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Kambodscha 1 (Siem Reap und Angkor) 18.06.2004

Wir sind also in Siem Reap, Kambodscha angekommen. 1 1/2 Tage waren wir in den Händen der thailändisch-kambodschanischen Grenzmafia, jetzt laufen wir wieder frei herum. Es ist schade, wenn man einen so schlechten Start in ein fremdes Land hat, wie wir ihn in Kambodscha hatten. Aber das Land und vor allem seine Leute haben uns schon nach kurzem wieder umgestimmt. Inzwischen sind wir begeistert und voll im Bann dieses kleinen armen Landes und seiner unglaublich herzlichen Bewohner. Wer genaueres über unsere Erlebnisse auf der Fahrt von Bangkok nach Siem Reap wissen möchte, der kann unser Posting im Lonely Planet Internetforum lesen, das wir unten angehängt haben. Wir können inzwischen schon darüber lachen...

Wir waren jetzt vier Tage hier in Siem Reap, der Stadt, von der aus man die Tempel von Angkor besichtigen kann. Für diese Zeit haben wir uns eine sehr bequeme Fortbewegungsmethode ausgesucht: wir haben uns ein Tuk-Tuk gemietet, ein kleines Wägelchen mit Platz für zwei Personen (oder 6 Kambodschaner), das von einem Moped gezogen wird. Drei Tage lang haben wir uns angeschaut, was Angkor so zu bieten hat. Alte Tempel, große Tempel, kaputte Tempel, schöne Tempel, geheimnisvolle Tempel und noch viel mehr Tempel. Insgesamt sind die 180 Bauwerke, die im Schnitt etwa 1000 Jahre alt sind, Überbleibsel eines historischen Größenwahns. Wir wissen nicht, wie viele Rekorde Angkor mit seinen Tempeln bricht, aber sie sind alle einzigartig und originell. Nach drei Tagen und ca. 20 Tempeln, die wir besucht hatten, fühlten wir uns etwas ausgetempelt und kaum noch aufnahmefähig. Mr. Na, unser Tuk-Tuk-Fahrer, sprach sehr gut englisch, hat an jeder Ecke angehalten, wenn wir wollten, uns alles mögliche über Land und Leute erzählt und auch für uns gedolmetscht. Während einem der Wind beim Tuk-Tuk fahren um die Nase weht und der Staub in die Augen fliegt, fühlt man sich dem Land so nahe.

Den vierten Tag in Siem Reap haben wir tempelfrei verbracht und uns von Mr. Na in der Umgebung von Siem Reap herumkutschieren lassen. Wir haben viele Stops in den Dörfern rundum eingelegt und ein Kloster besucht. Ausserdem haben wir uns eine Schule angesehen, in der junge Kambodschaner aus armen Verhältnissen das traditionelle Khmer-Kunsthandwerk lernen. Dieses soziale Projekt besteht seit Anfang der 90er Jahre und bietet jährlich etwa 120 jungen Menschen die Chance trotz schlechter Schulbildung einen guten Job zu kriegen und gleichzeitig das kulturelle Erbe der Khmer weiterzutragen. Zur Schule gehört auch eine Seidenfarm und -weberei, die wir auch besichtigt haben.

Morgen fahren wir weiter nach Battambang auf der anderen Seite des Tonle Sap Sees. Wir hoffen, dass es dort etwas weniger touristisch und teuer ist als hier in Siem Reap.

zu den Fotos

Hier das Posting, mit dem wir bei Lonely Planet unseren Ärger abgelassen haben:

