Phnom Penh, Cambodia
11° 33' N 104° 54' E
Jan 07, 2008 03:33
Distance 293km

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Text written in: English

Hellish Journey

That morning on Don Det, I made my way to the office where I had booked my ticket to Siem Reap for 7am.

There was the usual waiting around for 20 minutes, then we were all piled into a (very) small wooden boat.  I was certain it was going to sink.. there were around 20 of us and for every person that got in the boat sank lower until the water was only a couple of centimeters below the sides of the boat!!  We arrived at the shore of Don Khong and took a minibus to the Cambodian border, which was about an hour away.  Only 26km away, but the road was so bumpy that it took us ages to cover ground.  Once at the Cambodian border (which consisted of a hut at the side of a dirt road) we were asked to pay the patrol men $1 to stamp our passports to say we'd left Laos.. anything for a buck over here!  We were then directed to walk to the next office that was located a few hundred meters down the road.  For some reason we weren't aloud to take the bus.  We reached the next office and I had to go and get my Cambodian Visa.  I filled my form out and got out my $20 that I had been told it cost (in several places).  As I approached the desk the man demanded $22 (must have been his wife's birthday and he was taking her out or something).  I had hardly any money left as there had been no ways to withdraw money further south of Pakse.. something I had no idea about!  I was down to my last dollars.. most of which had to cover my accomodation that night as well.  So when they started demanding more I wasn't exactly delighted.  After handing over the moola (with a slight scowl) I made my way over to the next office where, again, they asked for $1 to stamp our passports.  I tell you these guys are minted!  One bloke infront of me only had a $50 bill so out came the wallets for change and they could barley close them they were so packed with money.

After an hour or so in the baking sun our next bus pulled up and we all piled inside.  There weren' enough seats for everyone so the isle was filled with people and there was no luggage storage underneath the bus to it was an 'on your laps' job or the bus driver got bags piled around him.  Poor sod.  After our short journey to the Mekong River we were all asked to get out and walk to the shore as we'd be getting the boat.  Doing as we were told we waited there, and waited, after 45 minutes it didn't look like the bus was coming so the bus driver was called back and it was back onto the crapmed bus.  This then took us over the bridge (not sure why they didn't just do this in the first place).  Once over the river, we stopped for a food break.  Most people had eaten and rested at the river front so no one wanted to stop.  However, the guy insisted and off we all got.  Turns out it was his famoily that owned the place, surprise surprise!  Those who ordered food were still waiting an hour later and this is when some people started to loose it.  We were already running very late and there seemed to be no rush to get us there at a reasonable hour.   After thedriver was ready we all made our way back onto the bus.  Out of all the passengers, it was only myself and three other people heading to Siem Reap.. the rest were departing at Phnom Penh.   After another hour or so we made another stop outside an restaurant (funnily enough).  We were just making a 'bus change' and our next bus would be there in 10 minutes.  2 hours later a mini van pulled up.  They expected 19 people to fit in this mini van.  The picture you're painting in your mins went through everyone head and it sent most of them over the edge.

When we asked who was responsible for all this they said no one.  They told us there was no actual bus company and it was just a mixture of public transport and lifts from friends of the people selling the tickets.  It's was all such a mess.  Of course when everyone bought their tickets they were from what seemed to be official travel agents, it's so hard to know over here.   The man we were talking to said he didn't even know the people running the trip, he was just there to help difuse the situation as the driver didn't speak English.  What a load of absolute tosh.. we were all being done.   It then emerged that our bus to Siem Reap would not be leaving that night as planned but we would have to stay the night in Phnom Penh.  By this point, we were due to arrive at 11:30pm with nowhere to stay, they couldn't even tell us where they were going to drop us.   after a lot of back and forth arguing, we convinced them that is was impossible to fit everyone in the van so they managed to summon another one from somewhere.  We set off for Phnom Penh.  The journey was another 3 hours and we arrived around midnight.  They dropped us in a horrible back alley which is apparently back packer haven.. it was a total dump and full of prostitutes.  Myself and Dean (the other girl going to Siem Reap) decided to stick together and went hunting for a room for the night.  to our dismay everywhere was full.  We were searching for over an hour before we struck gold and found a guest house that had one room left.   We crashed out and set our alarms for 5:30 to be there for our bus that was picking us up the following morning.  Or so we thought.

The next morning, as we had invisioned, we sat there waiting for a bus that was never to show.  There were two other guys from our trip over the Loas border who were also going to Siem Reap.  They watched the bags whilst Dean and I tried to find out more information.  Meanwhile we were being hounded by locals who told us our tickets were fake and to travel with their company to Siem Reap (would end up in a similar situation I thought).  We went to a nearby guest house and showed them our tickets and asked them if they knew of any company that does pick ups here and they made a phonecall.  They then directed us to a nearby petrol station and said we'd be picked up there.  Brilliant I thought.. it's not all a scam afterall! 

We arrived at the spot and were picked up shortly after.  Roughly an hour into the journey a young man came round asking for our tickets.  We pulled them out and he sported a confused look on his face and asked for other ones.  Worried that our tickets were fake, and we were going to get thrown off (and also just slightly pissed off at everything we'd been through in the last 24 hours) I insisted that they were valid tickets.  He eventually backed off and let it go.  Turns out that it was a public bus that had nothing to do with any travel company.  Woops.  Oh well.. at least we didn't have to pay again!  Siem Reap here we come!