Saturday 24th August: Siem Reap to Phnom Penh
Ticket: US$10 bought at my hotel the day before
Scheduled Departure/Arrival Time: 11:00am to ???
Actual Departure/Arrival Time: 11:09 to 17:11
I wasn’t looking forward to my first bus ride. I don’t like travelling by bus for all number of reasons. I may expand on that in another post. Today I had the 320km trip to Phnom Penh.
Due to the day I lost in Malaysia I decided to give temple spotting in Angkor Wat a miss. I have spent a few days looking around them before and I doubt they have changed much unlike the temple gateway town, Siem Reap.
I visited Siem Reap about 10 years ago, just before the international airport was due to open. Then it was still a little town consisting of a couple of roads with a few restaurants and bars. Now the city starts many miles before you reach the centre, miles of shops, car dealerships, offices and international hotels.
The temples were still a big draw a decade ago but not as many people were happy to do the 6-10 hour drive along heavily potholed roads. Mostly it was backpackers, rather than money rich, time poor tourists from neighbouring countries and further afield. Now Angkor Wat is drawing over a million tourists a year.
With the average wage in Cambodia hovering a bit above a $800 per annum, tourists spending that in a few days offer a huge opportunity. Everyone wants a piece of the action with touts for bars, restaurants, tuk-tuks, travel agents constantly shouting or asking the standard questions of touts worldwide.
“SIR, Sir, Sir where you from?”
“Lovely Jubbly, Chelsea, Arsenel, Spurs, good good, which one you like?”
” I don’t”
“What you want? I’m your friend. Food? Tuk tuk? Massage? Smoke? Tour guide?”
Hearing this approximately every 3 steps gets a little tiring. Its pretty similar to Patong in Phuket or Kuta in Bali.
The next morning I was up for the bus, and ferried down to the depot by the hotel driver. A very chatty chap telling me all about the recent controversial election. I couldn’t quite get all he was saying but it seemed to be that the winning party was backed by the Chinese and that concerned him.
The bus itself was pretty clapped out and it turned out to be the 10am bus just waiting for a few more customers. The people on the bus had already been sitting on it for over an hour by the time we left.
Soon after that it was obvious that this was going to be a painful ride. Not the seat, that was ok if a little sticky. It was the TV. First 2 hours Khmer karaoke, followed by a local film from the 80’s judging by the shoulder pads. Finished with a heavily dubbed Sly Stallone movie. All of this was played at a ear splitting level through already blown speakers.
The single lane road was not in a great state with large parts of it worn away. We stopped a couple of times at restaurants along the way. I think it was mainly to gives the engine a chance to cool down and pour gallons of water back into it. We rolled into Phnom Penh in about the 6 hours we were told it would take.