s a Tribe friend from Beijing now back in the States for school. We celebrated our reunion with Chinese food and massages!



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