The Road To Sihanoukville - 2013
Updated: Jan 4
Today was just one of those travel days, right from the get go. Things were just a bit off. First it rained as we were walking out to the dock to catch the boat at 8 am to the mainland. Then, as we waited to get on the boat, we spied a waterspout in the distance.
We watched transfixed as its tail reached down to stir up the water while it seemed to twist and turn right towards us. Fortunately, it dwindled to nothing well before it reached the dock and we were able to board and take off. Slightly delayed by this phenomenon the driver made up for lost time; I wish I could say it was a smooth ride, but it wasn’t despite the fact that the water was not rough. Chris noticed a definite extra bounce in his nether regions for the hour-long journey.
Upon arrival on the mainland, there was no mini-van waiting for us as promised by the travel agent on the island we'd left behind (one minivan ride all the way to Sihanoukville she had reassured us several times).
We walked along the dock (about 400 meters) in the muggy muggy heat and then turn left to find the waiting spot, a sort of cavernous, dulsatory restaurant where a bored clerk assured us the minivan would be arrive by 9:30 am.
I was able to use the luxurious facilities (ha) while we waited for the vehicle, which finally arrived only 15 minutes late. We chatted with a fellow passenger, an interesting Russian fellow who had earned his Masters in English as a Second Language at the U of Alberta, so the time to the Thai/Cambodian border passed by quickly.
We only got scammed twice as we made our way across the frontier: once when we went thru “quarantine” which involved standing on the other side of a wooden table while a woman pointed what looked like an asthma puffer at our faces, gave us a yellow Health Dept. paper, then asked for 20 Baht (less than $1).
Next, a local tout "helped" us through the visa process. Fortunately we had our e-visas in order. Picture snapped, fingers prints taken, our helpful assistant gave us our passports then requested a tip, which meant we were to pay him 100 baht each. No negotiating. “I have to feed my family.” Ah, what the hell. It was only about $3 each.
We then walked across no man’s land between borders and suddenly we were in Cambodia where we boarded a bus that seemingly materialized out of nowhere. We laughed about the green BB stickers we'd been yold to wear when we had waited for the minivan on the mainland. Somebody from the bus company was supposed to have helped us find the bus at the border.
None of the other farangs we encountered on the bus were wearing them; we also learned a couple had walked right past the quarantine area and then dealt with the passports themselves, so they were 240 Baht richer than us.
The bus was surprisingly nice and uncrowded – just a sprinkling of farangs on board. But of course, this was not to last. A short distance from the border we pulled off the highway onto an extremely rutted red dirt road, which led to the bus station, which was on one side of a gigantic red dirt field.
We were asked to get off and show our tickets at a little table. We were given new tickets and assigned seat numbers on the bus we had just been on and then told the bus would leave in 40 minutes. Now what?
We spotted what looked small restaurants on the other side of the lot so we ambled across under the hot sun, kicking up little puffs of red dust with every step. No one was cooking anything and we weren’t about to eat any of the suspect looking cooked chicken drumsticks that were sitting in a couple of the glass display cases.
I spied some potentially tasty cookies at the end stall and a veritable comedy routine ensued involving three of the staff and several other passengers who had suddenly decided they wanted to buy some cookies too. We didn't have Cambodian money yet but we could pay with Baht but determining how much the cookies cost was tricky. Transactions were eventually made. They were smiles all around and somehow we ended up with three packets. Fortunately, they were good.
Onto the waiting bus again to find our assigned seat numbers; not as good a spot as I now had to put my feet up on what seemed to be a wheel well. The bus finally departed, turned onto the main street of the town and then halted at the side of the road. The bus morphed into a local transport bus. After a long wait, a couple of locals climbed on board (couldn’t they had gone to the bus station just around the corner?) and we took off again.
We gathered more and more people until the bus was completely full. Several big farang guys had been assigned seats at the very back of the bus and a couple of small Cambodian guys were squeezed in beside them. No one seemed very happy.
After a couple of hours, we pulled into another bus station, which actually had restaurants with fresh cooked Cambodian and Thai food. Just enough time for a quick chow down and tour of their luxurious facilities behind the restaurants where young men were making some banana chips. The door of the loo was right next to them and had a rectangle cut out of the top of it so I could easily gaze upon them as soon as I stood up.
Rushing back to the bus to find Chris asking did I leave a bag on the bus? as we were meant to change busses. Racing on board, I retrieve my bag and then joined Chris where he was waiting with a handful of fellow farangs for the new “bus”. Ah.
A brown beat up minivan was our next chariot. It seated 11, just enough room for all the farangs and our luggage in the back, the driver and one of the pretty Cambodian women who had joined us at the local bus stop near the border. But wait. The driver and another Cambodian passenger, who I also recognized from that local bus stop, appeared at the side door. Apparently, we were to make room for this new passenger. But there was absolutely no room and there were howls of protest. The man had no choice but to share the Cambodian lady’s seat in the front.
We were sitting in seats that faced the people behind us so we could have played cards if we had been so inclined. We chatted instead. There were two young English girls on board, a funny huge guy from England named Andy, a surly older German guy who spoke only to yell at the driver, a couple of nice chatty older guys – one French and one Spanish, and two silent young guys who only looked out the window or stared straight ahead. It was very hot. I produced my trusty fan purchased in Bangkok for just such occasions and fanned the girls.
About an hour later, we let off the Cambodian woman who appeared very miffed as she walked by us. Onwards for a short while and then another stop to hook our minivan to another minivan stranded on the side of the road. We slowly towed this for another hour all the way to our final destination where more comedy ensued when we stepped off the van and were instantly surrounded by touts who wanted to take us wherever it was we were going.
Fortunately, Chris and I did know, and we were quickly deposited at our new home for the next few days – the Beach Club Resort. We had made it safe and sound, on five different modes of transport, and only about two hours later than expected.
So much for one minivan all the way!