Near Death Experience followed by a drink.. or two

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

We awoke for the last time in our lovely hotel in Siem Reap and I instantly decided that I was really going to miss this place, the crisp white sheets, the beautifully folded towels, the iced water and cold towels presented to us at the door every time we came home, yes, I know, not exactly the usual backpacker treatment but for 15 dollars a night it was too good to be true. It was 5.45am and our bus to Phnom Penh was collecting us at 6.30am so we enjoyed our final free breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, toast and fresh fruit and waited for the bus in the lobby.  Incidentally I had woken up in agony as a result of last night's Khmer massage so the idea of a 7 hour bus ride on notorious Cambodian roads wasn’t thrilling me, little did I know.

The bus arrived on time and we were the first pick up so we spent another half an hour driving around other hotels and guest houses collecting the rest of the passengers.  We then arrived at the main bus station where there were endless lines of coaches waiting and boarded ours only to find that we were sat right at the back, on top of the engine and next to the toilet.  To make matters worse Andrew had quickly pinched the window seat so I ended up sat next to the bus nutter who obviously wanted to talk.  I politely listened to him for about an hour as Andrew silently laughed in to the window, clearly finding it hilarious.  The bus attendant passed around lunch boxes to us all and we tucked in to savoury rolls and cake which was a nice surprise and silenced my new best friend for a while. 

After two hours we stopped at a rest stop for half an hour which was a relief as the heat of the engine right beneath our seats had become stifling, my friend kept on having to wipe himself down with a towel.  There was a restaurant and a line of street stalls selling deep fried spiders and other insects so we decided to skip lunch as strangely the waitresses from the restaurant were collecting their orders from the street stalls before taking them in to the restaurant and serving the customers.  Back on the bus I decided that the only course of action was the 'headphones in and pretend to be asleep’ tactic so I spent the next 3 hours listening to everything from Regina Spector to Baby D (Andrew stole the I- Pod and insisted that the latter went on).  There were only three things that disturbed my fake sleep for the rest of the journey, one when a cockroach dropped from god knows where landing on Andrew only to cause a minor skirmish at the back of the bus, two when the door to the baggage compartment flew open whilst we were travelling at speed and we had to slam on to avoid losing half of the bags on the dusty road and three in true Cambodian style when we nearly rear ended another bus (featuring a skid, the back end started to go out) and furious breakage (all this was at about 70mph and we were probably 10cm off crashing).

We arrived in Phnom Penh at around 1.30pm and the coach was immediately besieged by what felt like a thousand tuk tuk drivers.  It was carnage just trying to find our bags and I made the mistake of catching one of the drivers eyes, to which he kept on screaming "Lady, come here now" while trying to grab me.  We quickly worked out where we were on the map and found that we could easily walk to the hostel that we had tried to book the previous day.  After a short walk passed a rather smelly food market we arrived at Nomads Hostel and were happy when the owner told us that he had one double room available.  We managed to have a bit of a sleep and then took a tuk tuk to Sisowath Quay to have a look around.  Unbelievably, as we walked in to the first cafe to have a drink we ran in to the Mancunian chef that we had got drunk with in Angkor What? in Siem Reap so we ended up joining him and whiled away an entire evening, and quite a few 50 cent beers,sitting on the river front chatting about his job (it turns out he is a very, very good chef currently working at Raffles), Cambodian history and porn amongst other things.  We even forgot to eat dinner.
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