One of the things that Thais, Cambodians and Vietnamese talk about a lot is Asian Time. The notion that a different sense of urgency attends daily life and that things happen when they happen and not before. Indeed it is something they take great pride in.
But we haven’t seen much evidence of it since we set off on our tour of this small part of the Asian sub-continent – it has been a hell for leather rush from hither to thither, all organised with clockwork precision.
We met up with our tour leader, Tia, and fellow travelers on Monday evening – a lost day for us as I was laid low by a stomach bug and Mrs and Miss P tackled the bureaucracy of the Vietnamese embassy to organise the latter’s visa – and we were told that we would be leaving at 7:30am on Tuesday morning which we did on the dot.
I won’t bore you too much with details of the journey to Seam Reap in Cambodia except to say that it is a long one which was accomplished with frightening efficiency. There were pre-planned stops along the way and all were hit as per schedule and no time was lost at each for such things as chivvying us along to complete the Cambodian visa documents.
The border crossing was a staggered affair. First we had to stop off at the Cambodian consulate to get our documents dutifully stamped, then we were driven to the border market at Aranyaprathet which is enormous and where it seems you can buy pretty much anything you can think of. I say seems to because we were whistled through to the Thai control point to get our exit stamps.
Next we had to make our way on foot through the organised chaos of the arch that leads to Poipet and the Kingdom of Cambodia. Wherever you looked there were wooden carts being pushed and pulled and piled high with all sorts goods while cars and motorbikes scooted by, all in the sticky noon heat and backed by a cacophony of noise and bustle.
The next hurdle was the Cambodian border control where we dutifully stood in line (not taking photos or holding weapons as instructed by the sign) to have our biometrics recorded, ie finger and thumb prints electronically snapped while we tried not to look to shifty.
But despite all this rigmarole, we pulled into the car park of our lunch time stopover at 1:30pm on the dot, as promised by Tia. And if everything moved along remarkably smoothly, if at pace, it was just as well because we landed in the ancient capital of Cambodia and Seam Reap before night fell and the roads became too scary.
Now I had intended to write about our day at Angkor Wat which began early (rising at 6am) but we have an even earlier start time tomorrow (4am) and it’s getting late so I will have to leave my observations on Cambodia, its temples and other attractions until tomorrow, assuming we stop long enough to draw breath.