Siem Reap Break Part 1

Siem Reap Break Part 1

Saturday August 20:
Up early to grab the Mekong Express bus to Siem Reap. (“No responsible for miss time”).
Quite looking forward to this, Siem Reap is a great place to visit and an even better place to live. Also along for the ride is Beni, an arts intern who’s planning to do some interviews.

We’re both culture vultures so we spend a lot of time yakking about art stuff. Beni’s trip has been a capsule tour of contemporary arts and I’m working in one of the areas she’s particularly interested in, publishing. The 5 hour bus ride flys by.

The bus disgorges itself at the Siem Reap terminal. It’s like the boat landing at Phnom Krom, we’re surrounded by a chattering crowd of moto taxi and tuk-tuk drivers.

Nothing new there, but what’s creepy is the cops who are managing the scene – they’ve got small sticks (rattan? bamboo?) and use them, hitting the drivers to keep them at bay. While I appreciate their concern, there must be other ways to express it.

There is a small makeshift fence of twine but nobody’s really paying attention to it. We are surrounded.

“Hey mister, I take you, 100 riel!”

I try to get at my camera to get a picture of this surreal scene, but the crowd is pretty frenzied.
“Hey you go with me! I see you first!”

Right. I grab my bag with one hand and Beni’s sleeve with the other and we make a beeline through the crowd for the nearest tuk-tuk, and start loading our bags in.
‘We’re taking this one.”
“Oh, he not here,” sadly regrets the driver next to us.

The driver runs up and we are on our way to town. I try to squeeze off a picture of the stick wielding cops but it’s too late. Dang.

(Below, the aftermath, with most people gone.)


On other visits the bus has cruised up to the town center, I’ve gotten off, and been completely ignored. (It can be quite gratifying to be ignored, sometimes. )

“How can these guys earn anything for 100 riel?” Beni asks. (That’s about 2.5 cents.)

I try to summarize the complex tourism trade that goes on in this town: If a moto or tuk tuk takes you to a guest house, they get a commission. Some have friends or preferred hotels/guesthouses, and will try to steer you to them.

And in addition, having met you on the way into town, they may also work as your guide into Angkor. This could be a three day paying gig, as well as a free English language tutorial. No wonder ‘catch the tourist’ is such a popular game. Every day though, fishing for tourists is a gamble. One day you get a live one; the next you get hit with a stick.

Next: Exhibition, sculpture, wild bees and wasps.


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