We had a 6.30am pick up from the guesthouse to take us to the bus station. Fortunately, it had stopped raining for long enough for us to make it from reception to the minibus without getting soaking wet! A rather uneventful almost 6 hour bus journey to get us from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh took us past flooded roads. We even drive past a TukTuk that was almost submerged in a ditch at the side of the road. I reckon the road was so flooded that he just drove straight off the road…
Ate a packet of crackers for breakfast, the only food items we could find in the shop last night, before stopping for ‘breakfast’. A rather disappointing stop as the food looked a. disgusting; b. like it was cooked a week ago; and c. totally overpriced. Giving it a miss, the only thing Jayne really wanted was the super cute fluffy puppy with an amputated front paw. Arriving at the bus station in Phnom Penh, we had the usual performance from the TukTuk drivers who didn’t quite seem to understand that we were staying at the bus station to transfer to another bus – although they could all regurgitate a string of Cockney rhyming slang! We even had the same driver approach us three times using exactly the same speech each time.
Popped into the nearby supermarket to stretch our legs and buy some snacks for the next bus journey. Tried to find this elusive blueberry Fanta that we saw advertised back in Siem Reap to no avail. We tried to find somewhere to eat on the way back to the bus station but with every restaurant looking worryingly empty (eat where the locals eat after all), we decided to buy a pork sandwich from the kiosk at the station instead – it was delicious!
Back on another bus for our 7 hour journey to Battambang. Chatted to the man in front of us who lives and works in Siem Reap as a professor of agricultural. It was really interesting listening to him talk about how he trains Cambodians to double their earnings through their crops. It was slightly difficult to hear him at times over the Cambodian karaoke music blaring out. He left the bus halfway and we watched some ‘Dexter’ to pass the time. The bus did the typical ‘India’ thing of driving around the outside of the town and then dropping us a couple of kms away from everything. When we got off the bus, there were only motorbike taxis that wanted to charge us $2 each to go 3km… Neither of us wanted to get on a motorbike again after the Preah Vihear experience so we started walking. At which point, a TukTuk turned up. Since it was late and it was dark, we asked him ‘how much?’ At this point, he started with ‘free today but you take me tomorrow’. Knowing that we didn’t want to hire a TukTuk tomorrow we asked him again. Despite explaining that we didn’t want a TukTuk tomorrow but we were happy to pay a good (the right!) price tonight, he didn’t seem to notice. Decided to cut our losses and walk anyway, we then got the speech about Battambang being full of gangsters and murderers so it wasn’t safe to walk. If only he could have seen us roll our eyes in the dark…
The walk, where we weren’t raped or murdered, was easy enough and we were soon enough at our guesthouse only to find out that we had no room despite pre paying through Agoda. A slight disagreement where they wanted to put us in a male dorm room and we refused resulted in us being sent to another hotel for the night. At this point, we were more than slightly pissed off, so when the guy who showed us to our room started asking if we wanted a TukTuk tomorrow, we closed the door in his face and then blocked it with a chair. Climbing into twin beds, we fell into an uneasy sleep from the adrenaline rush.
Tuesday 11th October 2016
Now, we weren’t expecting good things from today. The guy who sold us our tickets was clearly a scam artist and we had kicked up a bit of a fuss yesterday when we went back to confront him. We weren’t expecting the day to go without incident and we were right!
Leaving out guesthouse at 6am to make sure we were at the pick up point early enough so it couldn’t be claimed we weren’t there, we waited… And waited… And waited. Jayne called the number he gave us for ‘any problems’ but it was turned off (or disconnected!!). Fortunately, a staff member used a different number and within five minutes, a mini bus had picked us up and was driving us towards Phnom Penh. We were waiting to see if the other rows of seats got crowded since we had ‘paid extra to not share our seats’… Clearly wasn’t going to happen as everyone had their own seat the entire journey. Stopped at a rest stop after about 2 hours for a late breakfast / early lunch. We ordered a bowl of noodle soup although I ate most of Jaynes meat – it was either beef liver or tongue. I loved it! It reminded me of being back in France. Back on the minibus for a couple of hours, we arrived in Phnom Penh – in the middle of nowhere. I made Jayne stay on the minibus whilst I sorted things out. We were supposed to have bus tickets in our hands for Kampot at this point and a transfer to the bus station. Fortunately, the bus driver seemed to understand my hand gestures and I was pushed back into the minibus and I was given a mobile phone. I ended up speaking to the boss of the travel agency we had used who said we had bus tickets to Kampot but needed to pay another $15. For those who don’t know me, I rarely get angry, but at this demand I lost it! I could see the driver look at me in the mirror as he negotiated the busy streets as Jayne rubbed my leg telling me to calm down. Turns out the boss didn’t realise that not only had we paid for the entire journey but also that Map had taken so much money off us – even he was shocked at how much we had been charged. He agreed we didn’t have to pay any extra but ‘conveniently’ couldn’t get hold of Map to confirm our overpayment for a refund… At least we had bus tickets in our hand at this point and were at the bus station. In the grand scheme of things, it was only $20 but it is the principal of the situation. Consoled ourselves with the fact that this is the first time it had happened during our year of travelling and it was a lesson learnt not to pay for anything when we are tired!!!
Got a pork baguette sandwich and some crisps at the bus station before boarding a second mini bus to Kampot. It wasn’t very busy. In fact, there was more parcels and packages to be dropped off en route than passengers! Passed the time watching ‘Game of Thrones’ and watching the countryside pass by. Dropped off the other two passengers in the seaside town of Kep before continuing the last thirty minutes to Kampot. Turns out our cheapest guesthouse of the trip is one of the nicest!!! Amazing beds and a lovely bathroom, we are both a bit gutted that we are only here for two nights. Headed to the waterfront and walked past the colonial buildings decorated with hundreds of fairy lights. Made our way slowly to the night markets where we had fried noodles and fried rice sat in the middle section with the funfair rides for children. The merry-go-round looked particularly fun as each horse was held on with ropes which meant you could swing them even more… And the kids did! So much so that one almost fell off. Walked to the supermarket to grab some breakfast supplies and an ice cream before heading up to the softest and thickest mattresses we have had in SE Asia. Saturday 8th October 2016