Updated: Nov 12, 2018
So after our failure to cross to Cambodia yesterday, we had a leisurely start to the day & after leaving our motel, headed a little further up the coast to find brunch at a local seaside eatery. After all, we’re heading exclusively inland from now so this was our last chance to feel the breeze from the Gulf of Thailand.
Chicken with cashews & rice (and some veg mixed in... yes, my darling wife, I am eating my greens!) was delicious & the helping almost too much. This was one of our most expensive meals so far (given the location) & two plates plus two coffees set us back about NZ$12.50 each. This coast, south of Pattaya has been interesting because it appears to cater almost exclusively for local Thais. The number of western tourists we’ve seen can be counted on one hand & certainly there is very little pandering to the English language, alphabet or taste. Wonderful to experience the real Thailand, but my mouth is tingling somewhat from the spices!
We headed about 3 hours up the border line towards the next checkpoint - on the list of good crossings supplied by Bernd (Big Bike Rentals). Getting there was interesting as I had lost my google maps connection. I had a Cambodian SIM card in my phone & it refused to work & I couldn’t find an annoying Apple thingy to get the SIM card out! So we were back to offline maps - no good. Simon checked our location sporadically on his phone & we tried to remember the road numbers were were supposed to follow. Of course, not every sign had the numbers on them, did they! And very few had English script of any kind. So we did end up doing a huge loop, only realising we were back where we started when we spotted a big sign we’d joked about earlier that declared the place to be “the most liveable town”! Luckily we still had plenty of time & the riding was pleasant.
We stopped off at a rather magnificent Wat (temple) that sadly was locked up & looked recently abandoned. There are Wats scattered throughout the countryside, reminding me a bit about descriptions of medieval Europe, where all the money from the poor population went into building magnificent churches, while they lived in poverty. However, their religion is central to their lives & from some of the gatherings we have seen they certainly practise it to the full. Unlike the Wats of old, the newer ones appear to be cement on steel frames, plastered & then magnificently painted. As far as I know the entire Buddhist religion is based entirely on donations, so it simply wouldn’t work if the local communities didn’t support it.
Passing some rather beautiful lakes (man made by damming) we arrived at the border checkpoint in early evening. This time, the Thai immigration officer asked us to walk over the border to ask Cambodian customs whether they would allow our bikes through. Sensible! We walked into by far the grandest building on the Cambodian side - the Customs & Excise offices - and met with charm & warmth. Yes, we could bring our bikes over because there is an ‘understanding’! Full of hope, we walked back to the Thai side to start the paperwork process. This time it was lengthy, with many different trips between different offices, so it took almost two hours before we were waiting for the final pass. Simon went off to get more Thai baht, because despite everything we’d read that the US$ was king in Cambodia, that certainly isn’t the case on the border, they want Thai baht.
As I waited for the pass, the Thai officer leaned over and said “I have some very bad news.” Well, this time I almost laughed! Yesterday was a bit of a shock because I wasn’t really expecting it, but by now I was acclimatised again to Asean ways. The problem was that the (very helpful, English-speaking) Thai official had gone through the paperwork with a fine toothcomb. He’d found that the bike I was riding was owned by Bernd & all my paperwork was ok. I could ride through. But Simon’s bike was owned by someone else & was on loan to Bernd. This officer phoned the company that actually owned it & they confirmed they had not given Bernd permission to allow someone else to ride it over the border. Bernd could, but no-one else. Hah!
At this stage it was dark, we had been stamped out of Thailand so had to re-enter. Luckily (as there is some kind of guideline about how many times you can cross the border in a month) they reversed the stamp. There are no hotels of any note in the area, so the (same) Thai official recommended a home stay just up the road. They didn’t speak a word of English, literally not one word, but luckily there was a well-travelled Thai lady & her Pakistani husband staying there, both of whom spoke good English. They helped arrange a room & a good meal & beer & even offered to allow me to connect to their hotspot as the hostelerie’s WiFi wasn’t working. You meet the loveliest people travelling! The meal was excellent & back to good local value - around NZ$11 each for a hearty plate & 2 beers!
So, we’ve had a conversation with Bernd & after a little gentle ‘persuasion’ based around pointing out how he had failed us, he is drawing up new paperwork for a new bike tomorrow & will have it driven up to us overnight. So we have a day to kick our heels & then try again on Thursday. Of course, there are no guarantees that even if the Thai paperwork is in order that the Cambodians will be as accommodating. It entirely depends on whether the same people are on duty, I think. Keep everything crossed for us!
I have started processing the pictures I take as I go, using Adobe’s recently upgraded mobile LightRoom. I have to say, as I’m getting used to it, it’s very impressive on an iPad. Of course there are more things I’d like to have, but it’s perfectly good enough to begin with. So I am creating an online gallery of images from this Rove & will add to it every day. Connectivity allowing, RiKsRovingRant Gallery should be live now.