Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

Instead of taking a bus, I decided to take a van ride. Consequently you could find me standing outside the bnb with my bags at 7:30 am waiting for the van to turn up. Instead of a van, a young well dressed bloke on a scooter turned up and indicated that I should take a tuk-tuk to the place the van was leaving from. Sonn, a tuk-tuk had negotiated rush hour PP traffic and delivered me to the van. It was full but I had a single seat. There was not enough room in the back so my bag sat next to me in the aisle. Let's just say it was crowded.





It took almost an hour to get out of PP over some fairly bumpy roads. Eventually we crossed the Mekong and the road was ok for a while. Then things deteriorated and got even worse. Photo taking became very difficult as the van bucked up and down.


But I did manage to get some photos, particularly of houses along the way. I hope they give you a sense of what rural Cambodia is like.



Most houses are on stilts. The Vietnamese lady who sat next to me on the HCMC to PP bus said that the practice came from long ago when lions and tigers were prevalent. The stilts kept the houses up high so that you would not be eaten.



These hay stack things are prevalent.


Every little town and village has a temple, some quite ornate.


Cambodia is still a communist country and most towns and villages have one of these. Every hundred yards or so is a blue sign proclaiming the name of the party. Signs showing a photo of the three leaders are also very common.

Interestingly, as in Vietnam, the whole economy appears to be capitalist. Everything is for sale.


The country appears to be very flat and very green from the daily rain. Late May and early June is the dry season before the monsoon starts.



Little food and drink stands like this are everywhere.



Our van stopped after two hours for a break. My backside was already sore from the bumpy roads. I bought myself an ice cream.



The exchange rate is 4200 to US $1. Presuming this price is per liter, fuel is inexpensive by western standards, but not very cheap.


More paddy fields.

 

Our van stopped for about 45 minutes because of an accident ahead. I could see smoke and the scene was dreadful when traffic finally started to move again.


The roads in this region were absolutely appalling. When the monsoon comes the roads flood and get washed away. Cambodia does not have the money to really repair the roads properly so they get worse and worse. At times, we were thrown into the air. I've never experienced such a bumpy ride before this one.

The driving here has to be seen to be believed with cars and vans like ours having to constantly pass much slower vehicles ranging from big trucks to scooter and tuk-tuks.


Of course, all the locals came out to look at the fire.



The ragged edge to the bottom of the walls was the real fashion in one area. Many houses do not have windows, or if they do, they don't have many.


We stopped again for another longer break. One of the passengers left the bus but she was replaced by another woman.


The van had stopped by a restaurant and the Cambodian passengers all had lunch. The few westerners got ice cream and drinks.



Buildings across the road from the restaurant. Not exactly a garden spot.


After my ice cream, I was still very hot and very thirsty. I bought a can of some grapefruit soda and downed it very quickly. I had to go back for another which I drank sitting beside this cool looking green vegetation in a pot. Water was provided on the van and it was air-conditioned, but the heat and humidity was awful.


Eventually the van reached Siem Reap after about 6 1/2 hours. A tuk-tuk driver took me to my bnb which is really a hotel run by an English family. The owner sat me down while he made a photocopy of my passport and shortly after, out came the cold towel and a coll refreshing drink which is some sort of Camboadian tea. Life was feeling good again. A bit of pampering is necessary every now and then on a journey like this.


My room.


I wonder how they train the towels to do this.


I mentioned to the owner that a cold beer would go down very well. The refrigerator in the room had beer in it but the power had not been turned on. He said that he would send up a cold Cambodian beer and a couple of minutes later, his wife appeared with not one but two cold beers. I told her that her husband was a very good man and that she was an even better woman. She laughed at that.

Later that evening I went down town in a tuk-tuk to get a meal. SR is very much the tourist capital of Cambodia and is not longer the sleepy village it used to be.

If I had to do this journey again, I would take the bigger bus rather than the van in the hope that the bus would give a smoother ride. 


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