After the red dust of Rattankiri, Phnom Penh seems so clean. The Sorya bus from Banlung was old and a little dilapidated inside bu the a/c was freezing! What is it with Cambodian buses? Worn-out upholstery, dirty aisles, almost no-existent suspension but the a/c is always cold. Can’t complain really as a working a/c no matter if you feel like you’re in the North Pole is better than a non-working one.
Do Yok brought me to the bus terminal on the outskirts of the town with his “new” car. So generous of him. I managed to snag window seat #10 and there was enough room on the luggage compartment for my big basecamp bag which contained the musical instruments I had collected. The bus left the station at 7 (published time was 6:45) and headed to the vulcanizing shop just across to have one of its tires changed. This being Cambodia, you don’t stop and wonder why they didn’t check the tires or had it changed before hand. It took about 30 mins and I spent the time chatting with the only other foreigner on board. Jean is a French guy whose contract with an organization in Phnom Penh has just ended. He’s looking for a job as he has not lived in France for about 4 years already and wants to keep it that way.
7:30 am we are off. The bus makes good time and soon we were in the eatery on the edge of Kratie about 30 mins away for the lunch stop. Back on the bus and I manage to get lots of sleep thanks to my neck pillow and the reclining chairs. Yeah, inspite of the run-down chairs, they still recline. Who says nothing in Cambodia works?
There are also less toilet stops this time something which I also noticed on the bus ride from Kratie to Rattanakiri. But on the last leg of the journey after the stop at Skuon (which seems to have less spiders) I started to wish there was going to be another toilet stop. Knowing that we were a mere 60k from Phnom Penh, I drank a can of Coke and a bottle of water. What I did not know was the bus would skip the national highway and take the long circuious route on the rutted road.
Where’s a toilet when you need one?
All kind of thoughts came to me. There were less people on the bus now and the guy seated beside me had changed seats. I remembered peeing in a bottle while on a small boat on the Mekong in Can Tho. It would be too obvious. How about peeing on my krama? The amount of pee pressing on my loin seems too much for it. I’d probably need a towel. Unable to hold it any longer, I bravely went to the driver and said “Toilet” while pointing to the side of the road. So he stopped the bus and true to form, I was followed by a slew of Khmer also heading out to pee. I guess there’s really nothing embarrassing or inconvenient to stop by the side and pee as others would actually follow you out. Maybe they were saying a collective “okun” as they clambered back to the bus.
It was a good thing I didn’t hold it as it was a good hour and half before the bus finally rolled in at the Sorya station behind Psar Themei. I bade Jean goodbye and was whisked away to the Kha Vi Guesthouse near the Royal Palace by an eager tuk-tuk driver. He tried to bring me to another guesthouse and to ask me what my itinerary was for the following days but I told him I had been to Phnom Penh before and I just want to get to my guesthouse. Me and my basecamp bag were covered in orange dust, my butt was hurting, and I was craving for a pizza or a burger.
I’m so hungry I could eat dinner twice.
Which I did. After all the Khmer food including two bad experiences with Pov Soeauch at Banlung which resulted in diarrhea, I needed something more familiar to my taste buds and my digestive system. A short walk from Kha Vi, I spotted an eatery called.. what else… “Burger!” With lots of locals eating, it must be good. Ordered a combo that cost 12,500R which included a can of Coke, a two-patty burger, and a small plate of fries. It was enough to quiet my stomach but not make me happy. Hehehehehe.
In search of food again. The big park where the Vietnamese-Cambodian Friendship Monument stands is very lively at night with the dancing fountain and aerobics classes which was interesting to watch. Saw a neon light for what seemed like a row of restaurants and I followed it.
I’m waiting Uchen to arrive from his Air Asia flight from KL.