Wild Ride Across Cambodia

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This was NOT our bus!

To get from Phnom Penh to Siem Riep in the northern part of the country, we had done some research on the internet. You can fly, but then you don’t see a thing. We opted for a bus: Giant Ibis busses take 6 hours to drive at a cost of 15.- p.p.. We had ordered our tickets online and were lucky that, a month ahead, we were able to get front row seats. Their website is easy to use: http://giantibis.com

A small bus picked us up in the morning and drove us to the bus ‘station’. Our front row seats were great. While most people dozed or read, we had a great view and did not have enough eyes to take it all in. IMG_0512

While the seats and the service were good, the driver drove like a bat out of hell and the bus’ tires were so bald that metal wire shone through the smooth rubber. The company advertises with wifi onboard but that did not work for us at all. The guide said it depends on the server provider of each area we drove through, but for us it did not seem to work anywhere. There is also no bathroom on board – a good thing to realize ahead of time. The bus stops once for a bathroom break and once for a half hour lunch break at a local open air restaurant. It’s a good idea to carry paper because there is none in more bathrooms here.IMG_0523

The road out of P.P. was lined with stalls. Some sold fruit, other sold buckets or chickens or clothing or TV’s. Little children walked barefooted along the road, dogs dozed in the red dust. Cambodia feels to us as a mixture of Laos and Myanmar. As we left the city behind us, green fields replaced shacks. We spotted the occasional very skinny cow. And the bus gathered speed. Even as we passed through towns and people crowded along the road, we must have done 120 KPH while passing kids, cows, motorbikes and tuk-tuks. Honking at everything that moved, we managed to avoid hitting things although one deaf dog had a very narrow escape and I kept expecting a motorbike loading with entire families to swerve in the path of our speeding bus.

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Us western woozies think of a motorbike as transportation for getting from A to B. Here it is obvious that owning a motorbike means you are well-to-do and that you need to help out friends and neighbors. In this one day alone we saw motorbikes transporting:

  • entire families including babies, toddlers and grandmothers.
  • a wicker cage with 6 live pigs
  • armloads bamboo, including one dragging 10 meter poles
  • large flats of potted mums
  • loads of bricks
  • a rack with steaming pots of food
  • enormous bales of rice piled high
  • large baskets, on either side, full of bananas or eggs
  • lumber
  • haybales
  • shoes for sale
  • piles of bottles of gasoline
  • terra cotta charcoal burners
  • large loads charcoal
  • fruits and snacks for sale
  • stacks of about 20 wooden tables (!)
  • teak carved bed frames
  • towering piles of mattresses
  • rolls of fencing
  • dried fish
  • firewood
  • coconuts and mangoes
  • tires
  • a cargo bike with a cow

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Cambodia, Here We Come!

IMG_0478Years ago I wrote about Cambodia by including a unique school in my book called My School in the Rain Forest. Recently, Cambodia was included in my book Birthdays Around The World. This was possible because kind Cambodians helped me to gather photos and information. But I really wanted to see for myself. Cambodia was one of the few countries we had not yet visited in Asia. So this year we planned a trip to get to know Cambodia.

IMG_0492As with all countries we describe in this blog, we don’t pretend to knów the country after a short stay. We simply want to share the excitement of what we see, do and learn.

The flights to get here were very long. We flew from Victoria to Vancouver and then had to wait for a flight that left well past midnight. The seats on our Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong were one of the most cramped we have ever seen. You could barely move and if you dropped something, tough luck. If the person in front of you moved the seat back, you could no longer hold a book or use the table tray. Cathay obviously cramped too many seats into too small a space.

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After a two hour lay-over, we boarded the flight to Phnom Penh. It’s always exciting to finally see the real thing, after seeing so many maps, photos and books about a place.

Even from the air, we already noticed that there were not really a whole lot of cars but loads of motorbikes.

We were met by a driver with a van who took us to our downtown hotel – about a 45 minute drive. The city streets got narrower and more crowded as we came into the old city along the river. Our hotel was a lovely colonial building with a restaurant and pool on the roof top.IMG_0525

We managed to stay awake all day (we left home on Monday and arrived on Wednesday!) –  taking a stroll along the river and through on old temple complex. Then we had a swim in the cool pool and enjoyed happy hour with one-dollar-beer and half price pina colada’s! We ate dinner during the sunset as the temple areas turned dark and the lights on boats came on. Did we ever have an amazing sleep after 3 days of traveling and no bed!

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