Thailand to Cambodia: An Epic journey of theft in three parts

Ali Baboon: Minus the 40 thieves, obv.


Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia is 335.03 miles. Four buses, one tuk-tuk ride and nine hours. It’s a fairly straightforward journey, all told, except for the pretty much constant threat of daylight robbery, which kicks in before you even leave, with ‘helpful’ advice along the lines of:

“Full of bandits and guns at the border towns. Don’t go, you’ll get robbed” (Disney Travel Advisory – paraphrased, obv).


“It is just NOT safe.” (My TEFL tutor).


“[In reference to the currency exchange rate:] They will rape you. In terms of changing Baht to Riel, I mean. Although they might ACTUALLY rape you…” (‘Mate’ from my hotel).

So it was pretty scary to actually set out for the border…but you only live once. And although there was robbery it was very minor. At this stage of the journey at least…

Minor robbery 1:

VISA fees. Always pay these in US$, else they will charge you twice the amount in Thai Baht. Blatant, shameless theft which goes by unquestioned.

Minor robbery 2:

Add on to your VISA fee the bribe you pay to the issuing border guard. Luckily mine was only 100 Baht, so it was minor. But again, so flagrant.

Minor robbery 3:

On the bus journey from the border town Poipet to Siem Reap a car pulled out of some bushes across the ‘National Highway’ (actually little more than a dirt road) to block the whole two lanes. Cue nervous Westerners flashing politely alarmed looks at each other across the bus like it’s a giant pinball machine of anxiety and whiteness.

My thoughts at the time: “Argh! Gonna get bus-jacked! Two potential outcomes: A) they rob me but leave me alive – quick!- think of a way I can conceal my iPhone. Do I really treasure it enough to stick it up my bum? Will my O2 insurance cover that? OR B) they gag and kill us with a flame-thrower (sort of cool, I guess) which is a pretty sad event but at least I’ll get a mention from Joumana nammor on Al Jazeera. Who I love.”

Rather anti-climactically it turns out it was just a really dire driver struggling to do a three-point turn. So on the one hand I was relieved and on the other now my iPhone smells of poo for no reason. Brillo pads.


Someone told me that Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap is on the list of Wonders of the World. Of which there are seven. “Cool!” thinks I, really excited, getting up at 5am (whaaaa…..????) to go see the sunrise there.

Sunrise=non-existent due to cloud. Again, short-changed. Then Wikipediad the Wonders to discover that Angkor Wat is eighth. Out of seven. Missed out BY ONE. So still feeling pretty robbed, natch.

But the temple was cool and set in amazing jungly grounds with lizards and snakes and baboons all roaming free. And being a sucker for wildlife I was mega-hyper-super-turbo excited when I saw a baboon only about 10 metres away! WOW! However, by 5 metres away I was starting to worry he may be planning on coming as near as 1 metre. By 1 metre I was (probably visibly) worried that he was coming in what I’d describe as ‘biting distance’. And he wasn’t stopping.

In an attempt to not get rabies I threw my plastic bag of snacks at him. Which I guess is what he’d had designs on from the start, because he just sat in front of me munching away on my Garibaldi biscuits. I was really looking forward to eating those. I wouldn’t even have minded so much if he’d bothered to actually eat all the biscuits. But his snacking method was decidedly haphazard; bite and toss, bite and toss. Ungrateful.

Anyways, because my jaw was on the floor some Cambodian guy drove over on his moped to see what all the fuss was about. As soon as the baboon saw him he legged it up a tree (and no wonder really, because the Cambodian guy then produced a slingshot from his back pocket (no lie – actual Bart Simpson style) and attempted to shoot the baboon). Weird.

It did make me think how animals are super-smart, though. For all that to happen the baboon had to know that:

1) plastic bags contain food. Pretty amazing for an animal to know that.

2) The baboon clearly knew there was some difference between me and the guy on the moped. He had either clocked that I was foreign and therefore ripe for robbing or he knew I was a girl and had me down for a complete wuss. Because as soon as the moped guy turned up, the baboon was off and that was way before any slingshot shenanigans. Again, smart. Although potentially ethnic/gender stereotyping involved so he loses points there.

But that was the first out-and-out proper robbery of Cambodia. Who do you report animal misdemeanours to? David Attenborough?


Fake dollars. Three hours wait at a total tourist trap. Getting sunburnt as a result. Having to pay twice despite having booked the right buses home.

Not even going into this one…suffice it to say the journey home made me WANT TO DIE. OR KILL THE TOUR OPERATOR WHO SOLD ME THE TICKET. Moral of this part: always go indie and organise everything yourself. There is no such thing as an easy ride.

And finally….have just arrived in Shanghai! Exciting times ahead……