In Flux: Poi Pet to Siem Reap
Siem Reap, Cambodia
The border between Thailand and Cambodia from Bangkok to Poipet is well established, as in, no longer in flux. The casinos went up and the border went from messy to dirty. There are lots of Thais crossing the border to gamble so one more tourist isn't a big deal. Siem Riep looks like a short little shimmy from the border, but that inch on the map is actually one hell of a birth canal leading to the wide world that is Cambodia. For the wee babes that cross the border in a big crew, its also one hell of a hustle. Once they've got you across the border, those friendly drivers turn to wolves and any group of tourists is a flock of lambs.
First comes the herding to the “taxi stand”. There are two choices kids: a $10 bus ticket on a bus that's gonna drop you off in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night at the guesthouse of their choice OR a $45 taxi-ride, safe and sound, to Siem Riep. Now choose. Some of the flock splits into cells of four that pile into taxis, some of the flock stick with their discounted bus tickets (the average discount is $3) and get herded onto the bus. Now comes the fun part: a four hour game of ping pong with your body between the roof of the car and the seat under you. Just be thankful it isn't the rainy season. The guidebooks are right; don't judge the entire country based on Poipet. Judge the transportation system. The border, and its scams, may be well established but the rest of Cambodia is a working example of a country that is in flux. There are only two things in Cambodia that are rock solid. The temples of Angkor are staggering. The atrocities of the Khmer Rouge Regime are staggering. Everything else is anyone's guess, and everyone is guessing.