Yesterday afternoon I wandered in to the bus terminal in central Kampong Chhnang and booked my seat on the 11:15 AM Capitol bus to Phnom Penh. Distance is 92 km and the fare was $5. This is more than I paid in October 2013 but then everything is up in price in Cambodia 2014 and it was just far too hot to think about discussing bus fares. And, besides, just try getting 92 km in a tuk tuk for $5!
Arrived as instructed half an hour before departure time and "checked in" as one sort of does at Kg Chhnang. Which, by the way, is having it's roads dug up and replaced just like the rest of Cambodia. Fortunately, this time it is Japanese funded and supervised and the road works completed look good and are progressing in a logical way.
At the appointed time I optimistically enquire if the bus is running to schedule. Oh no sir was the reply. The bus is broken down just outside of Battambang. But not to worry, sir, there is another Capitol bus in an hour's time. Oh, well, it's another very hot day and far to hot to do much except sit at the bus station watching the world go slowly by.
At 12:05 AM I am quickly roused from my slumbers by the bus station "manager" and told I am now on an SCO 21 seater bus which has just pulled in to the bus station. Who am I to question that I am ticketed on Capitol but now traveling SCO - whatever that stands for? Passengers are all negotiable currency to bus depot managers!
The bus was full but not crowded and I actually had a seat in the centre in the row behind the driver. Some driver! He maintained a fast and steady course right astride the centre line road marking except when self-preservation of the driver dictated pulling back to his correct side of the road.
After the first few heart stopping moment I start looking for a St. Christopher Good Luck Charm or similar. No such luck but in the front seat next to the driver sat the youngest boy-monk I have seen busy on his cell phone! I asked the monk, rather rudely by doing so by Khmer standards, how old he was. His reply, 13 years old. Oh! well, who needs as St Christopher when you have a 13 year old monk in the front passenger seat. No doubt he was constantly on his hand phone to protect us for the next few km.
Once we reached the Prek Kdam Bridge it was the usual crawl in to the city and all out in some side street. Being "Thien Chin Jhas" I quickly play the tuk tuk mafia at their own game and for $2 am was conveyed with a big bag of very flavorsome ripe mangoes from Kg Chhnang to the Blue Lime where I had phoned ahead and to my real surprise obtained a room cancellation that links me in to my existing booking without having to change rooms. Several mangoes to the staff on duty soon had all discreetly eating superb mangoes.
The trip from Kg Chhnang to Phnom Penh used to take me a very consistent one hour fifteen or twenty minutes. Today, with all the road works it took me two hours exactly for the 92 km.
Would I use CSO again? Probably, the air con was great.However, the driver had started the day at Poi Pet which was a bit of a concern considering how short our one and only stop was. The police at the phnom Penh Km 9 bus/van checking station extracted KHR5,000. from the driver. That is today's price for passing the check point free of problems.
All best regards. Ian
Camp Phnom Penh.