Sunday, October 26, 2008

Siem Reap to Phnom Penh : By Bus

The drivers here seem to be a little more reckless than in other Asian countries I've been to. I've seen about five near road accidents and one actual one since arriving in Cambodia.

On the way to the bus, our tuk tuk was travelling too closely behind the car in front so of course when the car braked suddenly, so did he. We didn't hit the car but the scooter buckled and the brakes stopped working. After sitting in the middle of the main road for a while, Bighead jumped out and helped push the tuk tuk to the side of the road. We ended up having to unload and jump in another tuk tuk to get to the bus on time, leaving the poor guy to sort it out himself.

The Mekong 'limousine' bus was much better than Angkor Express. Cleaner and more comfortable, although I believe each bus differs slightly so it's luck of the draw. The air con was working well and good suspension made the bumpy road bearable. Every so often the bus would bounce around so much that it would start to make this loud grinding noise above the back wheels. It would also shudder violently for short periods. I managed to read my book through all of this so I was happy enough.

About 40 minutes out of Phnom Penh the poor old bus finally gave out and chugged dramatically to a halt. I think the driver thought that if he just gunned it, he might be able to make it. Alas, we all tumbled out into the stinking hot afternoon and watched as the driver disappeared under the bus, to later emerge defeated and covered in grease.
The whole village (or at least it seemed) came out to watch. A lot of the local passengers began making calls for rescue. There was a scramble for luggage as others decided to flag down shared minibuses. It was all quite exciting for the first five minutes. After a while, we were told that another bus would arrive in 20 minutes so we decided to wait it out. It was hot and sticky by the road side, it was getting dark and the mozzies were arriving in full force. The view of the Mekong river across the road with locals gathering at its edge sure was something special though.
After about an hour, the bus that had supposedly had difficulty finding us, finally arrived (there's only one road so I'm not sure how this happened). As we climbed aboard we were greeted with that indescribable full body wave of euphoria that can only be felt the moment you pass from extreme humidity into a glorious, icy cool air conditioned space. Aaaaaah, the relief.

You'll know exactly the feeling (and moment) I'm talking about if you've ever been in tropical heat and had the luxury of air conditioning. It's best if you've been in the heat for too long when every molecule within, forces you towards a safe place. A mall or shop, any place will do so long as it has an air conditioning unit that's right above the door. As it pelts out its constant stream of loveliness and you walk your overheating body through it, it envelops you. Wraps you up in happiness until you feel you might float away. That's what I'm talking about. That moment (and feeling) has to be one of the most pleasurable, possibly even making all that hot sticky heat worth while!

So it wasn't the luckiest of days... or was it?