After playing the Big Phat Phnom Penh Hat ultimate tournament, I had three days before I needed to be in Bangkok to catch a flight to Boracay for yet another tournament. Two days would be filled with bus rides, which always take longer than expected in Cambodia, and the middle day would be spent in and around Siem Reap, seeing the many ruins of Angkor Wat, Baphuon, Bayon, and Ta Prohm. Lisa had rented a tuk-tuk for the day and managed to hit both sunrise and sunset at Angkor Wat, filling the rest of the day with additional ruins along the big and small loops. I knew that I would probably burn out faster on temple sight-seeing and instead opted to rent a bicycle in town and go at my own pace.
I caught a tin boat with Shea and Sylvia (friends I’d met who work on Koh Rong) from Koh Rong Samloem to Koh Rong so that I could catch the ferry to Sihanoukville at 9am and then a bus that would get me to Phnom Penh in time for the PP hat tournament party that evening. This being Cambodia, time estimates are always wildly off and never rooted in fact, and our ride that was supposed to pick us up at 8am radioed us at 8:20 to say they were on their way.
Shea grimaced and asked, “How set are you on making that 9am boat…?”
Twenty minutes later, the little tub arrives, and we throw our things in. Catching my ferry is gonna be close.
Well, it finally happened, I got taken by a scam in Southeast Asia. And not just the everyday “charging a tourist more than it should actually cost” situation that I get taken for literally every day. Before coming on the trip, I had steeled myself against the probability that I was going to have to be ultra-alert and resistant to scams and over-paying at every turn. I had encountered situations like that before in the Middle East and assumed it would be similar here based on reading about fast taxi meters in Vietnam or any number of other scams that travelers have to be wary of. I also had the memory of my friend Adil’s story — his bus in Thailand had been potentially gassed and robbed (at any rate, passengers woke up and had all of their valuables missing).
I spent the first six weeks in Philippines and Vietnam reading up on what to expect to pay at places, constantly negotiating and staying on my toes. Sure, I avoided some of the typical over-pricing, like the time we managed to pay the local rate on the bus from Da Nang to Hoi An, and also secured that rate for some fellow travelers. But in the end, none of the more serious scams had hit us. We never experienced any taxis with funky or broken meters and most people seemed very trustworthy, while at the same time being ruthless negotiators.
After more than a week of non-stop movement and never sleeping in the same place more than one night, we reached Koh Rong Island, Cambodia. We had shot straight down from Laos in desperate need of some rest and relaxation — a vacation from our vacation.