Sunday, October 22, 2006

pickpockets and the long road home...

wow so i'm back from Cambodia...i have a little story to tell you and you might think it's a wee bit crazy, but it is all true.
so Cambodia i had a REALLY hard time getting into the country, if you're keeping up on my blogs you know this, but i wanted to give it a chance. i mean supposidly God was living here so i had to give it a chance. i went, i saw, i photographed. i was having a delima trying to decieded to go east or west, thailand or veitnam. on my last day i saw some distant temples and spent so much time on a motorcycle that i rather wished i haddn't done the trip, the road was rather rough and my legs and ass are just not used to prolonged motorcycle travel. the end of the tour only took half a day and i had the rest to spend in town buying presents for all you lovelies at home.
as stated previously there is a large begger population in cambodia, and unfortunatly it is the children that swarm you and grab you and tell you they're hungry. well being the huge child lover my first reaction is to kick them or push them, knock them to the ground and make them cry, anything to keep them away from me. well i just really wanted to fight that urge so instead i was trying to have a little fun with them and talk to them. well that wasn't a very good idea either, because somewhere between touching the little street vermin and packing my bag to leave the next day my camera was so skillfully removed from my backpack. those little fuckers. i went out into the night and asked at my hotel, i asked at the resturant i had been in earlier, i searched the street for those dirty little kids, and found nothing. they were good and i was dumb, and for my stupidity i spent today shopping and spending $150 on a new digital camera. part of me wanted to resist, not to buy one because i just bought this one for my trip, but really who would that be punishing? so all the pictures i've been promising you, they aren't going to happen. a month of tourist snapshots down the drain. me getting my feet tattoooed, angkor wat, countless bus rides.
so bad taste in my mouth on the last night in cambodia, after that i was hurt and upset and ready to blow this pop stand.

