I have had such wonderful experiences on all the buses I have taken so far. Really all transportation has been quite pleasant, or as pleasant as is possible when stuck on a bus for 10 hours. Insert Paul. Yeah, I am gonna blame it on Paul. I can’t think of any other explanation. Maybe Cambodia buses are just generally awful?… Nah, Paul just brings bad bus luck.
The bus from Siem Reap to Kratie
The first struggle was actually booking the bus. We quoted prices from many different places and they were all more or less the same price. The only difference came when we asked them how long the trip would take. These answers ranged from 7 all the way to 12 hours. I was thinking somewhere around 8 so I was convinced the lady that said 12 was just trying to get us to pay for the more expensive mini bus. Note – never take a mini bus if you can help it. Anyway, we went with the cheapest option since they all seemed pretty similar. So, off we went the next day at like 8 AM with what promised to be a very smooth 8 hour trip.
I dont care about the comfort of the bus, this one was fine, but rather I care about the ability the bus has to get us from point A to point B. This was where the struggle was. We were about 9 hours in (because the bus decided to take the stupidest way humanely possible) and only an hour away from our destination when we stopped at a mechanic shop. This was our first clue that something was wrong. However, we were there for fifteen minutes and were off with no problems. Great, they fixed whatever problem we had and we would arrive soon enough. Just a little rant here but if you stop at the mechanic you stop to get the problem fixed. Instead, I am pretty confident they stopped to say hi and to laugh about how they were bound to break down soon, but hey screw it maybe we’ll make it. Well, half an hour later we stop at a side of the road near a mini mart. Refreshments for the grueling 30 minutes that we had left? Unfortunately not. When we got off the drivers opened up the engine of the bus to take a look. We settled in to our seats thinking – maybe just another quick fix? We knew we were in trouble when a Cambodian passenger talked to the drivers and came back and made himself real comfortable….like he was in for the long haul.
So what did they do to finally ‘fix’ the bus? They took an empty can and mixed stuff inside of it and poured it into something (in the engine). Maybe Paul was getting a little delirious but this old lady on a bicycle pulling a cart with things on it biked up to the drivers trying to fix the bus. At this point Paul declared that this lady must be the mechanic and that we were saved. This lady then began to make the drivers sugarcane juice…so not the mechanic (but I got sugarcane juice). However, we were in fact saved and I am convinced they were just doing some bullshit until the sugarcane lady showed up because when they got their drink they decided the bus was fit to continue. We then eventually arrived at Kratie. Anyway, on to better things!
The reason we came here was to stay at a homestay on the tiny, beautiful, wonderful and disconnected little river island of Koh Trong. Before we took the ferry to the island though I excitedly bought a bamboo stick filled with sticky rice. I had briefly read about this “delicious snack” and had the idea that it was a sweet and sticky dream (twss) inside bamboo. I have one rule – if you dont know what’s in it then don’t buy it. The amount of times I have broken this rule and immediately regretted it borders and actual stupidity. Add this to the list cause I could barely swallow what was a sticky rice with unknown nuts and black things. I was pretty sad (I bought two pretty large sticks). Wow, this seems to have been a pretty rough stop so far… its okay it gets better.
So you would think the ferry arrives to the dock and waits fifteen minutes before departing to the island. Why make a boat full of people wait for half an hour (which is equivalent to at least an hour when its a million degrees outside)? First, we were not up to date with the imaginary schedule so we showed up at the dock like thirty minutes early. Then when the boat arrived we thought it would be a couple of minutes and we would be off…we were so wrong. The driver decided to get in his hammock and take a nap. Eventually we sped off at a surprising crawl until we arrived at Koh Trong. Alright, now it gets better!
We felt truly detached from everything. To give you a little idea there were more cow than people. Like two cows for every person at least. We got off the boat and rented bikes to explore the little island. One of the many little joys that traveling around SEA in general has brought is the excitement and happiness that the children exude when they say hello.
It was hard to not smile on this bike ride as all the children on the island did not miss their chance to yell their hellos at us. Our homestay family cooked us a wonderful and HUGE lunch. We payed almost nothing for the amount of food they gave us. Oh, and endless rice. Pretty much heaven. With our bellies full we continued to explore the island.
We found rice, rice, and….rice. Did I mention rice fields, cause there were a couple of those. Once we got past the rice fields we stumbled upon more rice fields! But we also found some cool water views that were absolutely secluded.
Secluded here means that there were no people, cause there was no way of escaping the cows. The point of this stay was to relax, and I would say we were more than successful at that.
At one point Paul decided he wanted to go play soccer with a group of guys we saw playing. However, we stepped outside the homestay and quickly changed our minds — how were they playing in this heat, I’ll never know. Well, back to my hammock!
It was quiet and life was slower on the island. Dinner at the homestay was just as delicious and again humongous. It was a great stop, a stop that is not very popular.
People come to Kratie to see an endangered river dolphin, while we saw no dolphin we did see Cambodian river-village life at its finest and made cow friends.
The next day we took the ferry back to Kratie to catch our bus to Phnom Penh. A drastic change of scenery. Remember that mini bus rule I had? Sometimes, I wish I listened to myself. Oh, but what can be worse about this mini bus than the other bus that broke down? HA.
Koh Trong in a riceshell
When traveling for months you need a quick recharge. This was that. It was nice to get away for a day and night. To see the stars without the background noise of car honks. To interact with more cows than people. Koh Trong was great, and now to the emotional rollercoaster that is Phnom Penh.