Saturday, March 2, 2013

It's all about the journey?!

D: So I am pretty behind on updates, as I am in Cambodia and still posting about Bali, but here is a guest post from Patricia, who I have been traveling the last few weeks of the trip with. Travel days are definitely NOT glamorous!
A little background: we had lined up a private driver to take us from Siem Reap to our next stop in Cambodia (Kratie), which is 7-8 hours by car, with a stop to check out Beng Melea (an out of the way temple that we had heard was really cool). At 10 pm the night before we were going to go, he cancelled on us. The bus station was closed, so we decided to get up early and check out the bus options.

P: At 6:30 am we asked the hotel manager if we could still catch a bus to Kratie. She makes some mad panicked arrangements, organizes bus tickets, calls for a tuktuk and tells us the bus is being held for us as we have a 40 min ride to the bus station to accomplish in 25 min.
End of chapter: 10 min bus ride, $4 overcharge on bus ticket and $2 overcharge on tuk tuk. Oh... And we missed out on our complementary breakfast.
Our bus looks pretty decent from the outside. Air conditioning sort of OK. Some seats broken but we find a decent pair.
As we drive, water is leaking from multiple spots from the overhead compartments; Interesting challenge to dodge the drips, some locals putting towels over their heads as if they've done this before.
The Video screen at the front is playing loudly either the most annoying half chanting comedians or the most twisted, badly produced Bruce Lee/ Jackie Chan/ Sylvester Stallone style nightmare movie possible! All in the Khmer language.
And they keep stopping along the way for more local passengers. Three to a seat or sitting on portable footstools. Danni and I figured our butts were the equivalent of four locals so we were already doing our share!
And then it happens...bus abruptly pulls over and smoke (or steam) is pouring from the rear bus engine compartment. The locals on the bus become panicked and frantically yell and push and shove to get out of the bus. Danni and I aren't too sure what's going on ( it smells like radiator to us so no big deal ... yeah the middle of nowhere) so we manage to squeeze ourselves into the panicked throng and get off, not before I have all my belongings of course! :) I inspect the action at the bus rear. A big knife is used to cut all the AC belts and the bus is pronounced as "problem solved".
End of chapter two: We drive in 35+ degrees with windows and bus door open! A 5 hour bus ride becomes 9.
We are now looking forward to switching to a minivan for the last 3 hours of the trek.
The White Mini Van - obviously picked over in a junkyard and then shipped to Cambodia for further use. Not one of the seats actually belonged in it, nor were properly bolted down. Mattresses on any floor space without seats. Danni, myself, and a Swiss doctor really didn't know what to do except get in! The smell of rotting carcass assaults us unbearably (vicks vapo rub anyone?) and only eases after a local woman takes her two grocery bags off 2 hours later. As the front seat passenger climbs in, the whole seat tips backwards before he catches his balance. We then pick up a number of local people who squeeze in. And finally...the last male passenger climbs in with the driver and they share a single seat together!! No seat belts whatsoever, just in case your wondering. No AC. 15 people for an 8 passenger White Mini Van
End of chapter 3: We arrived safely! A beautiful sunset greeted us coming into Kratie, a pretty decenthotel with a river view. Now a shower to get rid of rotting-carcass-smell!

D: AND an update, 2 days later another travel day in yet another minivan:

P: Imagine our pleasure this morning when a clean fairly new looking 12-passenger WMV showed up at the curb. Seats bolted down. No obnoxious odours. Cargo space to stow our backpacks. Two brown bobble-head horses on the dash. No AC, no seat belts but still very tolerable.
Well... Okay....15 people piled in...just a little snug.
First pit stop - major redesign of the cargo space in order to add 3 crates of chickens, 3 pigs, 5 tires, and miscellaneous sacks and bags.......and 9 more people! We are now 24 people in a 12-passenger WMV.
Five more stops for pickups of miscellaneous packages and people!
At the last stop, a middle-aged German lost his temper stating that he had paid for two tickets and should be guaranteed adequate space for leg room. Sounds pretty logical in theory.
He got his leg room! The rest of us just squeezed a little tighter.
We travelled for over 5 hours in a 12-passenger van: 12 backpacks, 3 crates of chickens, 3 pigs, 5 tires, multiple sacks and packages and 35 people!!!!!
For extra good measure, the driver poured several gallons of water over the engine before we left. Nice that maintenance is important too.

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