Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Crucial Crossing

Throughout the night, the thunder had roared and the rain had lashed down.  I wouldn't have been surprised if we had been found bobbing around on our beds on top of the beautiful, briny sea.  The swimming pool was full to overflowing and we had to skirt carefully round it on our way to breakfast.  (Oh, before I forget.  When I did finally fall asleep, I dreamed I was caught in a spider's web. I woke in a panic, entangled in the voluminous mosquito net!).

Breakfast was cooked to perfection.  Poached eggs with crispy bacon and proper bangers.  Mouthwateringly good. I had just savoured the last piece when Savon, the guide and Mr Tour, the driver arrived.  As they loaded our luggage, I watched as a man next to us filled his vehicle with petrol from a can.  He was paddling in water.

I wondered about the advisability of travel today but we had places to see and planes to catch.  The two Cambodians seemed quite calm and cheerful.  They passed me an iced coffee to calm my nerves.  Now that did help.  

The air-conditioning had to be turned off as we drove through the flooding waters. We had experienced the same thing in the bus yesterday.  At least we had a clear view of other travellers.  Two piglets with their trotters in the air were in a cage on the back of a bike.  That would have been a brilliant score in 'Pass the Pigs'.  Two Razorbacks on the move.  Further on, two male motorbikers held hands to keep their machines stable as they drove through knee-high water.  

Temples, schools, shops and houses.  They were all flooded.  People were hurrying around trying to move their possessions higher or to build up a bank of sandbags.  

The flood waters receded a little as we travelled along.  Savon turned around.  With his cheeky grin, he asked if we minded stopping for five minutes at the next village while he said 'Hello' to his FB friend.  Hubby pointed to an old cow tied up by the roadside and said that might be her.  Savon laughed.  He pointed to a building and the driver slowed down. A pretty young woman stood outside and a grim-faced lady sat on a stool nearby.  Savon got out for a brief chat.  The old lady looked very stern.  When Savon climbed back in, we asked if she was prettier than his wife.  He said not, but she had a younger sister who would be visiting him in Siem Reap.  Well I never!

Savon tried several times to phone the guide in Thailand but got no response.  He was not happy about this and phoned his office to check if anyone had tried to contact them.  No one knew what was happening.  All he could do was to give us his phone number so we could phone if no one was there to meet us.  

The border was busy and bustling.  We said farewell to Mr Tour and hoped that his dream of becoming a guide would succeed.  Savon waited while we queued at Cambodia's passport control.  All straightforward.  We retrieved our cases from Savon and said goodbye.  We were off into the unknown.

Having crossed through No Man's Land, we had to complete a short form and join a short queue.  Five minutes later, four tour groups arrived, turning our very short queue into a very long one.  Thank goodness we wrote quickly.  

Hubby was first to be stamped and allowed through.  He pointed to a 'No Waiting' sign and disappeared through the doors.  He had abandoned me!! I was quickly stamped and dispatched.  I hurried through the door and caught up with my other half.  In perfect harmony we walked through the female/male drug sniffing area.  This us not where you get to sample it.  It is where the patrol dogs come to test out their training.  Eat your heart out Bridget Jones.  We made it through.  I had kept a firm eye on my luggage - except when I left it with Savon.  Ooh-er!!

Exiting the building and entering Thailand, we were immediately greeted by Tatalia, whose name meant gift.  Well she was a very pleasant present for us at that moment.  She even gave me some money so that I could use the toilet.  We hadn't changed any to their currency yet.

As we drove away, in an extremely comfortable car, something felt wrong.  It didn't feel right.  Then I realised we were on the left-hand side of the road.  My brain had only just realised.  Hubby's hadn't clicked until I mentioned it.  It felt so weird.  

Not only that, the few hundred yards separating the two countries, also separated a wealth of development.  Dual carriageways, service stations and better housing came into view.  Even the pigs had better transport.  No bikes for them.  They were in a triple-tiered truck.  
There were no 'no honking' signs here.  It was so peaceful not having to listen to the constant horn blowing.  The drivers seemed better trained too.

Our driver and guide seemed surprised at how quickly the flood waters had risen.  They had driven there two hours earlier.  There was no sign of water.  Now it came well up the sides of the wheels.  At one point, it was difficult to work out the edge of the road.  Thankfully we had a good driver.  Of course, we had to manage without the air-con until the danger area had passed.  That was a small price to pay for reaching our goal.  

We stopped for lunch at a service station.  Once again, the guide loaned us money. It was fun choosing from the photo boards. A tasty pork noodle soup was polished off, followed by curly coconut shapes.  I resisted the ice-cream as the booth was placed next door to the toilets!  

Back on the motorway, a driver cut us up badly.  It was only the sharp reaction of our driver that prevented a nasty accident.  We both donned our seat belts, having been lazy over this whilst 'On the Buses'.  I was very tired but noticed a sign saying 'Waste Elimination Centre'.  I made a mental note of several people I would like to send there. 

The high skyscrapers of Bangkok started to appear.  Hubby joked that I should send the photo of one to his friend Gordon, of the popcorn and Sunderland fame.  Why?  It sported a picture of Wayne (in my eyes Shrek) Rooney.

Very tired, we arrived at the Silom Serene Hotel.  Yes, we had free wi-fi.  We also had free little black insects.  Once again, I was the target. I summoned the housekeeper who arrived bearing a large aerosol can.  'Nest, nest,' she repeated.  Nest of what?? Not a nest of tables, that was for sure.  Hubby thought they were only storm flies but I knew different. Tired and weary I crawled into bed, pulling the sheets so that no creepy crawled would get me.  Now turn out that light please 

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