Midnight ride through hell

bus station

The bus station at the final destination in Siem Reap.

The all night bus to Siem Reap, with the easy mnemonic pronunciation: Seam Rip, advertised the convenience of sleeping all night on the bus. You would leave near midnight in Phnom Penh and wake up fresh in Siem Reap.

Didn’t happen.

I found my claustrophobic assigned “bed” in the back of the bus. The ‘bed’ was a sloped vinyl covered chair, with barely enough room to stretch out my legs. That is, if I didn’t stop slipping down the vinyl, only to grab the bar in back of my head to pull myself up and start all over again.

Slipping down the vinyl wasn’t the only challenge. A grand daddy long legged man slid next to me. He would be my sleeping partner for the nightmare ride. I actually felt sorry for him. The only place for his knees was under his chin. He fell asleep. I didn’t. His leg fell on me. I gently pushed him away.

My purse was put into service under my knees with the hope it would keep me from sliding. That didn’t work. It just got in my way.

I felt like I was a butterfly riding on a jackhammer. Ruts, pits, gutters, rocks, were hit hard and made noises like the bus was falling apart in bits and pieces.

Then granddaddy long legs woke up and asked the bus driver to stop. Several people took advantage of a potty break, including myself and two other women.

The driver motioned for me to use his rubber thongs, and I did. I climbed out of the bus and found fresh mounds of mud. In the dark I could see many men standing and taking care of their needs.

“Where is the toilet?” A French accented lady asked me.

“I think it is that tree over there.”

Two women and myself found our place in back of a tree, but whom were we kidding? The men were polite not to look at us. Well, my knees don’t bend appropriately enough to create the necessary bend to do the business we were out there to do. I did my best and walked back through the mud and carried sand and dirt onto the vinyl ‘bed’.

Finally, granddaddy long legs got off the bus, so I could stretch out for about one half an hour before we arrived at the final destination at 6 a.m.

I didn’t feel fresh; instead I put my shoes on, got my purse, and slipped on fresh rained-on-mud. My suitcase was taken out and put down under a tarpaulin. It was covered with dust.

I found a tuk tuk driver who took me to the Kings Boutique Hotel where I am now. I arrived around 7 a.m. and the room was ready for me.

I asked the front desk to make a return reservation by day and with a so-called better bus company. We’ll see.

The story before the ride:

Traffic going into town last night, took over an hour.

Bedlam, that’s the only work I can think that is strong enough to define the traffic in Phnom Penh.

It’s a free for all: get there as fast as you can and use any way you can.

The trip began for the arrival at the bus station at 6:45 p.m. from the wat, and I questioned my safety at every turn, twist and bounce. The tuk tuk driver wore a helmet and I put a plan in place in the case we turned over. I’d loop my purse and camera over my arm and grab the opposite pole.


Driving in the city, vehicles of all kinds vied for an escape from the maze. Just when you thought the traffic slowed, some vehicle would fly down the street facing us. I saw adults on motorcycle with babies, which surprised me that a parent would put their child in such a dangerous situation. I also saw folks taking risks in the traffic, at the same time using their cell.

An ambulance, siren blaring, lights flashing, couldn’t get through the mess. No one moved to let it continue. Just hope the person made it to the hospital before he/she died.It’ s unbelievable the government doesn’t do something to create a better traffic situation.

I got to the bus station, a few hours early so I dragged my suitcase to a restaurant, all the while being pursued for tuk tuk.

“Lady, what you want tuk tuk?”

“No thanks.”

“Lady, I can get you anything for $1.00.”

“No, I only want a restaurant.”

“I know where.” He pointed to the outdoor market. “It’s delicious.”

“No thanks.”

“I take you there.” He walked by my side until I got into the restaurant, talking to me close to my face.

Then in the restaurant, after taking one look at the menu, I realized I wasn’t in Denny’s.

Beef with fried ants. You don’t like ants with beef? Ants with chicken, sound better?


I ordered a grilled fish, thinking it would be pieces of fish with vegetable and rice on the side. No, it was a whole fish that still had it’s head and the eye looked right at me.

“Yuk.” My comment. The waitress showed me how to remove the skin, and I ordered rice to go with it.

A man sitting at another table turned around and stared at me, until I stared him down.

That reminded me of the laborers who dropped their jaws when they saw me. Looking back at that, I think I should have cackled like a witch.

Before I left the wat, a few nuns saw me waiting for the tuk tuk and circled around me. The touched me, saying “oh, oh”, and they rubbed my knees. Strange, but they showed honest concern.

The trip to the bus station didn’t end the day’s event. It got worse.






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