And so - I rode the highway from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap yesterday ! Got a bus ticket from a travel agent in PP for $15 - the actual price! I can imagine you all leaning forward in your seats right now and yelling at the screen "WHICH BUS COMPANY did you use! FOR GOD SAKE??". The one with the pink curtains? The one with the outside toilet? I bet it's the one showing the movie with whatsisname in it and no subtitles! No wait! Is it the smaller one that gets there 34 minutes earlier but you have to sit on someone's lap and the driver speaks Hebrew?? Actually - I asked for the one with the easiest name to remember - Ibis! I pronounced it wrong, of course, but somehow the young lady in the travel agents was able to unravel the mystery! My bus leaves at 8.45, she said, and they would pick me up at my hostel between 8.15 and 8.30. Yeah, I thought, that old chestnut!! I was tempted to ask her "Is that between 8.15 and 8.30 on the same day?" Don't be a smartass, I told myself, or she might allocate you the toilet seat!
(Included in the price of the bus ticket is a pickup from your hotel/hostel.)
So yesterday morning I sat in my hostel restaurant at 8am and began the wait. Luckily I still had my 'breakfast included' breakfast to help while away the time. I was halfway through my second egg - cooked over easy, something I learned in NYC - when I noticed the driver of a minibus waving at me frantically. First thought? Flies undone! But wait! Could that be my pickup? It was only 8.20 and within the time they SAID they would be here but they only say that, don't they? I was well annoyed I can tell you. Expecting me to be ready just because they were on time when I was only halfway through my second yoke!
I decided not to make a scene and abandoned my brekki and boarded the bus. The nice young man attached a label to my backpack and gave me the stub. Two more pickups later and we were at the actual bus. Bags and people unloaded from the minibus and onto the BIG bus. None of the bags went missing. There will be no scoundrel walking around PP tonight wearing my low cut Dryz-A-Bone
Then there was the bus! Of course it didn't even look like the one in the photo! The one in the photo had chrome wheel hubs whereas ours didn't have any hubs at all. It was pretty much a match otherwise - not that I would have noticed!
Then we waited for other passengers to arrive! Ah - there's the rub - I thought! It's 8.35 already! 8.45 departure my bottom!! I began daydreaming about how I would word my complaint to the Ibis managing director when I realized the bus had started moving. I nonchalantly had a look at the time - 8.43! What did I tell you? They couldn't even leave on time!! I had almost had it with these third world countries when I remembered that this was the bus showing the movie with whatsisname in it - so it can't be all bad!
The nice young man made an announcement in Cambodian and English. I thought it was a little smug of him to do it in Cambodian first but it did gave me a chance to practice translating the local lingo. It seems the trip would take just over 7 hours and we would arrive at 4pm. He then gave us a croissant and a bottle of water.
I smiled at a fellow passenger and she gave me an odd look and half pointed to her lip. I touched my lip in response and peeled off a chunk of dried egg yoke. Ugh, I thought. No wonder you can't by lipstick in yellow.
About the WiFi. The equipment on the bus works ok but the signal to the bus is patchy. Understandable really - given that most of the time the bus is not just in the middle of nowhere but in the middle of a nowhere that's in the middle of nowhere!! Ya get me?
Guessing that repeater towers might not be that plentiful I had a word with Bill Gates about it but he just laughed in my face! Rich Folk - what can I say?!?
To take my mind off not being able to log on for a few hours I tried to imagine the world without wet t-shirt competitions. That gave me the willies!
We had a few pit stops - one for a 30 mins lunch break at a place that was a little expensive for what you got. Another time and I would bring my own. The road was straight and at times a little bumpy - cos of roadworks - but not at all as bad as a donkey ride over the Himalayas! Aircon worked fine, seats were comfy. All the things you would expect from people who have no idea what they're doing! It was only after I left the bus that I remembered there was no toilet on board! However did I manage?!
We arrived in Siem Reap at 3.54 - six minutes early. They just can't seem get the 'on time' thing worked out, can they?
Before arrival the nice young man on the bus asks each passenger in turn if they require a Tuk Tuk on arrival. It costs $2 a vehicle and will take you to where you are staying. It might be handy, at this point, if you actually knew where that was!
You really will need a Tuk Tuk to get into town - a distance that justifies the $2. Unless, of course, you are me. I had transport waiting for me with my name held high by the driver and everything. It was supplied free by the hostel I am staying at paying $9 a night!! I'm not just a pretty face ya know! Do check if your hotel/hostel provide free pickups. Almost all of them do. And then you'll be just like me!
Ahh - what a joy it is to be "an everyday traveller and backpacker with more than one home"