At least the bus is air conditioned, quite a comfortable ride as it creeps out of Phnom Penh at 20, maybe 30 mph. Heading south onto National Highway 4 is slow going, about 45 minutes before the scene becomes less urban and the journey begins in earnest as the driver crunches those gears, trying to get a little more speed. 4 hours or thereabouts, timings and schedules are somewhat unreliable in Cambodia it seems, but at least I will be in Sihanoukville today, sometime around 6 I would estimate.
Very little traffic on this road, about a tenth of what would be a similar class of road in the UK - A class 2 lanes. A few lorries, some rattletrap buses, tuk tuks and some BMWs sharing the wide road once away from the City. Somehow it all seems a lot less scary sitting high up, unlike last time when I was faced with what looked like utter chaos (January blog). Very scenic and very rural with typical scenes of rice paddies, buffaloes and bamboo dwellings. The odd smart villa on stilts passes by but generally it's a ramshackle scene - dwellings along the roadside constructed of corrugated iron supported by bamboo, sometimes on stilts and camouflaged behind a line of banana trees or short palms. Plenty of strewn garbage, particularly in the vicinity of villages - digging a hole and burying it doesn't seem to feature much! Plenty of greenery, watery lowlands feeding the fields and distant hills making for quite a nice picture. Hadn't seen any of this last time because, of course, it was dark.
Stopping here, middle of nowhere, for 15 minutes, enough time for a stretch, toilet and something to drink. I suppose it's a Cambodian equivalent of a service station - about 10 tables and a menu available. Not the cleanest of places, wouldn't eat here even if I was hungry. The locals are tucking into noodles as tourists opt for packets of crisps and biscuits, cans of fizzy drink and water. Just time enough to get a coffee, risky but water looks like its been boiled - its the drip feed method where a thimble is place over the cup. Milk comes as the condensed, sweetened variety. A moment of inspiration strikes. I ask for a large glass, pour in the coffee, get a bottle of chilled water and add to coffee, mix it up and it's a most refreshing drink.
Back on the road then, Sihanoukville in about 90 minutes. I'm hoping the bus will call at the main station since from there it's just a short hike to Victory Hill, but I have a feeling it's going to stop at the downtown company office - a familiar habit with bus operators in Cambodia.
Sihanoukville at last, slowing to let off some locals at the roadside. Then it's left, bypassing the station and straight into downtown. As usual, a host of tuk tuks, taxis and motorbikes are there to greet the passengers. Tourists clutching there Lonely Planet guide books are pounced upon vigorously. A tuk tuk to Victory Hill from Downtown starts at $6 and ends up at $5. Actually I pay $2 since I can share with others going in the same direction, much to the annoyance of the next tuk tuk in the line up.
The little shop just along from the corner is closed, Green Mood, the guesthouse I used last time is padlocked shut, shame because that was my backup plan! The little cafe I frequented is closed, but the others are open, thankfully, so I won't starve. Other guesthouses are up for sale or rent, but the place I'm heading for appears to be open and with plenty of availability. Mealy Chander has a room for $5 and for that I have a TV, shower and toilet, furniture and a double bed. It's clean, and once I get the ants under control then this will probably the best value for money accommodation the whole trip. But first it's time for food and to find out what's happened to some of the folk I got to know last time.