Cambodia (literally) on a Shoe-String! - A short travel story

The sun was well and truly up by the time I left my friends still merrily
swigging back the Chang at an out-door table on the Khao San and stumbled
rapidly back to my card-board box of a hostel room. Having only a one-night
stop-over in Bangkok before catching the early morning bus over to Cambodia,
I hadn’t really splashed out on the living accommodation seeing it more as a
live - in luggage room rather than place of homely comfort. I remember
feeling exceptionally glad that having had the for-sight into my usual
time-keeping habits I had made sure everything was ready to go the night
before - all I had to do was grab my bag and make a dash for the departure

I fumbled with the padlock on my door - Id bought a good quality combination
lock with me from home. Years of travelling have taught me the hard way you
can never be too careful when on the road, especially when alone. The door
swung open and my drunken mind hesitated, refusing to process the
information it was receiving. The backpack was on the floor with some
clothes slightly spilling out. I was sure i had left it on the bed when i
went out, all locked up and lovely. After some deliberation however I
realised that time was short and with a vow to myself to knock the sang-som
buckets on the head for a while I stuffed it all back in again and made the

It took a good six hours to reach the circus which is the Thai / Cambodia
border, time during which I fell into a gratefully received alcohol induced
slumber. I awoke to find the other 5 or 6 passengers disembarking for
immigration checks and other associated border – related bribe payments. I
jumped out of the mini – van and squatted on a small barrier as I watched it
speed away to pick up the next round of adventurers. Taking out my key -
ring I opened the small padlock securing the bottom of my bag. I had about
6000 bhat stashed in there – enough to get me to the relative civilisation
of Anchor where I knew I would be able to make a withdrawal on my credit
card or change some of my American Express travellers cheques.

I unzipped the inside pocket and felt inside. As Im sure readers have
already guessed, there was nothing there. The money, along with about £1000
travellers cheques and for some awful reason my travel log, were all gone. I
checked again. Nothing. Panic began rising in my stomach. Reaching inside my
purse my fingers closed thankfully around my other two items of value – I
had taken my passport and credit card out with me the night before.

I sat back on my heels and thought about the situation. There I was,
literally in the middle of no-where, alone, with no means of onward or
backward travel - with nothing more than a useless piece of plastic, 200
bhat and a hangover which was threatening to make me pass out. Tears began
welling up behind my eyes as I looked around in despair at the utter chaos
around me. The events from the night and morning before began to play out
like a sickening dream – I had packed my back- pack and left it neatly on
the bed as I had suspected. Someone had been to my room, picked the hostel –
issued padlock, the second combination lock I provided for extra safety, AND
the small lock on the bottom of my bag, helped themselves to my belongings
and then re-packed, re-packaged and re-locked the room as though nothing had
happened. Someone who had known of the bounty, the location and had had the


We had met in Malaysia and travelled up together into Thailand, sharing a
room or two along the way. I had thought it slightly odd that upon arriving
in Bangkok he had refused the offer of once again sharing a place to stay,
or a night out with some of my old friends, saying instead he fancied some
alone time and taking himself off to a quiet part of town. He knew where I
was staying, would have easily been able to get the room number from
reception and already knew the combination for the pad lock. I had trusted
him in a way only really experienced amongst travellers – the kind of trust
you initially put in people because you have no other option and because you
believe in karma, the kind of trust cemented by shared experience, of
laughing at squalor and sharing the same dirty towels day in and out. In my
mind there was no doubt that it must have been him. He had betrayed me in
the worst possible way. The bastard...

"Are you OK?" The Scottish voice was a welcome comfort.

I looked up, realising that my knees were wet with the tears which had
spilled down my face with the shock of my realisation and the desperation of
my situation.

"Surely it cant be that bad? I hear that they do very good roast dog on a
BBQ as a welcome on the other side." He joked, trying to get a reaction.

I shook my head sadly, as if saying the words would make everything even
more real. I felt like I had been knifed in the stomach and that by opening
my mouth I would loose yet more of the life inside me.

Sensing that I needed a little time to compose myself, Gary introduced
himself and settled down on the path at my feet. "Well, there’s a massive
queue anyway, so I may as well sit here and have a fag" he said, lighting a
marlboro and wedging it between my lips. "And Im in need of a travelling
partner if you’re interested? My girlfriend just left me for a Thai kick –

I stifled a laugh. Suddenly with Garys kind words and the soothing taste of
tobacco in my throat, my predicament didnt seem nearly half as bad.

I explained the situation, and almost as soon as my faith in human nature
was destroyed it was once again resurrected. Gary leant me some money until
we reached Anchor, where we enjoyed an amazing time together, took in some
of the world’s most incredible sights and forgot all about his lost fiance
and my lost friend.

In the coming weeks we forged an amazing friendship which will last a
life-time, and whilst American Express let me down repeatedly in my quest to
recuperate my lost travellers cheques – it didnt matter because I had the
only two things I needed – Mr Gary my hero, and Mr Visa card my saviour!

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