We have the week off due to the Khmer New Year and it is time to hit the road in search of a bit of adventure. Travelling by bus in Asia is not everybody’s cup of tea but there is no better way to get a real insight into the culture and the heartbeat of a country…
We had a tentative itinerary. Journey east to Kratie (on the Mekong River) so we could commune with the endangered freshwater dolphins, go further east to the remote province of Mondilkiri and a place called Sen Monorom for a bit of R&R, trekking and a visit to the hill tribes before making our way across the country to Siem Riep to celebrate the New Year in the temples of Angkor.
Parts of this journey was done in fairly comfortable buses (it’s all relative) and other parts in small minibuses squashed up 5 in a row! The minibuses take about 20 people, a few kids and about half a dozen chooks. Fortunately for us but not for them, the chooks get to ride outside with the baggage!!
This is still a more comfortable option than travelling on the back of a pickup! (the real local option).
The monotony of the journey is broken up by people selling various local delicacies which we were brave enough to try!
We even tried the local soup at the lunch stop but drew the line at the last stop when we saw what was on offer! (Top Right – Guess what that is)
The journey allowed us a glimpse into rural life. Most people live in raised houses due to issues with flooding and harvest their roof water for drinking and washing as there is no running water around!
Simple sustainable solutions such as these are seen right across the countryside. In Australia, we spend thousands of dollars to complete detailed flood studies before a house is raised to a specific floor level issued by a government officer! Here in the Cambodian countryside, these solutions are implemented as a matter of course, simply based on anecdotal evidence and common sense. Something for us to consider!
While the Cambodians are also smart enough to understand they must not enclose the underside of their houses, this space is put to good use by the family. Hammocks are often strung across the bottom and people can be seen cooking, sleeping and socialising in this space!
The various stops gives us a chance to stretch our legs and an opportunity to chat with the locals and for them to practice their English! I find the Cambodian people to be incredibly friendly and easy going and many of them approach us to ask where we are from..and have a bit of a chin wag!
The journey was mostly uneventful except for when we had to change buses for Siem Riep! Somehow we thought that Snoul, the change station would be a little more significant than the sleepy stop we somehow missed! Most bus drivers and conductors have no understanding of English and expect that you know where you are going. Most Cambodians usually do….Foreign travellers on the other hand don’t always pay attention :)
Fortunately, we found ourselves in a rest stop down the track where we could actually catch a bus to Siem Riep! It took all my negotiation skills…or was that pleading skills…to be allowed on the right bus and reach our destination!