Shake, Rattle and Roll
Trip Start Dec 14, 2004
27Trip End May 25, 2005
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so, around 12 noon on sunday we hopped on a boat for four hours. this was the beginning of a tiring, yet interesting, 36 hour journey to get to siem reap, cambodia. from the boat we took a tuk-tuk to our bus. we got on the bus around 7:30, headed for bangkok, and had a very uncomfortable and smelly ride. we got off in bangkok around 7 the next morning and took a taxi to our next bus ride. some of the buses are double decker, and this one we sat on the bottom, which is only a very little room... but the padded leather ceiling made us feel like rockstars. we stopped, about 5 hours later, at a little place right outside the cambodian border to get our visas and eat some lunch. little did we know what we were about to endure. we had been warned of pickpockets at the border and a rough ride to the capital, but we just had to experience it all to really believe it.
among the lessons learned at this point in the trip, one is "never carry a mesh bag". Jodie had a mesh bag filled with the remains of some snack food, a deck of UNO cards, felt tip pens, books, etc. after making it through the Thailand departure booth, we had to wait for the rest of our group. Jodie was swarmed. In a matter of moments, there were 5, then 8, then more kids hovering around her, pointing excitedly at her bag, saying things in cambodian that most certainly meant "Give me that! I want!". We were totally unprepared for this. Traveling in areas where poverty reaches an unimaginable degree, as it does here, does things to the mind- Jodie panicked. "What can I give them?". "Here-" (Hands them half a tube of Ritz crackers). Two of the children run off to horde their gains. More children come. "One Baht!" They want us to give them money. If we could, we would. But one baht isn't enough. And we all stand there, with more junk on our backs then these children may own over the course of their lifetime and just feel guilty. And sad. And overwhelmed. And every shade of this righteous indignation that we feel is compounded by more and more children coming to see what the American girl has in her see-through bag. Jodie digs through her purse now, panicking-desperate to find something to give to these children. An almost-full pack of Trident gum. Before she can get it open to distribute it piece by piece to each child, one of the bigger ones reaches forward, grabbing the whole pack. As the kids fight it amongst themselves, it's clear that the little one in the back, the one with the runny nose won't be getting a piece of the gum. To say we were flooded by the guilt and the terror of the moment would be an understatement. We were finally able to walk away, and walked in a stunned sort of silence across the border, into Cambodia.
around 3:45 we boarded the minibus with about 20 other people. it certainly wasn't as crowded as it could've been, and the air conditioning was a welcomed treat. the road was certainly rough... but something we're quickly learning is-- things can always get worse.
after our dinner stop, our guide "chris", says, "we have about 3 more hours, and the road will be better."
"no, not better. badder."
heh. our teeth were clattering against each other, our brains felt as though they had dislodged a bit and were jumping around in our heads, our cheeks were vibrating... and for three hours, we could've played the game that you think is funny when you're a kid: making a noise come out of your mouth just to hear your voice shake because it's funny. after dinner it had gotten a little dark, but the lights were on in the van and people were talking to each other. suddenly, the driver turned the lights off, and a very eerie feeling envelopped the entire car. we were driving in pitch black (minus the headlights) and could only make out the outline of trees in the distance. sometimes, being on this side of the world, home feels very far away. at this moment, the very idea that we would ever make it home teetered on the edge of impossible. at one point the moon appeared in a low corner of the sky, glowing orange and big, as if to say, "see? it's okay, normal things are still happening," before creeping back under the clouds.
around 10:00, 34 hours later than when we began our journey, we arrived at the guesthouse. hallelujah. happy to have 3 semi-comfortable beds in a room with a/c and a toilet that actually flushes.
so, for any of you who feel like making a pledge or a donation to the "fly jodie allison and rachel back to bangkok so they don't have to go back the way they came" fund, we invite you to do so. (we're only half joking.) :)
we will spend the next three days exploring the majestic temples of angkor, and then we will begin the journey back to the north of thailand. tonight, we have been invited to a cambodian wedding celebration, and we think it will be fun.
allison, jodie, and rachel