Before leaving for this trip, and even throughout, I have been warned time and time again about the tricks and scams that are often played on tourists. Though I knew all the tips from home would never be a full proof plan, and sooner or later I’d experience it firsthand. Welcome to Cambodia, or Scambodia as we have affectionately dubbed it.
A definite sketchy start – following the ‘day of death’, we were hustled and bustled countless times. Tired, frustrated, and still in the same clothes we’d been wearing two days beforehand, we were not in the mood to be messed with, and I think it showed.
We jumped off the bus, quite literally, into a sea of Tuk Tuk drivers. As the saying goes; things that seem too good to be true, most often are just that. Thinking we’d scored and beaten the common scam of overpriced Tuk Tuk’s, we fell straight into another. Instead of arriving at the border, we were taken to an ‘office’ that informed us that this was the place to get our visas. Hmmm…few alarm bells started ringing: the border was no where in sight, we had not yet passed through Thai immigration, no one in the office was wearing any sort of uniform, and every time we asked how much the visas were, we were given a different price. After discussing with some fellow travellers, we all decided something was up. YES! Travellers: 1, Scammers: 0.
Another thing I’d been warned out Cambodia was that they like to run on their own time, which seems to run about ten times slower than everywhere else in the world. When they say “two minutes” it’s more like 10. When they say “five minutes” it can be anywhere between half an hour to an hour wait. The immigration office and connecting bus ride into Siem Reap was testament to this, and also some of the most frustrating moments of my trip.
The immigration office was like Noah’s Ark, but instead of two of each animal there were two of each nationality, and instead of a boat it was a tiny cement room with no form of relief from the heat. I cannot even put into words what happened in that room, but it is enough to say that it was one of the greatest tests of my character to date.
Once passed there, we learnt that nothing in life is ever free. A ‘free’ shuttle took us, and our new friends (Sarah, Jacob and Robert) who helped us beat the scam, to the ‘bus station’ where we had the choice of all of one bus. After being promised it would take only 2 hours, it was 5 hours before we reached Siem Reap.
Fingers crossed that was enough scams to last the rest of our trip.