Anth in Phnom Penh

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Part 3 (The Horror)

Siem Pang to Stung Treng
journey: 5.5 hours by boat (downstream)

We get up early and jump on the earliest boat out of town. We are not entirely convinced that the first boat to leave Siem Pang will be the first boat to arrive in Stung Treng but decide to try our luck anyway. As I scramble down the bank with my pack the boat looks rather full. As is often the case with Khmer public transport, space is found for us newcomers, somehow. We nestle in the under-cover section and I try not to think about how long this is going to take!

The spare space that had been located on our arrival is slowly reclaimed as the boat picks up more passengers. After an hour I find myself compelled as the odd-one-out-barang to move onto the hot roof of the boat. From my vantage point I notice a bucket filled with scaly, writhing creatures. I go take a closer look. The bucket appears to be filled with lizards. I ask the man standing nearby what the name for this animal is in Khmer and he looks back at me sharply. Very quickly the bucket is covered up and I am back in my space on the top of the roof. I note to myself that it is best not to ask vocabulary questions regarding potentially illegal cargo and activities.

We arrive in Stung Treng and put all our energies into leaving. This unfortunately is not an easy task. We are hit by the full force of the Stung Treng taxi cartel who in a beautiful act of intimidation and cooperation refuse to take us even a kilometer out of the town unless we pay them a very sizeable sum of US dollars. Tempers are fraying and ‘We gotta get out of this place' by The Animals is on high rotation in my head. We try negotiations with a range of players in several different locations but it is to no avail. In an attempt to step around the taxi-ring we even go back to Mr James Bond (despite the fact that we had not forgiven him for ripping us off and giving us wrong advice). He was helpless (or unwilling) to go up against the taxi-junto and completely distracted by some newly arrived backpackers from Laos who he was very successfully selling over priced bus tickets to. After an hour or two of two-ing and fro-ing Andrew and I went into bat for the final time and negotiated a fare that we were vaguely comfortable with.

oh so happy to be leaving Stung Treng

This is me proudly displaying the $1USD we managed to save after our lengthy confrontation with the Stung Treng taxi-mob

Stung Treng to Ban Lung
journey: 5.5 hours by car
road condition: very bad

We set off, incredibly happy to be leaving. The car lurches and bounces along the bumpy, sticky road. I stare out the window at the lush forrest, ripe for illegal logging. We arrive in Ban Lung Ratanakiri around 9pm. It has taken us 2 and a half days to get to this point!


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