Phnom Penh Day 1

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.

Different breakfast items again.

We plowed through the water here it’s so hot. This does not even show all the water we drank in the two days here.

Waited at the lobby at around 8:30 for a mini bus to pick us up to take us to the bus station. Our bus does not leave until 9:45pm.

Here comes the mini bus.

We proceeded to drive out of town, into the shittier parts of town, and along the worst possible roads ever made.

The roads were so full of potholes and our mini bus had such beat up suspension that one of the seat cushions in the back of the bus flew apart. Seriously, bumpiest ride ever.

Mekong Express, we thought this was the bus station, but still got a little bit of bumpiness to go.

Reached the bus station. Unlike the rest of Siem Reap, which is clean and orderly, this bus station is in disarray. Mekong Express has a dolphin for their logo!

I miss the ubiquitous 7Elevens in the rest of Asia. There are no 7 Elevens here, but just this.

I bought some shrimp chips.

This is our bus, pretty old.

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.

This bus used to be a Tokyo airport bus…maybe 20 years ago.

This is our snack, and a bottle of water.

As advertised, the bus does have wifi. The signal goes on and off, but it does indeed work from time to time.

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.

Fried critters.

One of the locals that we picked up decided to bring DURIANS onto the bus!!! Stinks up the ENTIRE BUS! Terrible.

What almost all homes along the ride looks like. I believe they built them up on stilts for the flooding season.

Yeah, don’t fall off the shoulder, there’s a 2 foot drop off.

The Cambodian countryside is kind of beautiful though.

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.

You can eat fried bugs over here. Hmmm, I’ll hold out for the tarantula that they have as snacks here in Cambodia. Hopefully I can find some in Phnom Penh. Fingers crossed.

I went inside the restaurant to buy a soft drink, and saw on their counter what appears to parts of a beehive.

I came back to the bus, to found RL waiting inside, but the door closed and locked.

I came into the restaurant to find the bus attendant, but he would not open the door until he was done eating. I guess I’ll just wait here for 15 minutes then.

Back on the bus. I got this mango cookies thing from a nearby stall. Meh.

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.

The two backpackers got dropped off in the middle of nowhere and the Khmer speaking one meets up with family.

Both wearing elephant prints. He was much older than his Asian “girlfriend”. She didn’t seem to be a fan of him…

This happened repeatedly along the way, construction and detour.

As we were about a little bit more than an hour away from Phnom Penh, our bus starts coasting. I look over and see that our driver can’t get the bus into gear. Shit….

The bus turns off, and all the bus employees gather out back to remove a panel to access the transmission. I am guessing that the shifter linkage broke. Shit. So much for Mekong Express reliability.

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.

It’s got really hot inside the bus immediately. Some of us came outside to stretch our legs and try to catch some breeze.

They all laughed at us.

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.

We reached this bridge, and we stopped so that they can manually put the bus into first gear for the uphill.

As we reached the top of the bridge, the driver pushed the clutch in, and the guys in the back of the bus were able to shift the transmission into a higher forward gear on the fly. Hah!! I love it.

That’s about the tallest hill/mountain I saw on this entire drive.

Rice? It’s started to rain a little so they were scrambling to cover it up.

This was odd. In the middle of all the slum sits this nice house. I would see a couple more like it.

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.

The only ads that I see along the highway are beer ads, and this.

When you can’t cure them, eat them.

That’s a beast of a tuk tuk. I saw a few of these completely filled up with people.

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.

Phnom Penh, we are heading towards city center.

Independence Monument.

Got to our hotel!! Woah, it’s really nice.

Our welcome drinks, lemongrass tea, with straws made up of some straws(some sort of plant). Cool.

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!

Eating at the beautiful hotel restauarnt.

They even have live music, playing some sort of string instrument with two sticks. He was pretty incredible.

Loving this place, we feel peaceful and calm here already.

Round two.

I got chop sticks, and RL got a fork. Hah.

Time to pig out, didn’t really have lunch today.

Amok. The food was great, the service was great, the atmosphere was great. We ate and drank our hearts out after such a long bus ride. Finishing the day on a high note.

To be continued at Phnom Penh Day 2.

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