Wednesday, August 15, 2007

We gotta get outta this place

from Saturday, June 30, 2007

Today has been an uneventful, yet eventful day indeed. The journey between Siem Reap, Cambodia and Bangkok, Thailand is notorious (among backpackers in SE Asia, anyway) for being a hell of a ride. The Lonely Planet Guidebook refers to it as "The Boulevard of Broken Backsides." Not exactly a journey anyone looks forward to.

Of course, one could fly. . .and that's what they're banking on. Evidently some sneaky airline company is paying off the Cambodian government to stall an upgrade on the heavily trafficed road between Siem Reap and Poipet (a small Cambodian city next to the Thai border). During the wet season (July thru October) the road is so flooded and muddy it can take days to get to the border. Thank God it's not yet the wet season.

Just to note: The distance from Siem Reap to Poipet is roughly 100 miles and from Poipet to Bangkok about another 100 miles. All together 200 miles. It is my estimation that in America, traveling 200 miles, by car or bus, between two major cities would take four hours or less. On our trip we had to go through customs, so that adds another hour. Five hours tops. But this is not America.

6:40am We are picked up by a shuttle that will take us to our bus.
6:45am We stop at a guesthouse to pick up some people.
6:55am We stop at another guesthouse to pick up some people.
7:10am We stop at another guesthouse to pick up some people.
7:25am Yes! We arrive at the bus station, just in time for our 7:30 departure. Oh, no! Only people going to Phnom Penh get off here. We must go somewhere else to catch the bus to Poipet.
7:40am We arrive at the proper place and soon board the bus. We hit the road just before 8am. The bus has air-conditioning, one of modern day life's small miracles.
8:30am Bus driver stops the bus, gets out, and looks under the bus. He looks worried.
9:05am see previous
9:10am Bus driver stops near a village to put on the spare. Two male, Cambodian passengers help him. None of the dozen foreign men lift a finger.
9:55am We are on the road again.
10:45am We stop at a series of concession stands frequented by those traveling through. As soon as we get off the bus it pulls away. We hope its going to get the tire replaced and that we haven't been left stranded in rural Cambodia.
11:20am The bus is back. We're off!
12:00pm The road is bumpy in a vibrating kind of way (think rumble strips on the side of the freeway) with the occassional big bump (think speed bump in a parking lot), but otherwise its smooth sailing. However, some idiot has his window open and it's 100 degrees on the bus!!
12:30pm I spoke too soon. There is another flat tire. The spare needs to be put on and people are not happy. I'm rather amused. One girl starts nagging at the driver while he's changing the tire in the blistering heat. Not a good idea. Words are exchanged which leads to the girl's boyfriend stepping in. There is almost, ALMOST a fist fight.
12:50pm Here we go!
1:00pm We stop at a restaurant. We know the drill. . .the bus has left us yet again to change the flat to a new tire. I eat yucky Ramen-like noodles. Flashbacks to the UWM dorms.
1:30pm On the road again.
3:30pm We arrive in Poipet!!! Two flat tires and 8 hours later. Get me into freakin' Thailand!
4:30pm Got through customs. We are now in a huge, comfy, air-conditioned coach bus and on our way to Bangkok. The roads are paved and there's nothing that can stop us now.
9:00pm Actually, there is something that can stop us. Bangkok traffic. Every hour is rush hour here. But we are nearly downtown.
10:30pm After getting a ride from downtown to our guesthouse I can now safely say we have made it!!

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