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Leaving Phnom Penh for Bangkok by Bus

But my rainbow guy seemed very relaxed.

View SEA Trip by Any Means on automidori's travel map.

All the way from Phnom Penh to the border of Thailand,
September 5th 2011

It turned out that the bus I booked through The Sinh Tourist, wasn't a bus owned by The Sinh Tourist themselves. It's a bus from "Capitol Tours". On my ticket was written $16, but I paid The Sinh Tourist $19.02 including tax. Well, that's fair enough. How would I know about Capitol Tours anyway?

I didn't get a seat by the window, but it was just the 3rd row from the front. I got a broad view to enjoy along the way.

Unlike the bus from The Sinh Tourist also, mineral water wasn't provided. In order to spend up my riels, I bought 2 bottles of mineral water at a vendor by the side of the street before my bus left. The 2 bottles were of 2 different brands. The first one was 1,000 riel dan this one, although smaller, is 1,500 riel. At first I heard the vendor say "thousand three hundred". But, when I gave my money, he said, "No, thousand five hundred." I wouldn't have taken it, if I knew. You wonder why a smaller bottle is more expensive almost twice the price? I was also wondering why until I drank it. It's really different! I'm not one who can tell different kinds of mineral water. But this one, was really distinctive. "Ozone Treated", I think is the answer.

Next to me was a Japanese guy. It seemed that we, me and this Japanese, were the only foreigners in this whole bus. This is not a tourist bus like the buses I took from Sai Gon to Mui Ne or from Da Lat to Sai Gon, which I booked from The Sinh Tourist also. This is really the local's bus. I think, this bus journey provided me a deeper view of Cambodia.

Many of the passenger brought with them huge bundles wrapped with cloth or plastic, and some in a carton box. Some of the ladies appeared to attempt to be fashionable but nevertheless only revealed the class of their status. Light bright pink blouse with dark bright green skirt, big yellow ribbon pin tugged in the hair, and dark blue high heels, plus a huge black fat handbag. Not exactly like that, but kind of.

As in my home country was the season of Ramadhan or Lebaran as we use to call it, the time when people are returning from their hometowns, I laughed at myself. The view in this bus was very much like the buses going out of town in my home country. The whole my life, I've only gone once on a bus like that. I was nine and it was with Dad. Dad took me on a bus from Kediri to Madiun, then to Nganjuk, and ended in Sarangan. I was too small to realize the situation. I was just too excited to be with Dad venturing a new route. Ah, no doubt, traveling runs through my veins. Now here I am once again on a local bus, not going out of town, but going abroad.

The glamor of Phnom Penh gradually diminished from my eyes. At 8:00 AM our bus stopped. People got off and seized for the seats at the table. Breakfast time?

First, I'm not a foody. Second, I've gotten my breakfast already. Third, I'm broke. So I just took pictures which would cost me nothing.

I wonder, are these eggs with an embryo inside?? Yaksss.

I went to the rest room while preparing myself for the worst. At least I would see something like in the bus terminals in my home country. To my surprise, the rest room was white clean. There must be no Chinese here, I concluded.

Back on the bus, music entertainment filled in. The music and fashion looked like the oldies when Mom and Dad were dating. Once again I laughed at myself. Poor you. But suddenly... what? That's "Bengawan Solo"! That's my country's unforgettable. I was all ears, making sure it was Gesang's Bengawan Solo.

Only 2 hours later, our bus stopped again. What? Are we going to eat again? Oh these people... What time will I arrived in Bangkok if we stop every 2 hours for food??

I looked at the Japanese guy next to me. He didn't seem like going to move out from his seat. He kept his book in his hands. Okay, I said to myself, I'm not going to get off either. Of course the bus attendant stood in front, spoke, but I cared no less for I understood nothing. Passengers got off. Some were still intact in their seat. There was a woman who had a sleeping baby in her arms. The bus attendant spoke again. This woman got up and soon everybody was down, except me and this Japanese guy.

"Go, go," he said to us.

"I don't want to eat. I just want to stay here."

"No, no. Go, go. Lock, lock." He tapped on the door.

Reluctantly, I got off.

The serving style in this place was more appealing to me than the previous. Still, I didn't sit down to eat. These people are going to stop for food again 2 hours later. By then it would be lunch time. When it comes to that time, I'll eat whatever is available. So did I promised myself.

Besides a restaurant, there's also a souvenir shop. A took a glance at the shop. They weren't my cup of tea. Meanwhile, my Japanese fellow stood by the street with a cigarette.

This stop over point is obviously Capitol Tour's place. This is the ticket counter across to the restaurant.

This is how the street looked like near our stop over. This stop over took longer than the previous one.