Hi everyone,
we just want to put out another warning about the tours from Bangkok to Siem Reap that are sold in Khao San Rd and the guesthouses around. We know that many people - including LP - have warned about this business before, but what we have experienced was a lot worse than what we had heard before.
We purchased our tickets from the travel agency in our guesthouse (Wild Orchid Villa on Th Pra Arthih, nice place to stay) for 500B per person and we were promised minibus service all the way through to Siem Reap with change of vehicle at the border. The trip was scheduled to take 12 hours. The morning we left we met a guy in the lobby who told us he had taken the same trip 4 weeks earlier and had a really bad experience. At that point in time it was already too late to change, we thought.
We got on a big tour bus with about 40 other travellers. The ride to the border was supposed to take 4 hours, but when we arrived at the border after more than 5 hours, we found out that it wasn't Poipet we had been taken to, but some other checkpoint that was newly opened and according to one of the tour guys just as convenient as Poipet. He said there would be pickups and minibuses waiting on the other side and we could choose which one we wanted to ride. Luckily we had arranged for our visa before in Bangkok, as the folks without visa were charged 1500B instead of $20. There was no negotiating with the tour guys and they would not let you talk to the police officials directly, or they would pretend to not speak any english. Then, there was a 100B 'fee' per person to have your passport stamped. Think you get a receipt? Hahaha! But so far so good.
It took more than 2 hours to get everyone through immigration, by now it was around 4.30 pm. Then we were asked to walk about 1 km to the vehicles to take us on to Siem Reap. Minibus? Sorry, it just broke down yesterday. Instead they crammed 40 people into two beat-up pickup trucks with no seats and nothing in the back, just like the guy in Bangkok had told us. They did not have a roof over the back, like the tour guy on the thai side had promised us. Everything they had told us turned out to be nothing but a lie and of course, the cambodian guys weren't repsonsible for the promises the other guys made. You don't like our service? Go back to Bangkok and complain there.
We were the last two to get on the pickups and by then they were more than full. People were sitting on everyone's luggage and knowing it would take around 7 hours (4 hours in the words of the tour guys) to go to Siem Reap didn't seem like much fun. As if that weren't enough, it started to rain just as the trucks left. We decided not to take that trip and had our luggage taken back down. The guys kept promising there would be seats for us in the cab or in the back, but when we wanted to see those seats, they couldn't show us and then they said they had never promised this and that. These guys are just a bunch of assholes that lie to you every minute of the day. They're a real mafia out there at the border.
The place we got stuck turned out to be O Smuch in the remote north west of the country. It isn't much but a dirty small town where thousands of Thais come every year to gamble at the Casino and to get a cheap treat by the local prostitutes. There was a taxi driver who smelled a business for himself and was willing to drive us to Siem Reap for $50 on the spot. That was a lot more than we wanted to pay, so we agreed with him to go the next morning at 5 am for $20 with some police officer as a third passenger. Then he took us to a 'guesthouse' in the village which was one of the most disgusting places we have stayed on any trip so far. It was definately a brothel. There were rats in our room at night that chewed on our bags. They asked $5 for the 'room' but we managed to push them down to $2.
Well, that night passed and at 5 am the taxi driver came around just to tell us that his police man was 'injured' and could not leave before 7 am. He then offered us to drive us right away for 1500 Bhat. What a joke! Finally, we agreed to go at seven and to pay nothing for the room. He gave us his word once more to start no later than seven. As he did not show up again until after 8, we found another taxi driver who was willing to take us for $20. He did not speak much english, but we made clear - at least that's what we thought - that we meant $20 for two people. After all, the other guy would have taken us for $20 also. So we took off after he picked up two other passengers and he started a hellish drive towards Siem Reap. The trip took 6 hours instead of the promised four, although he drove like a madman. When we arrived and payed him, he said he wanted $20 per person. Quickly there was a bunch of other taxi drivers around us who helped to translate. He said for $20 he would not have done the trip. We showed the other taxi drivers the piece of paper on which we had explained to him what we intended to pay ($10 + $10 = $20) and they agreed that the message was very clear. The driver said if we did not pay him another $20, he would take us back to the border - what a funny idea. We stood firmly and it seemed the other drivers agreed with us. Then he said he would take us to the police and when we agreed to that he lost interest in that idea. After all, we paid him another $3 and he took off. We don't know if $23 is a good deal for him, but we had an arrangement and did not want to pay double. Also, he had these other two passengers which he apparently let ride for free.
Well, long story and a bad start into Cambodia. The first day here has given us some trust back for the locals. But to anyone who considers taking a trip with PP Family Tours in Bangkok or any other business: JUST DON'T DO IT!!! Better arrange things yourself. It should not be too hard to get to Poipet on one's own. Poipet surely isn't a much nicer place than O Smuch, but you should have more options for getting a ride to Siem Reap. That's exactly why these guys take you to O Smuch. Today we met two of the people who were on the bus with us. They had a great time for 6 1/2 hours on the back of a pickup. The girls had a bruise of the size of a dining plate on her back. They were lucky it wasn't raining. But the idea that they made the trip in almost the same time as we did in a good car is terrifying. They ended up at a guesthouse outside of town and the guys refused to take them into town. They did the only reasonable thing - they hired a tuk-tuk and went a couple of kilometers more.
Once again: don't fall for this monkey business.