Day 10: On The Road Again

The familiar sound of early morning alarms and simultaneous groaning at the thought of getting up. Today we leave for Siem Reap via Phnom Penh.

We dragged ourselves out of bed and shuffled around, getting our stuff together. We made our way to the pick up point, shovelling pots of noodles into our faces for some sustenance. After a few minutes a large coach came bumping down the narrow street and we hopped on. The road has so many potholes, they’re more like rock pools. The coach found every single one and we were flung around like ragdolls inside until we reached a Tarmac road.

The coach took us to the bus station, where we changed to another, slightly fancier-looking coach. More people and luggage piled on and we set off around Sihanoukville picking up more passengers.

Two people on a scooter crossed our path at a junction, the drive up alongside us, beeping and waving us over. The driver pulled over and got off the bus to talk to them with some plastic bags in hand. They were just outside my window so I watched events unfold. He lifted up the seat of their bike, unscrewed the cap of the petrol tank, put the plastic bags over the hole then screwed the lid back on. He then took the wing mirrors off and wheeled the bike to the luggage compartment, and they all lifted it in! They caught a bus with their bike underneath. Are they not worried about it scraping?! Crazy people.

At the same junction was a man driving his scooter with his child on his seat. His child of about 6 months! Just sat on his knee. He had to have one hand around the kid to stop it falling and keep it upright. How is this okay? Honestly I’ve seen it all here. Scooters are their life and the possibilities are ENDLESS! I also saw someone carrying what looked like 4 scaffolding poles, except longer and lighter looking. But they were just balanced over his shoulder. There is no regard for safety. Or maybe they’re perfectly safe and we are just over complicating things.

I have a lot of time to sit and reflect while on these long journeys. The general attitude of people seems very different. They are much more relaxed, but also self serving. What I mean by relaxed is that they seem to take the view that as long as you get what you want, something that gets the job done, it doesn’t really matter how you get there. This applies to both personal and professional matters. As if they have a “don’t worry you’ll get your basic needs out of this” kind of attitude. This has both positives and negatives: the upside is that they don’t fret or get anxious over small details and concern themselves with the bigger picture, however it does mean that quality is sacrificed. Bare minimum isn’t necessarily the best option for safety, well-being, comfort or convenience. But then maybe these are luxuries we value more than them and so aren’t so sought after.

I say people are self serving, and that’s probably a bit unfair, but what I mean by that is that people to do whatever they want whenever they want without a huge amount of consideration for others. This can be seen in the driving style. Everyone pushes and shoves their way through traffic, wrong side of the road? Oh well. Cars force bikes off the road, even in torrential rain with babies riding on them, a car will overtake, taking up the entire road and forcing oncoming bikes to swerve into the mud at the side with very little room to avoid being wiped out. Their attitude towards animals is also quite harsh. They outright hit animals that come to close to them. No bonds are formed between them and any, such as dogs. They are all pests or food, nothing more. There are other minor examples from sharing minibuses, such as bringing a personal radio player to play their favourite show at full volume, without considering the annoyance caused to other passengers. These are minor things and not necessarily bad, just different. I suspect it may stem from a poorer economy, everyone is in competition with each other just to feed their families. They work long and hard for little money and as such compete for resources and are used to it. Perhaps if you don’t take, you won’t be given, so you do what you must.

Also worth noting that I cannot state that everyone is the same, it’s merely an observation of a lot of people. People can also be incredibly generous and friendly. We’ve not really had any problems with anyone.

Haha okay there is an unwritten rule that you do not eat eggs on public transport. This does not apply here apparently and the roadside stalls love selling them to passengers. Fortunately for us, the women infront of us on the coach love this and have bought a few bags. This would be bearable on its own if they weren’t peeling them with their mouths AND SPITTING THE SHELL ON THE FLOOR! That is just not okay. Especially since they have bags which came with the eggs. They have options. Yay for buses. It’s certainly an experience 😅.

Side note: I just looked out the window and saw a boy of no more than 10 driving a scooter down the road (on the wrong side as it happens), and this is not an uncommon sight. They are passengers from birth and drivers from very young. Even I would be nervous about driving on these roads where anything goes and people constantly make “questionable” decisions, but to do so as a child is ludicrous. They are crazy on bikes! Look at what this guy managed to pile on to the back of his…

It’s sad seeing how much litter and rubbish there is in Cambodia. It is strewn across the sides of the roads, piled up in some places and left in stagnating water. Surely this must carry disease. It’s so ugly and such a shame that people do this! It makes me want to do something about it but I don’t know what it would take. Honestly it’s everywhere you look.

Anyway the trip ran smoothly and strangely enough for us, without anything strange happening! We’ve got a nice little guesthouse which is far enough outside the town to be super cheap (under £2 each / night). The staff are really friendly and it has a great feel to it. They also helped us plan out our time here. Sweet Dreams Guesthouse, Siem Reap, I can highly recommend it from what I’ve seen so far. We’re going to explore the town tomorrow and visit the museum.


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