Seth: Once we got to Sisophon, we saw an incredibly full (and yet not full enough!) pick-up leaving for Siam Reap. We got out of the first truck and clambered into the second. This one was considerably more full.
The first driver told the second how much we paid for the first ride, so he could accurately gauge how eggregiously he should overcharge us. He said $5 each. We had remembered from the website that we erred in negotiating beforehand. Had we just gotten in and not agreed to anything, we would’ve gotten a better price at the end of the trip. Lesson learned. First time shame on you, second time shame on me.
So we shoehorned ourselves into the new pickup. This truck had 16 people in the back of the truck, including ourselves and myriad piles of miscellany. This photo was taken then, when I could still move my arms enough to take photos.
We roared out of the bus station, drove three blocks and stopped. The guys loaded in more people and precariously arranged everyone’s stuff. Then we roared back to the bus station, where the truck gives the impression that we’re REALLY LEAVING this time. We repeated this cycle a few times until we actually left. Final total: 18 people in the back, 5 on the roof, and 7ish in the cab.
The driver drove just far enough for it to be too far for us to walk back to the station and stopped. He got out and began negotiating our fare. We ignored him until we couldn’t, and then I firmly said 50 baht each. There was a significant language barrier. At first, he thought I was saying $5 each. Then he understood, and a protracted bargaining session ensued, much like our previous session with the visa official.
At one point, a woman got out of the cab. She started haranguing me in Khmer. I held strong. Eventually, she thrust a pink cell phone in my face. At first I was confused, but she and the driver motioned for me to hold it to my ear. I did, and some English-speaking relative of hers continued the negotiation with me. He said 50 baht each was less than what locals paid, which I didn’t believe. Anyway, we finally settled on 100 baht each. They wanted it up front, but that’s just giving them permission to kick you out somewhere down the road to cram in locals with more common sense.
We refused, and we set off for real. The first hour was still awesome, but my happiness-quotient began dropping after that. This ride was much less comfortable than the previous one. It sounds silly, but 18 people in the back of a pick-up is considerably more than 9. There was no rain (or water trucks!), so the dust was pretty bad. The crowd was less congenial, and everyone’s legs fell asleep or were otherwise contorted. Since it was only 103km, we thought it would take about two hours, but it ended up taking closer to four.
At one point, we stopped for a pee/food break. All theCambodians busted out bags of rice, skewers of meat or bundles of fruit. This reminded me that although I’d been awake for 12 hours by this point, I’d only eaten a bag of chips, half of one of these and a handful of peanuts. So I was hungry, and didn’t have much left to eat.
It got dark, and the lack of street lights or 100% vehicle light participation made the last stretch a little harrowing. Those of us perched on the sides or back of the truck had been depending on the daylight to allow us to predict which way to lean on turns. After that we sorta guessed.
Eventually, we saw an airplane in the distance, which foretold paved roads and Siam Reap. Soon afterwards we lumbered into town, and found the greatest $5 hotel room we’ve ever seen. Attached bathroom, cable tv, towels; the works!
The whole pick-up experience was fun, although we could’ve done with a little less of it. But at then end of the day, we felt like we were really had an adventure, unlike more tame stretches of our trip.
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