My bus driver from Siem Reap to the border town of Poi Pet was a surgeon behind the wheel.
With his careful precision, he managed to hit every bump on the hellish road out of Cambodia. He was so good, he could even hit bumps on both sides of the road at once. Our circa 1970s bus was military brown and was probably used to transport soldiers during the Vietnam war. The original issue shocks moaned and creaked in protest as we sped along the dirt road at about 20KMH. The countryside was flat and barren, but there was life everywhere. Ducks, water buffaloes, farmers, everyone would stop to look as the bus went by raising a cloud of dust. There was no AC of course so all the dirt from the road came in the windows and settled on everything. Later that night, I watched as the shower removed what I thought was a nice tan, but in reality, it was a perma-layer of brown dust. I was sitting directly over the rear axle on the bus, and in a group of monks. I befriended the 20 year old monk beside of me with what little Thai I know and we shared a pack of dried apricots I had bought. When I offered, he made a motion to my watch, it was only 11:00 so he smiled and accepted. It hit me later that the monks cannot eat after 12:00 noon because of the vows that they take. It has been my experience here that the monks really are good people. When I poured him a handful of fruit, he immediately made his way around the bus with it, sharing it with his fellow monks.
The Thailand/Cambodian border town of Poi Pet was a very busy place, and after sweating in line for over an hour, I was stamped out of Cambodia and back into Thailand for the third time. Once again, I felt like I was returning home and was happy. The road conditions were as different as night and day, and I managed to sleep some in the minibus to Trat. 10 hours after leaving Siem Reap, we rolled into the little town of Trat and found that we had just missed the last boat to Ko Chang by 30 minutes. If the driver had not taken so many smoke breaks, we would have easily made it. The picture became very clear when he said that he knew of a good guest house in Trat, and once we arrived, it was obvious that he and the owners were on very good terms. Another scam, but after riding for 12 hours on little sleep (party in Siem Reap the night before)….I didnt have much fight left in me. I paid the 200 Baht. The bed was practically an ant farm of insect activity, but I didnt care….it was home.
Got up this morning and the clouds had opened up to monsoon hard rain. After catching a ride from the guest house to the pier in the back of a pickup truck, both my pack and I were wet but cleansed of the red Cambodian dust so I did not mind. The ferry ride was about 45 minutes on a very choppy Gulf of Thailand, but the rain stopped when I reached Ko Chang. I found a decent bungalow, almost right on the beach, had some delicous Pad Thai, and now I feel human again! Life is better than ever.