There are many things that define a country and whilst we can’t claim to be living like locals, at one with the people or even taking the time to consciously examine cultural norms anywhere, it is impossible not to be able to get a sense of how one country differs from another. Obviously, within countries there are also differences between regions that shape the tourists overall view of a country and what defines these regions and countries can be so subtle and sometimes so dramatic. I love the way nature provides a ready warning that change is likely to be coming. Crossing mountain ranges, obvious changes to land use and vegetation all tend to signal a change to who the people are and what they are doing.
We left Surin in a space-cab Hilux with Molly and Julia on the workman’s bench crammed behind the front seats, made that little bit more luxurious with an extra foam cushion.
The road out of Surin was quiet and well maintained but as we moved south, the roads became less trafficked and narrower. As we turned east and left Surin province the road deteriorated significantly and for about 5-10 km crawled along, bouncing in and out of gaping potholes at about 10 km/hr. Hitting a T-intersection we were surprised that only 90 minutes out of Surin we were finding road signs to the border - Choam Sa-Ngam only 13km away!
For the last 20 minutes we had seen jungle clad hills raising to the south and running east west. All that we really knew about the border area was that from just on the other side of the border there were escarpment views out over the
The last couple of km wound uphill to the border post on the Thai side – suddenly the tar road was left to itself, heading into the jungle and Cambodia on it’s own whilst we diverted down a dirt track to a couple of bamboo shacks and a gate house. We pulled up, had an ice coffee with the driver and he headed over the border to “do some shopping” – for what we weren’t sure. We sat around just taking in where we were.
There was a small camp close to us, we assumed it was military as there was no other reason for people to be there – there was one drinks hut and there had been a few empty shacks back where we left the tar but on this day, things were pretty quiet.
We headed over to the gate house, noting it was staffed by two soldiers and passed a few people walking in the other direction. As we walked down the dirt road some people pushing trolleys with hay and coconuts overtook us when we stopped to take photos. Then up to Thai immigration, stopping at the departures window of a tiny portable office.
A lady road past, giggling and babbling at us and then someone yelled out in Thai – it would appear that not many people actually visit immigration and that most people who were either Thai or Cambodian had a fair amount of freedom to come and go across the border.
A very animated man turned up and said welcome to