28 Jan 2008

The fat man's never heard of Angkor Wat. As we listen in, standing next to him at the scale model inside the Golden Palace, his personal guide tells him that he can go there in an hour. He asks "By train? By bus?"

The guide is horrified. "Oh no! By plane!"

It's true. You can fly out of Bangkok and be in Siem Reap in an hour. But you miss Ko Chang, you miss Sihanoukville, and you even miss Phnom Penh if you fly straight to Hanoi after seeing Angkor Wat.

We spend the morning on the internet, eventually finding exactly the kind of map that IÂ was planning to draw:Â it lists travel times and road conditions, rather than distances. I'm in travelling-salesman mode, trying to optimise for time, distance, cost, accumulating the maximum number of "tourist points" in between.

Six hours to cross two hundred kilometers seems excessive. At the hostel, the owner tells us that the Bangkok - Siem Reap road has never been bitumenised because the airlines have paid for it not to be. But we wouldn't have used it in any case. We're rolling southeast, crossing into Cambodia via the "back door". Six hours to Trat. Another six to the port. The border crossing is apparently "interesting".

Having sorted that out, we need to work out how we're doing Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. The bus takes five hours and costs a pittance. There's also a boat running upriver, but at six hours and twenty dollars, it's not faster *or* cheaper.

But the fastest and cheapest way is always not to go. We'll take the hard road, and damn the potholes, damn the touts, damn the torpedoes.