This one time I hated buses...
Trip Start Jan 12, 2013
42Trip End Feb 27, 2013
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Today I traveled from Phnom Penh to Battambang, a posted 5.5 hour trip. I purchased my ticket yesterday and was told they would come pick me up. One thing that is a constant is the constant unpredictability. I show up at my pick up location only to be told that the King is coming in or something and so no buses are being allowed into the city. Uhh, okay. They direct me to a motorbike that I have to climb onto while wearing my backpack and holding my shoulder bag in front of me. I have no idea where I'm going. Always exciting. Once at the bus station (a corner store with a few counters), the bustling and confusion looks like one of those mass evacuations in Florida to escape a hurricane. I walk up to an official and hand her my ticket, hoping to understand what I'm supposed to do. She rapid-fire tells me something that I'm sure she would swear was perfect English, but I would beg to differ. Finally, I understand that I'm supposed to go next door and get a real bus ticket. Ooohhh, well excuse me for thinking the ticket I had in my hand which was given to me at the ticket desk by the ticket dude at the authorized bus ticket selling place WASN'T actually a ticket. Of course, I should know that I'm supposed to take this 'non-ticket' next door to a RESTAURANT and get a real ticket. ??!!?! (If you think too much about these things, your brain will explode) With my real ticket now in hand, I sit down and wait for my bus. I get on the correct bus (because they had signs they taped on the side in english) and settle in for my multi-hour sweaty seizure session. Why do I call it that you say? Because the air conditioning (as I've already alluded to) doesn't appear to have been recharged since 1997 and they put it on about Level 2. I guess they get too chilly. Not me, I just sit there and feel my body straining to maintain homeostasis by shedding water via every possible pore. Now, books and online will tell you that the roads in Cambodia are much improved and overland travel is easy now. For the record, I can't imagine what it was like before! Yes, there is asphalt on the road...at least a modicum of it. However, it's not consistent and giant craters litter the roadway like tire landmines. We travel at a blistering 30-40 mph most of the time...that is until we slam on the brakes and swerve to avoid one of those craters I mentioned. Then, we bounce, bump, and crash through unpaved parts that would give a 4x4 difficulty. I don't know what it feels like to have a grand mal seizure, but I've seen the physical manifestation of them and I'm pretty sure that's what we look like clattering down the road. It's no wonder these buses break down all the time. They are manhandled by the roads.
What about bathrooms you say? Oh the bus stops at least for that...and every other thing. On a 7 hour trip we stop about 6 times. Bathroom breaks are at shack outposts with some food and dirty dirty bathrooms consisting of a cinder block cell with tin roof (so that it's nice and cool inside) and metal door that you must pin closed. Then, the toilet is a squatter. Obviously no toilet paper. A bucket with water for flushing. But, in order to flush you must touch the dipping bowl in the water...I literally cringe thinking of all the unseen grossness on that bowl and door pin. Once done, you're done. There is no sink or soap or anything else...except for some yummy finger foods that are just waiting to be the vector for your fecal-oral contamination pathway.
All of this is normal. This was a good bus ride. It just makes me laugh at the irony of how you hear so many people talking about how 'stressful' air travel is (in a first world country of course). One lady I saw on a flight needed a companion dog to cope with the 'stresses' of airline travel. I heard her talking with the flight attendant and it wasn't that she was afraid of flying or had a phobia. No, she just said traveling like this made her stressed and anxious. I propose she do a bit of bus travel in Cambodia and I would think that if she didn't have a mental breakdown, she wouldn't feel quite so stressed by Frontier's anxiety-inducing beverage service, straightforward ticket counters, consistent security protocol, etc. It just gives me pause to reflect and be thankful. Of course, you hear that a lot when people see things less fortunate than them, but it's true. Perspective is always nice to have, and receive a refresher course on. Now, I'm off to soothe my battered body with some sleep.