The big Indochina trip: seven buses and a taxi.

After many trials and tribulations I’m finally in Phnom Penh. I started at eight in the morning at the travel agent where I left the motorbike, with a large tourist bus. The air con was cranked all the way to eleven, some of the airvents even had curtains stuffed in them to stem the flow. Since I was in sneakers and long trousers it was ok though.

We took off about twenty minutes after schedule and stopped a few times along the way so when we reached Nakasong ferry terminal  it was already eleven. I thought the people headed for Four Thousands islands would just get off and then we would continue but the driver told us we had to change to another bus. I got off, loaded my bags into the minibus I was pointed to, then was told to go get my ticket. I already had a ticket but for some reason I had to go to the ticket window anyway, just to exchange one slip of paper for another. Once that was done me and a few others crammed into the minibus and set off, only to stop a few minutes later to fix something. A few minutes later we were off again.

When we got to the border there was a guy outside who collected all our passports to take care of the visa application process for us, of course we had to pay him a bit extra ($1 speedy fee). We got our passports and were told to take a seat in the next minibus because we would leave shortly. However, we ended up waiting for half an hour with the rather asthmatic air con before we actually set off. Around 2:30 in the afternoon we arrived in Stung Treng which is the nearest town to border. Here we had to wait again for another bus which, at this point, was starting to get a bit annoying.

It took another hour before we (by this time I was starting to form a bond three fellow travelers) were crammed into another minibus, number four for those keeping count. That one only took us a few blocks into town where we were switched into a proper bus, this time with working air con. I don’t understand the logic of having us wait in one place then transporting us to another bus station just minutes away. Anyway, bus number five set off with me thinking it would take a few hours but at least we would get to Phnom Penh without more hassle. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

On the way the bus made several stops to pick up people and once, it seems, to let a guy get off and buy some pineapple. No wonder public transport in these countries takes a long time if they schedule for such things. By six o’clock we had only made it to Kratie, with some 250 kilometers left to go. By now I as sure we would arrive later than advertised. To my surprise, the driver asked me where I’m going and when I said Phnom Penh he directed me to yet another minibus. Once again the minibus had pretty sub par air con, and on top of that the driver kept playing crappy Cambodian music on at high volume so I couldn’t even listen to my audio book to pass the time. At 7:30 pm, our supposed arrival time, we were still 150 kilometers from the city. I was hot, tired, hungry, and generally exasperated with the way this bus ride had gone.

An hour later our bus broke down, or it didn’t break down completely, but whenever we were standing still the whole thing was shaking and the engine sounded like an old traktor. Needles to say we couldn’t continue. Luckily, one of the locals traveling with us waved down another bus. It wasn’t carrying any passengers but  it was hauling some furniture, a large metal cabinet blocking the entrance, to the next city. After a bit of negotiation the driver of our broken down bus handed some money to the new bus driver and off we went.

In Kampong Cham  the bus dropped us off at a gas station. The local guy who spoke some English managed to find a taxi for us (no meter, just a someone with a car willing to drive us), me and the three other foreigners crammed into the back seat and the local guy and one lady in the passenger seat. With a total of seven people we set off. After two hours in a cramped position we finally arrived in Phnom Penh. I found a tuktuk driver who said he knew where my hotel was but he couldn’t find it so I had to walk the last few blocks.

Once is checked in and dropped off my bag I set off again in another tuktuk, this time to the airport to pick up Renegade Wife. We got back to the hotel some time after midnight and more or less fell into bed exhausted but happy to be here together.

We can see the royal palace from our balcony 

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