The worst part of traveling is the actual traveling.
But we made it out of Siem Reap so there is a God. I’m not hating on that city just to hate on it. I really wanted to like it. Truly. I think the name sounds cool, and the shirts that say ‘Siem Reap’ look really rad, so I was looking forward to getting one. But I just can’t bring myself to support a city I abhor so vehemently.
After filling up on the free breakfast offered at Soria Moria, we hop in the first tuk tuk we see to go to the bus station. When you’re traveling on a budget, look for the places that offer free anything and take advantage of that like an alcoholic on a tour of a brewery. It saves you buying a meal and if you do it right, you’ll be good until dinner. Leave your pride in your room when undertaking a free breakfast.
The road is jam packed so the driver takes us through a maze of dirt road alleys. For sure, this is the point in our trip where our organs are harvested. To our delight, our organs remain inside our bodies, still doing their organ jobs, as we get to the bus station. Safe for another day pancreas.
Bus station, what do I say about you? You’re filthy. You’re a child’s nose with a cold in the middle of winter, there’s nothing I want to touch. The ground is covered in litter and actual garbage. This might actually be the biggest culture shock here.
Back home, if I drop a gum wrapper, I get reamed out by an overweight, chain smoking woman while she’s chowing down on a Big Mac. In that, I can appreciate the irony. During our entire trip here, it seems that people in this part of the world have little respect for their environment. In fact, a trashcan is one of the rare sights you see. What makes that ironic is that there’s a cleaning tax added to your bill when you take a ferry. It really is a shame because these countries are naturally beautiful.
The tuk tuk driver lets us of right in front of our bus where an older woman is sitting behind a tiny table. Talking to her is futile because “no English.” That’s okay though because four other people checked our tickets to tell us we’re at the right bus.
We decide to go the washroom before we’re stuck on a bus. A little kid is charging us a quarter, or 1000 Riel, for a ‘cleaning fee.’ Thinking it’s another scam, we wait until we see locals pay, then decide to use the facilities.
The quarter is not worth the price of admission. Maybe the ‘cleaning fee’ should be a lot more because I doubt the place was clean even when it was first built. Anti-bacterial wipes would refuse to enter. The washrooms are so disgusting you want to cry because you know a piece of your soul has just been tarnished and nothing will make it the same again.
At the bus, a group of teenagers is told to board another bus. We hop on and get our seats in the back. I’m in the back right corner and a bar that runs the length of the windows rests uncomfortably against my shoulder, making the narrow seat even narrower. I’m just not build for transportation in this part of the world.
The bright side: for the first time during this trip, we’re on an actual bus when we were told we’d be on a bus.
All the seats look like they are literally culled from other buses. The only thing they have in common is that they’re all falling apart and they all have the same red material attached. The air conditioning has all but given up. It’s like a dog that doesn’t want to play catch anymore – he just looks at the ball, then at you, thinking “you crazy?”
The bus leaves and we’re on our way. For about five minutes. That’s where we stop to pick up a single passenger on the side of the road. Then we leave again. For about ten minutes. This where we stop to pick up a lot more people. Remember those teenagers that got on another bus? Well, they climb back onto this one. A motorbike gets loaded into the cargo hold. Yes, a motorbike. Outside the bus, the driver throws water against the engine under my seat. Remember those teenagers that go on another bus then got on ours? Well, now they’re told to get off our bus.
Everyone is loaded, the bus is packed, and we go. When I say packed, I mean packed. There are little plastic stools that people are sitting on in the aisle. These stools came with the bus because this is commonly done. So not only is every seat taken, every inch of aisle space is taken as well.
Then we stop again at another random shack where the driver fills a pail with water and splashes it on the engine again. My best guess is that he’s cooling off the engine that I’m sitting directly on top of. That would be why the rest of the bus is cool and I’m sitting on Satan’s lap.
There were two stops to stretch our legs on our journey and Jay encountered an interesting phenomenon. While waiting to use the washroom stall, local women would barge past her, then start banging on the door. If the woman inside didn’t comply fast enough they would barge in and just start going, regardless if the woman is still on the toilet.
The weirdest thing I’ve had happen in my washroom adventures is that there’s always a woman cleaning lady in there. I’m convinced I’ll never use a public washroom without a females gaze on me.
A couple of stops where people get on and off and we’re in Phnom Penh, the capital.
About half the bus gets off on a street corner. Jay scrambles to figure out if this is our stop. From the one person who speaks broken English, she surmises that it is. Turns out Jay was right because she’s awesome. Problem is, we don’t know where we are or where to go.
We stop in a hostel, grab a map, and start navigating to our hotel. My male instinct kicks in, and I refuse every cab and tuk tuk, wanting to find it ourselves, much to Jay’s behest. Aside from ‘male instinct’ I think it’s a good activity to walk around an unknown place. You learn quickly and get the vibe of the area so you get a sense of what you’re dealing with.
After a short hike we find the Monsoon Boutique which is incredibly nice. We unload and force ourselves out to eat and get water, then call it a night, planning to get visas to visit Vietnam tomorrow.