The following day from when we wrote the last post, we spoke to our Cambodian border guard guy and he assured us that he could stamp us through the border and get us a taxi to Siem Reap, and he said it would be safe. However contrary to this, we found out on the internet that the border was officially closed, as ordered by the Thai army, (although a few border guards were still working there to make money from tourists and ex-pats doing border runs!) and the 15,000 people living in the area near the border had been evacuated. Not a good sign. Then, we found out on an ex-pat forum, that someone who lives in Surin had crossed the border the day before, and could hear bombs going off in the distance! We also got told that the Poipet border (the main one between Cambodia and Thailand) had been closed briefly also… all of this lead to the realisation that there was no way we could go to Cambodia just now. We were so sad because our entire journey since leaving Laos up to this point was to get to Cambodia. The second choice was to go into southern Laos, but this would mean either backtracking to where we are now to leave Laos, or see if we could get to Cambodia from there. We just didn’t have enough time to be backtracking when we have to be in Singapore so soon, so we took the only option left, and travelled further down Thailand.
We have to say, that originally when we left Chiang Rai the only reason we got the bus was because all flights were fully booked for the following 2 days. So it was going to be quicker on the bus. We didn’t realise how amazing the first class buses are here – they are way more comfortable than the trains and planes, you get food, have a ‘bus hostess’ who brings you drinks and blankets and pillows, plus most of them have in seat massage functions… very impressive. So when we were leaving Surin, we went to check the train times and also the buses, and immediately decided on the bus – it’s faster, more luxurious, and includes food! The Thai roads are so smooth and well maintained that this option just made the most sense.
So we have now arrived in Krabi, en-route to Singapore. Today we are off to Koh Lanta in the hope that it’s not just a tourist town like Krabi is, in any case a few days or a week in a bungalow on the beach will be good (and much needed after all the travelling to get to Cambodia and now here) before we head further south.
Our original plan to travel south down Laos and finally see southern Laos didn’t quite work out when we didn’t manage to leave northern Laos before our visa ran out. So we had to exit via Thailand, and make our way down to Cambodia from there. At first we were really torn, because we wanted to see the south of Lao so much, and also wanted to see Cambodia, and didn’t really have time to see both before we meet up with Ben and Christerine again in Singapore. So we decided that since the number one thing we want to see in Cambodia is Prasat Prear Vihear temple, we would travel down Thailand and enter Cambodia at the border just beside the temple.
So this was all well and good, once we left Laos we spent a day motorbiking around Chiang Rai again, and then made our way south. 24 hours on the bus later, we got off near the Thai-Cambodian border only to be told that war has broken out at the Choam border crossing and Thailand was bombing Cambodia. Oh dear. So the friendly Thai policeman advised us to get back on a bus, and travel 2 hours back in the direction we had just come from, to access the other border Chong Jom. We were both actually feeling really good because we’d come on the luxury bus – it was like business class on a plane so we decided to do it straight away. Upon arrival at Surin, the Thai town that you catch the bus to the Chong Jom border, we were told that as of this morning this border is closed now too, because fighting has increased and Thailand has just bombed the temple, Prasat Prear Vihear!!! This is the temple that we specifically wanted to see and apparently an entire wing of the temple has collapsed last night. :-( This is a world heritage site and it has made us very sad to hear.
So what to do next? We could travel further in Thailand and go to yet another Cambodian border that is far from the conflict, we could go in the other direction and go to southern Laos. Both options are enticing. Then we came to a cafe, where we are right now, and met 2 English guys who live here in Surin. They advised us that the border IS open, and one of the guys phoned his Cambodian friend who works as a border guard and asked him about the current situation. Apparently this guy reckons the Chong Jom border is open now and the only conflict is at the other border (Choam). He says if we call him in the morning he will let us know if the border is open and will arrange a taxi for us to Siem Reap if we want to go. So the question remains: will we be successful in getting to Cambodia? Or is it back to Laos we go? Or should we just stay in Thailand and go to the beach? The answer will hopefully become clear in the morning! We are not about to put ourselves in any danger whatsoever so we will just do whatever will be best for us. Stay tuned….