Saturday, 28 January 2012

Last Day in Sihanoukvill

Night bus to Siem Reap..

What to do with my last few hours in Sihanoukville? Relax on Independence Beach sounds good. The monkeys are in their usual place, just beside the road. No breeze today hence this is the most humidity experience so far. Better get back, get my bags, get some supplies for the trip, and say a few goodbyes. Trouble with a monkey - seems agitated and starts to run at me, I can run too and I did, fast! The only way to get past is hop onto a moped, make a run for it that way. 

The night bus to Siem Reap is $18 and takes anything from 12 to 10 hours - depends on the road conditions and bus reliability.  An anxious 10 minute walk from the guest house to the bus station along main road, but it was quiet. I had my attack alarm ready, just in case of an opportunist attempt on my money. Looks like I'm the only one here, but I am quite early. Gradually passengers roll in on slightly overloaded tuk tuks, with backpacks and rucksacks hanging off the sides.

Bus rolls in at 8.20pm, should have been on our way by 8pm according to the ticket. It's smart, thankfully looks quite new and is air conditioned. There is some confusion about which is the bus for Siem Reap. Information is patchy but in the little English the bus representatives can speak it's clear all buses are going to Phnom Penh and stopping in Phnom Penh. Chap from new Zealand had his ticket routed to Bangkok and expected a bus to go there and I thought my bus was straight to Siem Reap, no one has mentioned changing in Phnom Penh!

The ride up to Phnom Penh is spent mostly on the opposite side of the road facing oncoming traffic overtaking a long line of lorries trundling along at 30-40mph is necessary. At least oncoming traffic slows sufficiently to let the bus overtake and pull in safely. Seats recline, more than in an airline economy seat, but still isn't any good for sleeping. It's a night bus alright, but I wouldn't say it's a sleeping bus by any means. The road up to Phnom Penh is in good condition, as good as any major British A class road.

Phnom Penh suburbs, even in the dark, is not a pretty sight. Miles and miles of garbage and ramshackle. City centre looks smarter, a few night clubs, popular judging by the thousands of mopeds parked at the front door. The company bus depot is a shabby affair with a small ticket counter and given this seems to be where all buses cross and swap passengers is somewhat a chaotic sight at 1 am Sunday morning in the rain. First I'm told to go to the ticket counter for information. They tell me to get on the bus waiting alongside, they tell me to get off as this bus is going to Bangkok. Ok, remain calm, at least I' m halfway there and it's just a few hours for the next bus! Another bus rolls in, this time interrogate the driver. Yes, this is going to Siem Reap, and it's a sleeping bus, there are no seats just bunks. Things are looking up, at least I can lay down for the next six hours.

On our way at 1.15am but nothing much to see as the bunks obscure most side views, although a forward view afforded glimpses of the road and a little bit to the side. The road upto Siem reap is not that good. Ruts, frequent rumble strips and the odd pot hole creates a bumpy ride. Maybe called a sleeping bus but there isn't going to be any sleep, even with ear plugs!

7am Siem Reap, and the bus pulls into a ramshackle, dusty compound with at least 50 tuk tuk drivers waiting to pounce. Not in the mood to hike around looking for a place to stay, so for a $1 I let a tuk tuk driver find me somewhere - he knows where, and I'm first as others roll in behind me. Quite an organised routine I would say. A basic room for $8, I just need to crash for a few hours.

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