Not long before our bus started to move again, a young guy came from the back seat and talked to our bus attendant. He seemed like negotiating on something and the bus attendant seemed not willing to grant him his will. The bus attendant pointed to the driver, but the driver was on his cellphone. This young guy passenger had a pleading look.

"What does he want?" I asked myself.

"Maybe he wants to go to the rest room," myself answered.

"Why didn't he do it at the stop over just now? How many times do we have to stop??"

"Don't be like that. Sometimes you just don't know when you need to pee," myself told myself.

Now the young guy was talking (looked more like pleading) with our bus driver who was done with his conversation on the cellphone. I saw a gas station in front of us. I thought we were going to stop there, but we didn't. The young guy kept on negotiating. So what does he want??

Our bus kept on running and it looked like that we were getting further and further out of town. No houses, no shops, no restaurants. Just paddy fields. Where can we find a rest room in such a place??

Suddenly we stopped! What? Is this guy going to pee on the paddy field? Why didn't he do it at the gas station??

Because Cambodians drive on the right side of the street and my seat was on the left, I couldn't see this guy anymore after he got off from the right side of the bus. I waited. Curious and impatient. Minutes went by.

"Why does it take so long for him to pee? How much water did he drink? A gallon?" I asked myself furiously.

I saw the lady who sat next to the right window looking down through the window. Her face was half pressed on the glass. Hiyyy... is she enjoying the sight of a man peeing??

"Maybe he wants to get off here and is looking for his luggage under the bus," said my other self.

"And that takes so long? What if the bus attendant missed out some luggage while returning the other luggage into the bus? What if it happened to be my suitcase? Oh, no!"

At the thought of that, I got out of my seat and went down. I have to watch out that my suitcase is not left behind. However, the side of the bus was clear. The luggage door was tight. The paddy field spread wide in front of my eyes. Afar across the field were tiny houses. Where's that guy?

I went back to my seat. No wonder there needed to be a tough negotiation.

It seemed to me quite a long time until this young guy was suddenly stepping into the bus again. Guess what! He had both his hands heavy with fruits! Kind of a harvest. My goodness!

Our bus moved on and the lady on the right by the window kept on chattering with a loud voice in a high tone. She seemed upset. If only I spoke her language, I would have joint her.

I continued my reading, but soon got sleepy. Thinking that I would have a long time for reading anyway, I gave in and let myself to sleep.

I was awaken by a rough shook on my right shoulder. Our bus attendant ran to the back of the bus and apparently bumped into my shoulder that was already sliding off to the right as I slept. Before I could figure out what was happening, he was already running back to the front, grabbing a plastic of plastic bags, and running back to the back of the bus. Aha! I know. Somebody is throwing up. Yaks! Luckily I didn't require for a seat by the window. I might have gotten one, but at the back of the bus with vomiting passengers. Yaks, yaks! As far as I know, Japanese don't throw up in a bus, even when they are drunk. I never wanted to turn my head to the back since then.

We entered a city again. There was another stop. I thought it was lunch time. But only some got off the bus together with their bundle properties. Then some new passengers got up. You know what, we never stopped for food again!

I guess the bus attendant had already told his passengers so, but in Khmer. He couldn't figure out the words in English when we stopped for a meal the second time. He only could say, "Go, go!" to me and my Japanese fellow.

I grabbed a package of oat biscuits from my camera backpack. I only had one package. The other one I left in my suitcase. One package contained of 4 pieces. I took one piece and munched with extra care as if I were in war time. I knew I wouldn't be in Bangkok before late noon. I took another piece, and then another piece. The other 1 piece I returned into my backpack. That's for dinner.

Among all the cities and towns we passed by, I only recognized Battambang, because there were many signs written. It looked quite like a busy city. I think I saw Starbucks and McDonald. If not, sort of.

We stopped at a gas station. Hoping there would be a mini mart where I could buy some snacks, I got off. There were only drinks. "How much is this?" I asked.

The lady looked nervous. She took out a piece of paper and wrote "1000". Since I only had 500 riel left, and 1 USD used to be 2,000 riel, I said, "Two for one dollar, okay?"

"Blrprprp..." She was still nervous.

My bus attendant ran to me. I took out 2 cans from the refrigerator and showed her my one dollar note. "Two, one dollar. Okay?"

The lady smiled and nodded. Deal.

This coffee, has a unique taste. At first I thought it was Cambodian coffee. When I was back home, I found a mini market selling this exactly same coffee. Part of feeling nostalgic, I bought one. It was then when I read at the back of the can "Imported from Thailand". I still thought this coffee came from Cambodia to Thailand, and then to Indonesia. But theprinted words on the can said it's manufactured in Thailand. So, Thai coffee this is. You should try.

