Stranded in Stung Treng
Trip Start Jan 12, 2013
42Trip End Feb 27, 2013
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It went a little something like this...purchase ticket from travel agency that gets you on a bus from Siem Reap to Laos. You ask pointed, specific questions about the trip because you have learned that on long trips, there is a good chance that they will try to shift you to other buses, not tell you about transfers, reroute you, shove you in crammed taxis with generators, leave you stranded at the border... You are assured that this is a direct bus with only one change at Kompong Cham. Then, it's straight on through the Laos border and down to the islands. Too good to be true? You betcha. These companies outsource various legs of the journey to other companies who have no real responsibility for you. It becomes one big, complicated mess as you are passed around like cattle heading to slaughter
To start, the bus was over an hour late this morning. We were supposed to depart at 5:30am. We left somewhere closer to 6:45-7am. This is because a minibus picked some of us up and then took us to the bus station where we got on 'the bus'...well, apparently, that wasn't 'the bus' either because we drove down the road a ways until we got to another bus place. We were scooted out and put on that bus. We stayed on that bus for let's say 5.5 hours. Then, we had to wait for the next bus--this is at Kompong Cham...where we were supposed to change. Only, we had to wait 30 min. So, now were running just at 2 hours behind. Our new bus is actually a minibus...which means they can cram you in. There were 15 people in there with seats for 10-11. Four extra bodies really makes a difference. They put two guys in the truck/storage area on the bags of rice. Then, we rode on the worst roads I've been on in Cambodia for another 5.5 hours. On the way, of course we blow a tire...how could you not on these roads?! That only takes 15 min max to change and we're back on the road. We arrive at yet another transfer station...apparently. Only this time, the bus has left without us because they were going to miss the border crossing if they waited since it closes at 5pm. We arrived at this town a little after 6 pm. A guy there tells us that we'll have to take the next bus to Laos in the morning and we'll have to go find a place to stay...on our own dime. Lovely. We've all been up since before 5am and have been sweated, baked, tossed, tumbled, and bounced to death for hours on end. We were not terribly pleased. And, for the first and only time this trip, I actually booked a guesthouse online last night because I knew I'd be arriving late on the islands...yep, lost that money.
The icing on the cake is my sweet room which came replete with extra hair in the complimentary comb...you know, in case I didn't have my own hair
All in all, this is what it's about. Relaxing and going with the flow. There is absolutely nothing you can do about it and nothing gets accomplished by getting bent out of shape about it. It's just money and time...and hair and cockroaches. But, hey, at least I have a place to sleep and I had a shower! Plus, I made some new friends. Together, we laughed and suffered together. Ali is from Johannesburg, South Africa and has been great to talk to because he remembers the apartheid. Don't meet many South Africans traveling about! Then there is Gav and he's from Melbourne, Australia. Ali is reserved and polite and Gav is boisterous and outgoing. An interesting trio no doubt. Gav made us try a boiled quail egg at one of these bus stops. Tasted surprising just like a regular hard boiled egg.
I am always interested in learning how people manage to get the time off to do this sort of traveling as well as what provokes them to want to travel--especially alone. It is funny how no matter the nationality, the answers are turning up remarkably the same. Most everyone is from a country that mandates 4 weeks vacation minimum a year. Then, the people can accrue additional days off by working overtime. In both Ali and Gav's cases, they are independent contractors so they have some flexibility in designing their schedules. They then save money for their travels when they're not working. It is very difficult I think for Americans to get the time off to travel. Nearly all the people I've met that have traveled to the States have remarked at how much we work
After all that, I got to have dinner with an Aussie mechanical fitter and a South African IT guy while laughing at each other's ability to actually sleep on a minibus that quite possibly was bouncing so hard it could have snapped our necks. Good times.
Now fingers crossed we actually make it to Laos tomorrow. !!!