In Cambodia there is a bus that connects all the main centers; Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Battambang. It is a special bus.
It’s called the Hotel Bus.
All the regular seats have been replaced by beds; train sleeper-car type of beds. They are arranged in an upper and lower level on both sides of the aisle. Two mattresses per curtained unit. Four mattresses on each level across the width of the bus.
Yes, if traveling alone you spoon with a stranger!
The first stranger I was drafted to join was an older Cambodian man with a quick temper. He was adamant that he was not sharing with me. It may have been because I was bigger than the average passenger and he didn’t want to be jammed up against the window.
Or it could have been because I was a foreigner.
Or it could have been that he was simply a cantankerous elderly gentleman who was as surprised as me regarding the sleeping arrangements. If so his reaction was understandable. I could see him attempting to hold onto his solitary berth as long as possible in the hopes that the people assigners would forget about him.
After the argument settled I was shunted to the very rear of the bus; right above the engine on an upper level bed. My bunk buddy was a Cambodian student on his way to Phnom Penh.
We didn’t talk a lot. We just arranged our bags, ourselves, and fell asleep somewhat secure in the assumption that neither of us was going to molest the other.
The journey went by quickly and we slept remarkably well for a first date. No excessive tossing and turning. No inappropriate noises or unwanted semi-conscious hugging. All in all a rather pleasant experience.
I didn’t ask my bunk mate if he had the same experience; I am just assuming he did.
In Phnom Penh I boarded my onward bus. As is typical in Asia and Africa the scheduled departure time often means you leave that particular spot on the ground; drive ten feet further on then stop for the next two hours.
Waiting for something; what…who knows?
We all hope the driver knows and that is as far as that thought process goes. To take it any further would be futile.
Five hours later and with no events to report we pulled into the Sihanoukville bus depot. Commission hungry hotel wallahs scrap for your business. In Sihanoukville however the system is price controlled. There is no bargaining to get into town. The rate is what it is. If you don’t like it you can walk. There is no other tuk-tuks around.
You pay up and smile!
Also, in Sihanoukville don’t be expecting the driver to take you where you would like to go.
Oh no! You will end up at one of commission based hotels where the driver receives a kickback if you take a room.
I was heading for the Cove. I didn’t have a booking there but I knew it was in the area I wanted so figured I could start there and I would find someplace eventually. This method has worked over the last 28 years so no reason it should stop working now.
To get to the Cove I had to go through two other hotels first. Looking at rooms, rejecting them. Eventually getting to the Cove.
It was full.
Right next door was the Malibu House. I stayed there instead.
Sihanoukville was named after King Sihanouk and it the first deep water port in Cambodia that feeds directly to the open ocean. Prior to Sihanoukville all shipping was done up the Mekong and therefore was ultimately controlled by Vietnam.
That wasn’t a good thing; far from it.
Nowadays Sihanoukville has several parts to it. The port, the city center, and the various beach communities; the most popular of these being Serendipity Beach.
It is a typical young backpacker beach town and as such became the location of another epiphany; of sorts.
I qualify this statement with the words “of sorts” simply because it’s not something I didn’t already know.
I am older than these folks.
What interests them doesn’t interest me much anymore. I kind of like relaxing in the evening, having a good meal, talking. I don’t drink much. I don’t want to wear multi-colored string anklets and bracelets. Most of all I appreciate a morning without a hangover…stumbling down the main street drunk and cursing at 7am is not my idea of a good time.
There seems to be a general lack of respect towards cultures that are non-judgmental.
If you want to be an asshole they are quite willing to look on in amazement and wonder why these crazy westerners act like this.
They must wonder a lot of things!
I did have a great meal on the beach. BBQ barracuda with all the fixings and a beer to wash it down. Toes in the sand and skyrockets lighting up the sky. The local Cambodian kids hawk these fireworks all night. By the amount that go off I am assuming business is good.
The next day I headed to one of the southern islands. Cambodia is not really known as a beach destination but Koh Rong is the main destination these days so headed there to relax and write.
The beaches of Koh Rong are gorgeous and some, in my opinion, are as good as the beaches found in Thailand.
The village on Koh Rong is called Koh Tui. It is tiny. It is probably no more than 100 yards in length. Has one policeman. Everything else is a hotel bar restaurant combo.
The incoming tide reaches the top steps of all the establishments. To walk around town means walking in the ocean for a several hours each day. With rising global tides it makes me wonder how long the village, as it is today, has got left.
I did a couple of treks on the island to distant beaches but other than that I swam, ate, and wrote. A perfect little getaway as part of a much larger vacation. Palm trees that curve towards the shoreline, soft white and golden sands, clear turquoise water, a jungle interior, and beach bungalows.
I just needed a break!
For photos of Cambodia click here.