Hotels, hostels, guesthouses, travel agencies, were frequently seen along the way.

My bus stopped. A stocky man in blue shirt got into the bus. "To Bangkok? To Bangkok?"

I raised my hand.

"Your ticket, please?"

He exchanged my ticket with a name tag and told me to pinned it on my shirt. "Go straight there." He pointed to the front.

"So I get off here and walk?" I asked.

"Yes. Bus finish. Walk. Go straight."

Honestly, I was rather nervous. Usually I just follow other tourists. But now the only tourist I can follow is this Japanese guy. As you must know, either in a hurry or not, a Japanese walk with high efficiency. Very fast.

It was not only his speed that was efficient. His belongings, too, were. Unlike me, he had no suitcase to drag along. My suitcase for sure had become one and a half kilo heavier than before, with coffee.

However still, I was glad this Japanese guy wore a wide hat with rainbow colors. So I just walked straight following the rainbow.

I prepared myself to walk a long way, because I didn't see anything that looked to me like an immigration office building. I had expected to see an immaculate building like the one on the border of Vietnam and China, between Lao Cai and He Kou. It turned out that the immigration check out was like a ticket booth. You see that white shelter there in the middle, near the vendors with red and green umbrellas? The white shelter, not building, I mean. That's where I got my passport stamped. A web camera stood on the table. I grinned as the staff bended the camera lower to my face. Before me was a giant Westerner. You can imagined how much the camera had to be adjusted.

When I was done, my Japanese fellow was already out of sight. But that stocky man in blue was there. "Just walk straight," he said once again.

I dragged my suitcase as fast as I could. I didn't care much if the wheels crack. I just wanted to be in Thailand right away safe and sound. Ah! That's the rainbow hat! Luckily that Japanese guy was rather tall, so it was easier for me to spot him out among the crowd. Once again I followed the rainbow.

The path let to the side of a building. The path was divided into 2 rows by bars alongside. My rainbow guy was already there. A guy pointed at my name tag and told me to wait there. The waiting seemed like ages to me. I didn't understand what we were waiting for. The crowd had already disappeared. There were only the three of us here. Nobody seemed to be coming our way.

But my rainbow guy seemed very relaxed. He squatted while leaning on the railings and lit his cigarette. The local guy who told me to wait looked at my rainbow guy and blurted out, in Khmer or in Thai, I don't know. "Nya nya nya nye nye nye...."

"Ee..?" My rainbow guy took his cigarette out of his mouth and looked up to him.

"He is Japanese," I said. I was sure he was Japanese or at least a Japanese citizen, because I already saw his passport while we checked out at the immigration office of Cambodia just now. Among all passports issued on this earth, there are 2 types that I can tell from the cover without looking into: Indonesian passport and Japanese passport.

"Oh, I'm sorry." The local guy apologized. "I thought you were Cambodian."

Wow... If I were him, I would have felt insulted. During my 3 days in Cambodia, I can't recall seeing a local Cambodian with white skin like this Japanese guy. How could this local guy think he was a Cambodian? Hmmm... Chinese Cambodian, maybe.

Several minutes later, this local guy excused himself. So there were only the two of us. Nobody else came our way. I already imagined a night stranded between Cambodia and Thailand. Ah, at least I will have someone to share the stranded, and with this someone I can communicate. It would be worse you know, being stranded with someone you can't talk with. It would be double frustration.

My rainbow guy had already finished his cigarette. He took out his pocket book and continued to read, still while squatting and leaning on the railings. I couldn't read. I can't concentrate while in uncertainty.

"Hey, you can go now. Just walk straight." Suddenly I heard a voice. The local guy had returned.

Once again I walked straight. I always walked straight. My rainbow guy was of course already meters ahead.

I saw a door ahead of me. There was a sign in front of each row. One said "Thai" and the other "Foreigner". My rainbow guy had already entered the row for "Thai". "Ee...?" I said to myself.

Then an officer came out and waved at me. I pointed to the row for "Foreigner". He nodded. So I walked through.

My rainbow guy looked back at me. "Ee...?" I heard. He turned back, but the officer waved at him. It seemed that it didn't matter which row we took, because the immigration office wasn't crowded. Inside the office, my rainbow guy repositioned himself to the queue for foreigners. やっぱり、「Foreigner」というのは判らないな。 Did he think that "Foreigner" is a name of a country?

The office was small. Nothing in comparison to the immigration office between Vietnam and China. But still it was more civilized than the one where I checked out from Cambodia. There was air condition. Everything was painted white. Once again I grinned at the web camera. Not "cheese", but "Ee..."

Posted by automidori 06:18 Archived in Cambodia Tagged bus cambodia the_sinh_tourist

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