August 5th, 2006

Day 12: Sihanoukville, Cambodia to Trat, Thailand by Ferryboat

The day started off for Mateo at 1 in the morning, when he got up to use the restroom and noticed a row of prostitutes across the street at a bar. It was right about then we decided to try to leave town today. It turns out that the place we were staying just happened to be in the seediest part of town. To top things off, the guy that owns the bar outside our room likes to blair music from early morning to late at night. Oh well... Thus our day started.

We actually officially woke up around ten or so, took showers, packed our bags, and headed out to the ferry port in the pouring rain. The rain was crazy. Fortunately it was not cold rain, but it was dumping buckets on us nonetheless.

The ferry port was about 3 km down the road, but we originally missed the turn off for it and walked about 500 m the wrong direction before Mateo realized that there was something wrong. By that time it was about 11:45 am and our ferry (the only ferry of the day) was due to leave at noon sharp.

We hustled back, and when noon hit we were still at least 750 m away from the port. There were motobike drivers begging us for our patronage, but not only do we generally not trust tuk tuk and motobike drivers, but we were two big white guys with big backpacks. The would be a not-fun ride on the back of a scooter (which is all a "motobike" really is).

By 12:10 pm, we had given up catching the ferry to the border town of Koh Kong (where we needed to cross over to Thailand), so we were walking slower to the ferry port, just to check times and buy tickets for tomorrow's ferry.

We walked into the little covered area declared the "Booking Office" by a simple painted sign and asked about the ferry. Almost instantly, about 4 or 5 motobike drivers screamed at us to run to the ferry, as it was about to leave! It was 12:15 pm, but the ferry was delayed. We ran up the old wooden dock to the ferry and jumped onboard right as the ferrymen were untieing the boat from port. Soaking wet we climbed into the hull of the ferry and walked down the aisles of befuddled faces laughing all the way at our amazing luck.

As it turns out, the ferry was not waiting for us, but for 3 Belgian men that were even later than us. It turns out that they arrived from town 3 minutes after we did and the ferry had already took off, the boatmen mistaking us for them. Fortunately for them, though, the owner of the ferry called the captain and brought the ship back to port to pick them up at the last minute. Later on in the trip, Mateo and I befriended these fellows and ended up staying at the same guesthouse as them. In fact, we just came back from dinner with them. They have convinced us to check out the northern town of Chang Mai in Thailand, which we were intending to skip until today.

But, back to the ferry ride. We were sitting in the back of the boat, a little below sea level, and it was a rainy stormy day. Those of you that know the sea, might know what this means... We got sick... Something awful. It was a 4 1/2 hour boat ride and the sea was very choppy. looking out the window, you could often see the boat rocking violently back and forth. There were more than a few times that we jumped some huge waves and I could feel my stomach flying into my chest.

I was actually doing fine for the first hour. I was even reading a book and relaxing.The air conditioner was blasting frigid air into the compartment which helped a lot. Eventually though, the waves and the rocking got to both of us. I had to borrow a bag from an old man, and Mateo used one of his own bags (yuck!) before he could get a plastic bag of his own (the crew were handing out black plastic bags just for this purpose). Niether of us had had anything to eat all day, so we didn't have much to liberate from our stomachs, but I still freed my stomach acids twice throughout the ride. After the second time there was nothing left in me and I could relax and fall asleep for a couple hours. Mateo wasn't so lucky and suffered at least 5 boughts of seasickness.

When we finally got off the boat, I was a happy happy man. We took a pickup truck to the Thai-Cambodia Border and crossed without issue. The Koh Kong border crossing is MUCH less swindly than the Aranyaprathet-Poipet crossing we took a week earlier. Getting into Thailand was truely hassle-free.

From the border we took another pickup truck to the local town with the 3 Belgians and 5 other tourists (none from America!) where we transvered to a van that took us to the small town of Trat, 60 km away. We sat in the back of the van, and Mateo almost lost his stomach again. By the time we arrived in Trat we had officially gone 24 hours without eating, and being sick on the boat didn't do either of us any good.

Like Sihanoukville, we had not booked a place in advance in Trat, so we just went to the closest Guesthouse we could find, the "Guy Guesthouse." But the price was right at 50 baht, or $1.50, per person, so we did not complain too much.

I really enjoyed visiting Cambodia. It was really worth going there, especially to see Angkor Wat and the Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh (S-21). I think it was also very enlightening to see the areas of the country that are extremely poor. We do not see that in Thailand as much, and we especially do not see it in Japan or America, at least not to this extent. Seeing the way some of the poor in Cambodia live really brought a sense of proportion to the comsept of "living on less than a dollar a day" to me. It was very different than just reading about it in newspapers and magazines.

I am looking forward to taking Signe there to see Angkor Wat, which has always been one of her dreams.

Well, we plan on spending our remaining 19 days here in Thailand. The schedule isn't set out just yet, but rest assured you will hear about it!

Until then, take care.


P.S.: I will return to writing in Japanese AND English, including the Kanji-A-Day, in September, when I return to Japan. I might even translate my dialy travel journals into Japanese as well. :) We will see. Please bear with me until then (I AM on vacation, after all :P).
  • Current Mood