Storms, Scooters and Scams

Trip Start Jan 16, 2009
Trip End May 26, 2009

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hello there everyone,

Well after our dodgy meal the next day we did indeed have a day at the beach, apart from a brief interlude where, true to form, it chucked it down with rain and stormed etc and we had to leg it the nearest cafe. The sun managed to come out for the last couple of hours of the day so we chilled there till we got too hungry and then wandered back for a shower and stuff. That night we ate at a lovely beach restaurant at sunset and emma (Raywood) finally had the pudding she'd been talking about getting for daaays. I was quite close to throwing the ice cream at her when she finally got as she'd been going on about it for so long.

The next morning we got an early taxi bus to the ferry pier, where of course it was raining again, where we were going to get the slow boat to the next island on our list Ko Mak (and the last I promise). The boat was uneventful apart from us laughing at the most cliched traveller guy ever, with the long hair, beard, hippy clothes, and then to top it off he pulled out his hammock and tied it to the boat pole when everyone else was just sitting quietly on plastic chairs. It's fine though he got his come uppence when a load of water that had been gathering in the plastic of the roof finally came through and got him wet. We were laughing as we'd been hoping that would happen for ages.

When we got to the island we stumbled to the first bunglaow place that we saw that wasn't a resort. It was really nice we had our own little bamboo bungalow and for cheaps. This island was the most uninhabited place we'd been so far. The whole island only has about 500 people living on it and where we ended up staying was pretty much right on the beach but the only thing within walking distance was a minimart, which didn't really have a lot in it apart from a couple of free standing shelves with some crisps on. So seeing as the weather was pretty rubbish we decided to hire a moped from the same shop (they also had snorkelling gear) and see the island. And discovered there wasn't really a lot to see, where the road wasn't tarmaced wasn't really passable due to the appalling weather recently making the mud road into clay so we couldn't really go down any side roads, which was probably for the best really.

After wandering around on the moped for a couple of hours, I was driving seeing as Em was all scared, we decided to try and find a view point. Although we failed at this, and as we were coming back from this failed mission the wind started up and we knew a storm was coming (surprise surprise) so we legged it back. It was actually terrifying though on the way back, the trees were going mental and loads on branches etc were all falling down around us and we were the only one on the roads, as theres not a lot of traffic on the entire island. It was really loud aswell with all the wind and the trees crashing down around us. Anyway we managed to get back in one piece, parked the bike then legged it to our hut hoping we didn't get hit on the head with all the falling coconuts. Terrifying times. So we watched the storm from our porch thing, the electricity had also gone and didn't come back for several hours, well after it got dark but they brought round candles after the storm had ended. It was really loud and quite exciting, we were just hoping that a cocount didn't come crashing through our bamboo (or maybe palm) roof and kill us. Luckily we're still here though. After this we didn't really do a lot apart from wander to the restaurant attached to the minimart for some dinner and go to sleep. That night there was another MASSIVE storm, definitely the loudest one yet. And Emma slept entirely through it. That girl is a master of sleeping. Luckily still no coconuts through the roof so we were ok.

The next day we still had the ped for a couple of hours so we went to a different part of the island that we hadn't seen before, turns out there wasn't much to see and it nearly went horribly wrong as I was trying to turn the ped round (apparently not one of my strong points) and very nearly crashed into a palm tree, then 5 minutes later we went through some really deep mud from the storm the bike fell over, luckily we were going ridiculously slowly, so it was fine. After we took the ped back it was aaaallmost sunny so we went to the beach and sat around for a couple of hours, the sunset was amazing. We ate dinner at our bungalow common room/reception area where they had the most gorgeous 2 week old puppy.

The next day we left early to head to the mainland and begin our journey to Cambodia. We had been on beaches for ages at this point and a change definitely was in order. All was going fine, we left the island early morning on a speedboat passenger ferry (very fancy) and got a bus on the other side, all fine apart from the absolutely mental minibus driver who seemed to love driving on the wrong side of the road a little too much. At about midday we arrived at a travel agent just before the Poipet border crossing to get our visa. Now we knew this was wrong as we had looked into it and you can definitely get visas on the border and this particular border was known for scams. The woman at the travel agent also wanted to charge us 1300baht for it (25 pounds), when the visa at the border costs $20 (14 pounds). So we held our ground and said no, she was really pushing it saying we wouldn't be able to get a visa at the border and you had to go to the embassy where it would take several days to get. But I kept saying no we know that's not true and she kept saying it was and had to get it now otherwise the bus would leave us at the border etc. Anyway in the end we didn't pay them or get them to do it, and neither did a German couple who were on the bus. Another couple of German girls who were on did however get them to do it. So they got taken off in another car with all their bags. At this point we started to get bit worried as we were in a town about 8km from the border with no way of getting there. But after about half an hour the bus man came back and took us to the border and we arrived somehow just after the German girls.

Luckily we had been prepared for some sort of scam, this particular one is even explicitly mentioned in the LP as a common one, the bus driver gets a commission and the travel agent gets all their money for it, the company we booked it through knew nothing about it as the German guy rang them up and asked so it was all on the bus driver, at least we knew then why he was driving so crazily, he had to get there with enough time to spare to take us to the scam place. Luckily we knew we were in the right and managed to not get taken in by her saying all the stuff about not being able to get on. Anyway that wasn't the last of the scams. When we got to the border we went to the official visa place there and even though there was a massive sign above the office saying the visa was $20 the guy wouldn't do it for less than $25, so another argument ensued where I was saying we KNEW it was $20 and everyone else said it was $20 etc and he was saying the sign was wrong. What could we do we didn't want to stay there that long arguing as we didn't want to miss the bus and we'd already lost sight of the others we got on the bus with. In the end we said we'd give him $3 extra dollars each on the $20 price. He said no but he would take one of us giving him $25 and the other one giving him $20 plus 100 baht (2 pounds). So it was obviously a scam if he'd take that. Anyway we did that and went to go through the border.

When we got to the other side we didn't really know where to go to find our bus. All we had in the way of a ticket was a sticker on us of a smiley face,which they'd given us in exchange for taking our ticket. This may seem weird but is common in Thailand and we've never had a problem with it before, there's always been someone there in the bus area when we've needed to change buses. Anyway apparently it doesn't work across borders. There was no one there and we'd long lost the other people we were with, after despairing for a while we just decided to sod it and buy another one just so we could get moving. It wasn't too bad ($10) and we set off for Siam Reap, we arrived there 5 hours later to a nice surprise waiting for us in the hostel. But that's for another entry (that's suspense that is!)....

Bye for now

Emma & Emma xx
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