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Angkor Wat

Siem Reap

After a few days of rest in Bangkok we considered our next options. In order to get to Cambodia overland from Thailand, the most direct route passes through a place called Poipet. We had already heard about this town on the Thai-Cambodian border from other travelers. Poipet stood as a byword for scams and rip-offs, where the relative affluence of Thailand rubbed against the poverty and violence of Cambodia . It sounded like a wild west outpost. One ex-pat even runs a web site with schematic maps of the crossing and up-to-date information on transport prices and scams. We decided to take the public bus from Bangkok to the border, and then bargain for local transport once in Cambodia . We started out in Bangkok by getting snarled in early-morning traffic. As the route progressed eastwards, the land became drier. Farmers were burning their rice fields, leaving a vast, charred landscape. The land was flat and brown, dotted with palm trees, and the sky a dull, smoky haze. From the Aranyaprathet bus station a tuk-tuk took us the remaining few kilometers to the border. Touts swarmed around us, but we kept our cool, ignored their offers and headed for the visa office. After getting our passports stamped, we located a minibus, rounded up a few other budget travelers, bargained a price, and set off. No problem! The road from Poipet to Siem Reap is infamous for its condition. Unpaved, with plenty of dust, potholes and broken bridges, it is said that the government keeps it in disrepair to encourage tourists to fly into Angkor Wat. We passed tourists in the back of a pickup loaded with cargo, their heads wrapped in shawls to keep out the choking dust. The flat, scorched terrain was dotted with brown-topped palm trees. Our minibus swerved back and forth on the road, avoiding large holes and driving through ditches to bypass the ruined bridges. Impossibly situated in this barren landscape is Siem Reap, a tourist boomtown with five-star hotels and trendy restaurants. After finding a cheap guesthouse, we picked up copied guidebooks for Cambodia and Angkor Wat for a few dollars from the street vendors. The books look just like the originals: cover, colored pages, maps and all.

Gas Touring