Today we were pretty much scammed. Not horrifically; there are so many warnings about scams in Cambodia where tourists give money for milk to children etc but this was simply money. We arranged for our transport on arrival here and had explained that we were on a tight budget. Our driver suggested we visit the floating village over the waterfall as the waterfall had a $20 entrance fee. We got some breakfast at the mini mart, picked up our bus tickets and then drove to the floating market.
We arrived to be told there was a $20 fee to be driven by boat to the floating village and no way around this cost. We simply didn't have $20 each so asked our tuk tuk driver to take us back or if we could go somewhere free. He seemed to panic a bit; supposedly drivers are in on the scam and promised us a discount. After speaking to the staff he said it would be $15 and when we still declined we got it for $12 each. This is really excessive; a private hour boat in Laos was £8 in total for 3 of us, in Vietnam we paid $5 each for an entire day trip with lunch. We reluctantly paid given that we'd come all this way, Molly chose not to which I'm retrospect was probably the right choice!
We walked down to the boats and discovered we had one to ourselves; completely unnecessary as this is undoubtedly what causes the cost to be so high. We set off down the river, we had a driver, a random guy on board and a tour guide. He spoke alright English but it was very difficult to hear him. Soon we arrived at the floating village and we were told we would have to pay extra to enter. We had no money and this hasn't been explained to us so we declined. Next he offered to take us to the floating school, and said we could buy things to donate there. Again, we had no money, which meant missing it completely.
We carried on and admittedly it was very interesting to see. These people live in houses on the river; there's a police station, hospital, school etc and it is pretty cool. But a hardly saw or heard about this! We stopped at a 'fish and reptile farm'; 2 tanks of dirty water with fish and crocodiles inside a gift shop selling stuffed crocodiles and their skins. It was just weird.
After this we turned back to go to where we had started. At this point out guide started requesting tips. From other reviews I read after we were pretty lucky here; they usually start telling you how they're not paid, how they need money to go to school etc but ours just wanted money. We explained we had no money, Lauren showed him her empty purse, and he said we should borrow money for him from our tuk tuk driver then pay them back. It was so awkward as we tried to politely decline. He ended up going to sit on the front of the boat in a sulk, putting headphones in and not speaking to us until we got back. We offered him the rest of our change, about 50p. He seemed grateful but then said 'just $5 between the 3 of us' we continued to decline as we go off the boat. He was following us back up the steps to where Molly was, not in a weird way but it was still very awkward. Although I was pretty annoyed that they were this pushy these people are obviously living in poverty; I noticed little things like how broken the soles of his shoes were and how the driver's t shirt had holes in. But we're on a budget; that $12 for the boat trip was over 2 night's accomodation or a couple of meals- it's a lot of money over here. Supposedly the crew on the boats get very little of what we pay which is awful, but not our fault!
We walked up to meet Molly and a woman tried to sell us plates, I declined without looking until lauren said 'why do they have our faces on?!' At some point of the trip they'd taken photos of us and put them on a plate?! We headed to our tuk tuk, just as we were getting in our tour guide from the boat appeared and started speaking in Cambodian to our tuk tuk driver. We hastily told him we didn't want to give him any money and we began the bumpy journey back to our hostel.
We got home around half 1 and by then had overspent on our budget significantly and it was too hot to explore the town. We spent the afternoon at the hostel and then at 5ish ventured into town for more curry. We also walked to the post office as I needed to send post cards, and although a bit out of the way this meant that we got to see part of the city we hadn't before. It's very nice and somehow managed to be both vibrant and peaceful. After a stop at a mini mart we returned to the hostel in preparation for another 4.30am start tomorrow.