Continued from Siem Reap Day 3.
Today we got up at 7am to finish the rest of our packing and catch a bus heading for Phnom Penh, the capitol of Cambodia. The bus ride is supposed to take around 6-7 hours, but we’ll see how long it actually takes.
Mekong Express is one of the best rated bus companies in Cambodia, seriously. They are supposed to be one of the safest, reliable, and doesn’t try to scam you. Supposedly. Our mainbus attendant announce that it would take 6 to 7 hours and we would only make one 30min stop for lunch–that ended up being mostly not true.
We start the bus trip, and not unlike the road coming into Siem Reap from Bangkok, the conditions are atrocious. Seriously the worst roads I’ve ever been on in my life, and I’ve been around India. There are large sections of pavement just graded away so it’s just a dirt road. No machines are in sight for immediate paving of the new roads. Logistics fail.
We get waved down by locals who pay a bribe to the bus attendant and get onto our bus. This is one of the things that’s not supposed to happen on a Mekong Express, but I guess that’s no longer the case.
Our midway stopping point. Just a bunch of fruit stands, and a scary restaurant that I didn’t want to eat at. In fact, no one on the bus ate at the restaurant except for the bus driver and the attendants. This bus carried about half Cambodians and half tourists. The tourists were almost entirely of other Asian nationalities. This is very different from our bus coming into Siem Reap from Bangkok, which was almost entirely of Caucasian backpackers.
As we were about to start going again, a couple of backpackers approached our bus attendant. Soon, they paid a bribe and came onto the bus. Wow, that was very smooth talking for a couple of non-natives. Well…it turns out that one of them was half Cambodian and could speak Khmer.
You know, the unpaved parts were actually not that bad. It was at least flat. It was the old paved sections that were the worst. I’ve hit enough potholes on this trip than I have in the States for the past 2 years. No joke. And yes, the bus ride was safe, mostly due to the fact that we were going so slow due to road conditions. I doubt we ever went much higher than 40mph.
It is very beautiful out here though. I’ve never seen this type of landscape before. The parts of Cambodia that we’ve been in, everything is pretty flat. There are not many hills and I don’t remember seeing mountains.
On our way again, sort of. We only have one gear. They managed to shift the bus into one gear by manually switch the gears on the transmission. Except, now we only have one forward gear. I believe they put the bus in 2nd or 3rd and just kept on driving in that one single gear. This meant that our driver has to carefully manage his speed in traffic and we can’t come to a complete stop too much or he’ll end up burning out the clutch.
Oh yeah, another thing. While we were stopped for maybe 20 minutes to fix the transmission, no less than 400 flies got into the bus, and would remain inside the bus for the remainder of the trip. Seriously, the only other time I’ve seen flies attack anything with such swiftness and ferocity is when my dog takes a huge dump on a warm summer day.
On another note, remember those bottles of yellow liquid at all the street side stands? I finally figured out what they were, they are bottles of gasoline. I had finally guessed it, and then started noticing the funnels that are always by those bottles. Then finally, I saw a bus that ran out of gas getting filled up by those bottles, LOL! Smart idea though, those soft drink bottles have known volume, so you always know how much you are buying. On the other hand, terrible for the environment to have all those vapor go out every time you open one up for a fill up.
Soon, we arrived at our bus station, and paid for a tuk tuk to take us to our hotel. The had all the zones of the city mapped out by distance and price. $4 to our hotel. It is now 6:30pm. We got onto our the bus to start the trip a little bit before 9am at Siem Reap. It’s been a really long tiring day on shitty roads.
Tired. We’ve reached the point in our marriage where we sleep in separate beds…that or they just ran out of king size beds…you decide. This is what $43 a night gets you in Phnom Penh. No wonder it’s quite nice, it’s the most expensive hotel we’ve stayed at since Taipei.
The bathroom is just ok though. But who cares, there doesn’t seem to be any bugs here, unlike Siem Reap! Oh yeah, the best thing about this hotel–the internet is super fast!!! That alone is worth my $43!
To be continued at Phnom Penh Day 2.