First challenge: The way to the bus station in Bangkok
Taxi? No! Heiko grabs my elbow and holds it down. He points at the Skytrain. Correct, we would have stood in a traffic jam for hours. Proud of our care we get in - to the wrong direction. It is clear: The schedule is too tight, but we will try it. From the window of the train, we watch our bus leaving. While I was at a loss, scratching my head, Heiko remains cool. "Then we take the next one," he says. We get the ticket and wait.
Second challenge: The bus to Aranyaprathet
Two hours later, we get on the second bus to Aranyaprathet. Heiko sleeps blissfully. I, however, nervously chew on my nails, because I fear that we get stuck in Sisophon. Three hours of shivering and paralysed legs later, the time has come. I try to be wary and prepare myself for the negotiation with the tuk-tuk drivers.
Third challenge: To the border of Aranyaprathet
I scan the ambiance, my knowledge of human nature is supposed to lead us to an honest driver. Once again, I have to recognize: Journalists do make mistakes. My colleagues and I tend to forget about that. Sovann is grinning at us: "Tuk tuk?" I respond in Khmer, because I want to test him. "Ah, you speak Cambodian? Sok sabai?" The ice is broken and negotiating is a cakewalk.
Fourth challenge: The visum
We stop at a small white office. I take Heiko, who is joking with Sovann, aside and say: "This is not the border, I think that they will cheat on us." He responds: "We will be alright. Come in!" I enter the room with doubtfully slit eyes. We get the right forms, some good advices and bus tickets. Again and again I try to persuade Heiko to leave, but he does not listen to me. After we left the office, I'm studying my visa for ten minutes, and I fear that it is fake. "How much is a Euro again?" Heiko asks suddenly. "I think it's 40 baht," I murmur. Shocked, he looks at me and says: "What? Then we paid 20 Euros too much."
Fifth challenge: The border crossing
Yet again, they lulled us. The office has provided us a guide, who should bring us safely to the bus. Sopheak is reportedly working for the Ministry of Tourism and can even prove his identity. Friendly and polite, he tells us about Cambodia. Above all, we are in a big rush and Sopheak has our bus tickets, which we can't get anywhere anymore. In fact, our guide pilots us without further loss through the border checkpoint, without health check and unnecessary fees.
Still, we have to wait in the queue, because the so-called VIP service is not worth two dollars. When the couple in front of us finally decides for it, we burst into resounding laughter. Their guide walks seven persons further, apologizes and waves the two in with a smirk.
Sixth challenge: The bus to Phnom Penh
With his friendly smile Sopheak tries to calm us, his tired and frustrated customers. Without speaking, he transported us with other tourists in the non-air-conditioned minivan, the free shuttle to the bus station in Sisophon. Three quarters of the next hour I look anxiously at my watch. I try to reschedule, because I am convinced that we miss the last bus to Phnom Penh.
Upon arrival Sopheak walks relaxed to the ticket counter, while we have to spend a fortune for the first meal of our day. Then, the family man strolls back to us and says: "You have missed the bus, the next one will leave at 9 pm." Since the three months I live in Cambodia, I have never lost my temper. But now the time had come: "You rip us off and then there is no bus? I need to be at work tomorrow morning at 6 am!" Sopheak wipes away his smile, turns around and leaves. Heiko stares at me with his mouth open, and I feel guilty, I should have known about the consequences of screaming in Cambodia.
But we are lucky. Ten minutes later, Sopheak comes back and takes us to another shuttle bus. Without saying a word he buys us two tickets at another bus station and asks us to wait for an hour. Without saying goodbye he leaves us at the empty, dusty bus station. While we are waiting, three children climb over the wall behind us. Since I was not hungry anymore after those experiences, I gave my food to the children. The acrobats thanked us by making us laugh until we could get on the bus.
I admit that this experience, even one year later, reduces my desire to go to Thailand. My prejudicial Me thinks that Thai people are cheaters who treat strangers with no respect. In contrast, my reasonable Me looks for new, positive experiences in Thailand since that trip. In fact, I enjoyed my flight to Bangkok last week, but another bus trip I will probably avoid.