Day 77: The Colour Of… Books?

We woke up around half past nine, lazy I know. This gave us only an hour and a half to pack the bags, get sorted and find somewhere for breakfast before we had to be at the tourist information for our bus. We managed to find a tasty cafe around the corner, seeing as the three of us only had enough for one meal each (around 70-80,000 dong) we ordered tuna baguettes. After promptly paying, with me finishing mine as we walked, we headed to the coach pick up point. We walked through their front doors at 11:10am, even though we were late, the bus didn’t show up for another 10 minutes. When then got comfy for yet another 5-6 hour journey to the Cambodian border.

The seats had more leg room than I had grown used to. Thanks to me writing up at least 2000 words on the previous days activities (something I’d end up losing later on this day) I was able to enjoy my new book, The Life Of Pi. I smashed through it best I could and ended up reading a good 80 pages before we reached the border. 110 in total by the end of the journey (of course, Sarah would have finished it in the 6 hours we were given). During the ride the driver’s buddy went around asking everyone for their passports and $25 for the visas (it should have only cost $20 if we did it ourselves). This would cut out the waiting time for our visas to the new country, even if it meant we were being charged an additional $5 for the luxury. We got through fine, then had to have our fingerprints scanned into their computer systems to grant us final passage. With all that sorted it was back on the bus, for we had arrived at Cambodia.

We made a brief stop to a local roadside cafe, although our remaining Vietnamese dong would not serve us well in such a place. For the currency was now Riel (they would also accept dollars too). Jamie and I got off just to see what was about, but decided to take refuge aboard our sweaty bus when we were bombarded by beggars. At last count there were seven of them waiting outside the door, looking like vampires awaiting an invite to cross a threshold. When everyone else returned we were driven for another hour or so before arriving at the travel agent’s sister company doorstep. During the ride, when I took an occasional break from my book to observe the unknown outdoors, I noticed there were several big branded car suppliers, such as Range Rovers, Chryslers, Lexus. And I thought we were supposed to be visiting a third world country.

Like usual, we were swarmed by tuktuk drivers the second we stepped off the bus. The word swarm being quite fitting, as each driver was dressed in bright yellow polo shirts, resembling bees. After checking our emails to find we had no accommodation, we accepted a drivers offer to take us to a dorm he knew of. He only charged $6 for the three of us, which we thought was fair, as far as tuktuk drivers go at least. His place was fairly busy, mostly with locals, and only charged $6 a night to stay in dorm rooms. Before checking in our driver told us he was going to take us to the killing fields if we wanted. Unsure of how much things were, we told him we’d phone later if we wanted to go. He persisted and switched it around so that we’d have to phone him if we didn’t want him to come, the crafty swine.

The dorm room was huge and had the largest bunk beds I had ever seen. After throwing down our bags, the three of us headed out to explore the town. We walked a little way before stopping to get out money (dollars was the only currency the machines would give us). We then booked up a day trip the next day to both the killing fields and the genocide museum (talk about a happy day out). With a trip arranged to start at 10am we went to find somewhere to eat. It was only a few buildings down the same street that we decided to stop and feast. I ordered the BBQ pork ribs which were amazing. After an hour or so of being there we paid up, before deciding to further explore the streets. We didn’t find much, but did pass a temple which was still under construction at such a late hour. As we continued we were confronted by a huge gathering of people. They were stood outside a festively lit building, which boasted a large image of their king. We presumed the gathering had something to do with it being New Year’s Eve, it was only 9pm and we weren’t willing to stick around to confirm our suspicions. Instead, we turned around and walked back from where we whence came.

We ended up staying out later than expected, finding a restaurant/bar/hostel that sold beers for $0.50. Or a jug of the stuff for $2. Obviously we chose a jug. While we were there Jamie and I traded funny stories, Sarah on the other hand Skyped friends and family back home. There was also a brief stint with a praying mantis, nothing came of it, other than it’s presence scaring a few female guests. We noticed the bar across the street had a pool table. Seeing as Jamie and I were in the mood, we moved our things over and played a few games. During one match a boy came in selling books. One at a time he beat us both, meaning we had to pay $5 each for a book. They’d have been free if we won, that was the deal. Noticing a book amongst the others I’d heard of before but never read, I picked it up and paid the boy (look at me, I don’t buy or read a book in years, then suddenly I end up with 3). The book I chose was titled The Alchemist, it wasn’t that thick a book so I wasn’t as intimidated about starting it, unlike my previous two purchases. After one more game with the pool shark (for fun this time) he disappeared into the night with a box of books around his neck.

Before we all knew it it was midnight, “happy new year, yay,” was the pathetic cry we let out. This would be the first year since I can remember that we didn’t bother celebrating. We didn’t do Christmas so why start now. When we got back to our hostel, Sarah phoned the tuktuk driver to let him know we wouldn’t be needing his services the next day. My stomach dropped when I got into bed. I accidentally deleted a days writing, which really annoyed me to no end. I then spent a long time that evening rewriting my lost work, finally giving myself a break at 3am. The worst part was knowing I’d only get a maximum of 5 hours sleep that night!

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