The Road From Siem Reap

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A tale from the road while traveling in South-East Asia

Submitted: November 03, 2007

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Submitted: November 03, 2007



The road between Siem Reap in Cambodia and the border town of Thailand is an arduous eight-hour trip on dirt roads. It was made worst by the fact that it was rainy season. During these months the greater part of the day feels like your living in a sauna, the only relief being the fifteen minute window of actual rain that, while its refreshing feels like your standing underneath a water fall. 
It was in the middle of September in 2003 that I found myself doing just that, headed for Thailand traveling with one other companion that I had known in school. The passenger van that we had been stuffed into, if it could be mistaken for that, was a conglomerate of so many different parts of other cars, that half a dozen motor companies could lay claim to it. At every river crossing, which  seemed to be every twenty minutes, the driver would jump out with a leaky bucket fill it up the best he could and rush back to empty it into the radiator. It was while on this trip bouncing over potholes, big enough to break an axle in, that I struck up a conversation with an English speaking, well semi English speaking, Cambodian traveling along side of me. Time past quickly crammed in this over loaded van trading stories from home and laughing at absurdities of each other’s cultures, and before I knew it we were pulling into the border town. 
This town was one of the dirtiest, filthiest towns I have had chance to visit and I’ve visited a good deal of third world countries. The mud streets were filled with ragged people milling about and half naked children were chasing around skeletal looking dogs. The van door opened and the stink of the place just about bowled me over; it smelled like the town it self was used as a giant outhouse, which from experience I guessed it probably was. I stepped out into two inches of mud that seemed to layer the entire town and was immediately surrounded by people.
Now unless you think I'm really naïve let me explain myself. When I had packed that morning I had taken my wallet and slipped it in the front pocket of my pants. Now I knew that I had taken out everything of value, the money, the credit cards, my license, leaving only sentimental things like pictures of family and friends and other odd keep sakes that I had stuffed in there from time to time, so I wasn’t really worried about having it there and once in my pocket I promptly forgot about it. 
So it was while I was bending over pulling my backpack out of the side door of the van that my newfound friend tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up. 
“Are you missing anything?” he asked me quite anxiously. 
I glanced about on the ground thinking that maybe I had dropped something, saw nothing, and shook my head. 
“No I don’t think so.”
“Check your pants.” He said pointing.
I slipped my hands into my pockets. “My wallet!” I gasped.
He didn’t wait for an explanation. He grabbed me by the arm and took off down the street. I ran after him dodging through crowds of people like a cat chasing a mouse around the legs of a table. I pulled up short as I saw him grab some seemingly innocent looking Cambodian by the shoulder and spin him around. Before I knew it he had shoved his hand down the front of the man’s pants. I was starting to think what the hell had I gotten myself into when he came up with my wallet in his hands.
“That’s its.” I managed to say as he handed it over to me. 
I quickly went through it checking to make sure it was all there. 
“That’s everything,” I said as I looked up.
I was startled to see my friend was holding this guy captive from behind. Then he said something that I wasn’t expecting.
 “Ok, hit him.”
“What?” I asked thinking I was misunderstanding something.
“Its ok you can hit him.”
I looked around. By this time we had drawn quite a large crowd of people. I didn’t see one face that wasn’t Cambodian nor did I see any face that looked the least bit friendly.I suddenly had stories running through my head of tourist disappearing never to be seen again, stories of what took place in the jails in countries like this. I looked back at my Cambodian friend and shook my head.
“Its alright I have every thing. We can go.”
He gave me a look like he was confused and then before I could say anything else he spun the guy around,  pulled back and punched him square in the face. The man hit the ground hard and sprawled out in the mud.My friend shook his hand a little like shaking off a small annoyance then looked at me.
“Come on lets go.”
Once again I was following him through the crowded street in a daze.
My traveling companion came running up when he saw me.
“You wont believe what just happened to me.” I said as I swung my backpack over my shoulder.

© Copyright 2018 Jeremy Moore. All rights reserved.

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