the next day 6am. insomnia is a bed hog and i had been tossing and turning through the night waiting for some reason to get out of bed and leave the hard twin mattress to it. sunrise was reason enough. i got up, i searched for the camera thinking i had simply done what? misplaced it? i searched several luck. i hefted my pack, weighed down by a few new purchases, and headed down to wait for my 7am bus. there are already 2 canadians waiting and i leave my pack with them and go to get some fresh bread and water for my trip. the bus trip from siam reap to bangkok is supposed to take like 8hours, about 4hours to the boarder and about 4hours from the border to bangkok.
if you have ever traveled by bus in asia, or any 3rd world country you will no that no rules apply. they never leave at a certain time, unless you are late, and they never ever arrive when they say they will, and the trip is always longer than you are told.
so the 3 of us pile on a semi decent bus at 7.30 and leave to pick up the rest of the passangers. all the passengers are backpackers, and of course it takes another hour to get them on the bus, figure out we don't have room for everyone, try and figure out who doesn't belong, where are the bags going, etc. so finally we leave, but then we stop to get the driver breakfast, then we have to pick up several cambodian friends that lounge in the isla, then we have to stop for gas, and then we just stop for the sake of stopping. then we go.
we are on the road for maybe an hour, getting out of the city into the country side, it goes from pavement to rumbeling dirt, and then it stops. or we stop. there is a traffic jam ahead. a traffic jam that is so large and has been there so long that a few entrupenurs have set up shaks and are selling food and drinks. what's the problem? well flooding, flooding that the government and the bus companys know about, but sell forginers "un-refundable" bus tickets anyways. so there we are about 25-27 backpackres sitting in a bus waiting fo something to happen. there is a huge line of buses and trucks ahead of us, so the driver turns off the engine and gets out like he is suprised. so we all get out. there are about five good sized buses and trucks stopped in front of us full of other tourists and local people, we walk past them to where the water starts. we now have a running river infront of us about 30yrds across, and there are two trucks that decieded to drive on the side of the road in the water and have sunk half way. they are blocking the road.
so we sit for hours, while they try to move the trucks, this consists of nothing. cambodians scratching their heads, looking at the trucks and doing nothing. there is a french woman with us who is getting angry, she needs to get to bangkok tonight, she is mad. being an american i'm like, hey i paid my $ they have to get me there, plus i have time on my side. i sit i chat , i am unworried. the french woman goes to work. i suggest we do a passanger swap with a bus on the otherside of the river, she wades across for info. but no no passenger swap, instead the driver stummbels onto this magical idea, he just happens to have a friend parked right next to us with a dumpster like tractor, that has been there since before we got there, and if we each pay an additional $10 dollars his friend will take us to the border, money up front of course.
we are mad, and don't want to pay, especially before we get to the border, we argue with the driver, a lot of people are told to fuck off and go back to siem reap, i think this situation is funny, but definitly don't want to go back. we decieded that the french woman will hold the money and once we are at the border the driver can have it. so we go. we take the route directly between the two stranded trucks, which were going the same way as eachother so who knows why they decided to veer off the road and into a deep ditch when it was obviously flooded. so there we are, out in the bright sunshine, i had left off my sunblock for the day because it has been hurting my eyes, and in good faith i assumed i'd be inside a bus all day, all the bags are under us and we use them as cushions, i'm thanking God that i pulled my mamiya out of my big bag and packed it in my day pack this morning. i fell sad as i think of my film getting pressed out of shape as someones ass is resting on my bag at the moment, but there is nothing i can do. we cross the first river with sucess, and the crowd cgeers as if we have performed some biblical like mirical, we have crossed.
in the next oh 6hours we will cross aproximatly 15more rivers. our truck humps and bumps and knocks us into eachother, there is nothing to hold onto, nothing to hide under. i take my wrap out from my bad and kiss it. i twist it around my body and my face, i feel like a muslim woman in rhinestone glasses and i hide from the sun.
our truck is not infaliable and gets stuck twice, we all jump out only to find ourselves in thigh high waters, the tires spin uselessly. the first time there is another tractor near that pushes us to the shore, the second time we push us out of the ditch. out of the truck into the water, walk to shore, into the truck, drive a few minutes, out of the truck, into the water, push the truck, hang onto the camera, walk to the shore, get in the truck.
we finally reach an impass. it is what i imagine closed borders to look like when people are trying to flee. they are all dirty and tired, possessions strung around their bodies. we are tired and dirty, we gather our bags, our meager possesions and we are told to walk, there will be two trucks waiting for us. so we beging to walk. my pants are already soaking wet so i don't bother to roll them, i heft my bag, clutch my camera and remove my flip flops. the current of the river makes it hard for me to walk in my shoes, it trys to pull them away from me with every tiny step, but when i take them off i am trapped betwen a bed of sharp rocks and a bed of clay so smooth and slippery i slide with every little step. this is no good. no good at all. i find a shallow spot, i put the shoes back on, the current fights me for them. it grabs my left flop and pulls the toe piece out of the foot pad, it dangles and threatens to carry it away, i drag my left foot quasi-moto like behind me until i reach dry ground. the trucks are waiting.
there are two small toyotas waiting, we pile the bags in, people jam into the cab, jam into the bed. i hop on the roof of the cab with he canadian i had meet earlier, proped up on bags my scranny ass sits directly on a crisscrossed metal roof rack. we are told we have 2.5 hours till the border.
now imagine if you will the movie grease, remeber the bad guy with the poc marked face? well take his face and flatten the contures of it into a road, a road with potholes so deep you could lose a kitten in them. that was our road, that was the 2.5 hours to come with several other rivers to cross.
the novilty of riding on the roof quickly wore off. i sat backwards feeling out journy before i actually saw it, the road dwindeling. i never new when we were about to cross water until we slowed, slowing was a bad sign. it ment bumps, it ment throwing me to one side, into a canadian, or throwing me to the other, towards the edge i already had my feet dangeling over.
i had to close my eyes, i had to focuse on my hands, my fingers, keeping grip on metal bars that bit into them. i had to twist my body as my weight constantly was thrown, my back and my but and my legs bouncing into the roof rack, my feet looked for somewhere to rest somewhere to help me hold my weight, hold my place. my mantra became almost there almost therealmosttherealmostthere. they wouldn't even stop for us to pee, so i doubted they'd stop for me to change seats, and who would want to change anyway? we looked like a buncj of refuges 12 of us in the back of this truck. i watched as the other forginers turned lobster red from the sun and then a sick unreal orange as their sweat was combined with the dirt from the road. i wrapped my wrap tighter, and crossed it over my face tucking part of it in my mouth so i could hold on with both hands. my day pack sat in frot of me, arms looped backwards through the holes, my arms getting rubbed raw from the rougher part of the straps.
i tried to become very zen with it, very in the moment, and actually it worked, it was fun and adventourous and it would make a good story, but fatigue began to set in and i just prayed i didn't let go.
we did eventually make it to the border, and across. i never thought i would be so glad to see thailand. waiting for us was a double decker luxery bus, a bus with seats so plush that streched so far back i thought i was in heaven. a bus that palyed us movies for the next five hours as we wound our way into bangkok. o loved this bus, i could have cried when i got on this bus and curled up in a seat.
we got into bangkok late last night, about midnight. i showered, i drank, i ate cheap pad thai, it was all a girl could ask for.
today i stayed in my pajamas till 3pm, i brushed my teeth in my room and spit into an empty beer can so i wouldn't have to walk down the hall to the toliet. my body is sore and i think i will hide out here till i'm ready to brave a bus again.
so in closing i really hate to say, i hate cambodia, but the verdict is still out on that one. Cambodia was definitly an experience, overall, except for the camera, a pretty funny one. but i fell as if we are star crossed lovers, it is my romeo, and maybe i should just relish the time i had but stay far far away from it.


Anonymous said...

just hang in there sis. these experiences will make you a better, smarter and tougher person. and when you're back here, you are always welcome to stay in our humble abode and you can be a real superstar. take care.

Anonymous said...

Woah. Talk about throwing yourself into it! They say traveling is the hardest school there is. Perhaps we will soon be able to put letters after your name. Kristine Adams, WT, phD.
(w0rld traveler doc)