Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cambodia part 1 (Phnom Penh and Kep)

My first stop in Cambodia was Phnom Penh. I flew in from Bangkok, and I was super excited because that night I would be reunited with Anna! I rode from the airport to the hotel in literally one of those carriages that takes you around Central Park. Okay not literally, but just imagine that carriage but the horse be replaced by a motor bike. 

We stayed at the Fancy Guest House, which in fact was not so fancy. The guesthouse was though right around the corner from the river and where all of the restaurants were at. Of course right when got there, our first thought was we need food! We found a pizza place and yes we each ate a whole pizza to ourselves. Anna if you are reading this... here is to a night of eating a lot, funny/ scary/ embarrassing moments, and a whole lot of tv hahha :)

Wine with ice, or maybe the other way around
We decided to go to Kep next, which was a spot near the water known for their crab! Kep is a French influenced town and it was beautiful. Anna and I ended up spending a good amount of time here due to weather, trouble with buses, and it had good food and wine. Here we were able to rent a motorbike and explore. A few of the places we went were the pepper farm, the crab market, Rabbit Island, and a temple. Rabbit Island was just a 25 ish minute boat ride away from Kep and was supposed to have a beautiful beach to lay at. We thought about staying here overnight, but then we found out there is no electricity... needless to say we changed our minds. I don't like to think I am high maintenance but the though of sleeping without even a fan in the middle of hot season sounded miserable. This was a day when you just couldn't help but laugh. When we arrived at the beach we found "chairs" to lay on which were just wood boards. We decided to get a massage at the beach to treat ourselves, but poor Anna had the most painful, sandy, unenjoyable massage of her life. Soon enough it was time for our boat ride back...it began DUMPING rain... like there was monsooning. 25 minutes that felt like 45 minutes we arrived back at our guest house looking like we swam back from rabbit island. At this point we were exhausted and couldn't go anywhere due to the inability to drive a motorbike in torrential downpours. So this resulted in us watching Harry Potter with dinner, dessert, and wine delivered by room service. We deserved it right?
The way home from Rabbit Island

Rabbit Island
The next day there was nice weather, and we wanted to go up to this temple Anna spotted up on the hill. As we were driving along the road toward the temple, this Cambodian woman begins screaming to us, "TEMPLE?! TEMPLE?!" and pointing at the temple. Hesitantly we say yes, and she pulls over and motions for us to do the same. Thinking that maybe she had some insight or was going to give us directions, we pulled over. She abruptly jumped behind me on the bike and told Anna to "GO, GO!" This woman is laughing and screaming and pretty much insane. Anna and I exchange looks that pretty much are reading what the hell should we do. So what did we decide? Oh to continue driving to the temple with her on the back. When we got to the temple she is giving us a tour, taking pictures for us.. and then begins to tell us how she has no money and has sick kids etc. Then it clicks, we are being scammed but at this point there is nothing we can do because we are stuck on a hill with her. We go back to our bike to find a man waiting there, we are pretty sure he was there to make sure we gave her money. So we got back on our bike, yes with this woman on the back. Before we got on the back Anna had handed me pepper spray to get this lady just in case she started going crazy. As we are on our way back to her bike she begins yelling at us to pull over, we are at her house. Anna stops, the lady jumps off and is telling us to hold her kids and come inside. Anna and I look at each other and in unison yell GO! We were off, free, and still very confused what had just gone down in the previous 30 minutes. But we are alive, got the tour of the temple, and yes mom we learned our lesson :)
Anna in one of the hammocks at our guest house!

Upon leaving Kep to go to Siam Reap we booked bus tickets and caused quite the ordeal. Right before we were loading the bus, our very nice hotel receptionist drove to the bus station to hand deliver my debit counter. Yes, I had left in on the counter. Thank goodness for nice people!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Oh the people you meet on a visa run

If you aren't prepared to read a rambling novel about my day, exit out of this page now. Somehow this post turned into a book.

I remember arriving in Thailand and hearing other volunteers talk about going on visa runs. To me this just sounds plain illegal, but here I am nine months later adventuring out to do a visa run of my own. Pi Jew the driver at Yaowawit booked the whole trip for me, he showed me the plan also but it was all in Thai. We left at around 7 am this morning so I forgot to ask him any questions haha whoops my brain was still in sleep mode.

I was picked up off the side of the road, Pi Jew exchanged some words with the driver and into the minivan I went. After about an hour we got to a 7-11 and a restaurant for breakfast, where we had a meal that we had already paid for...news to me haha so it felt like a free meal. We continued to drive on and on until we arrived in Ranong, Thailand which shares a border with Burma. We went through immigration and were asked to hand over our passports to this Thai man. I was only slightly freaked out because the man was wearing a whit polo that said New York Police Department... he must be legit right?!

We were then herded (we were literally walking around like a group of lost sheep) in the direction of about 15 boats. We needed to get on the furthest one away of course. So there I am laughing to myself thinking this is not real life. Literally I was crawling across boats of all heights and sizes as they are rocking back and forth and drifting apart from one another. I basically had to do a pull up to get into the boat, don't know where the arm strength came from... maybe from the fear of falling into the mud water below me. Anyways, it was a nice boat ride because the weather was great. Finally we arrived in Burma and were directed into some office, our passports were stamped and once again we were back in the boat on our way to Thailand.

We loaded back into the minivan and about 10 minutes later we stop outside of a nice hotel. Our driver just opens the door and points inside and showing me through hand motions we are going to eat. (I will quickly tell you about the group dynamics before I continue with the story...)

On this trip there were six people including myself:
Person #1- Me
Person #2- "The Sleeper" This guy I don't think had his eyes open for more than a minute of the 5 hour drive. He was snoring and drooling, and must have had a crazy Sunday night because he reeked of alcohol.
Person #3- "High Heels" This woman came in a tight dress, high heels, full face of makeup, and a prom hairdo knowing she would be sitting in a van all day. I am sure she regretted this decision when she had to climb across all of those boats. Who knows though made it worked and she found herself a hottie.
Person #4- "The Lady Boy" Lady boys are common here in Thailand and some of them actually make quite beautiful women. With this person it was not the case. Imagine if you were to put bright pink and blue eye shadow on your dad and he hasn't shaved his chin in a couple of days. So I'm not sure what was going on, if this transformation was new or what. But along with the makeup was a dress and more cleavage than I could ever have in my life.
Person #5- "The Contortionist" This woman could make herself in the tiniest little ball on her chair. It was beyond weird because she faced all different directions throughout the trip.
Person #6- "Elvis" This was a self given nickname. He was the Chatty Cathy of the group and for some reason he chose to share all of his bizarre stories with me. He started with "Do you know who Elvis is?" Um, yes... "People tell me I look like him, they say it's a good thing" Oh... "Do you think Elvis is good looking?" I don't know.. (awkward) Anyways this man looked like Voldemort from Harry Potter aka nothing like Elvis.


So we arrived at the hotel to eat. We walk into find a nice family style meal at one table for all of us. We all awkwardly stared at each other, ate in silence, and ate as fast as we could. Everyone got up from the table the second they put their last bite in their mouth. I of course couldn't stop laughing, I tend to do this is in awkward situations and had to keep looking at my phone pretending something funny was happening on the other end.

All in all my visa is good until I go home without any overstay charged... successful first visa run.