One of great things about travelling is the people you met. Whether they are locals in the street; employees of the places we stay, eat or shop at; or other travellers. Finding out hints and tips can help you see more, save money and like today…book early to ensure you get seats with legroom on the early bus from Battambang to Phnom Penh.
On the advice of a long legged Brit, I’d popped down to the ticket office yesterday afternoon and bought our tickets direct rather than getting them through the hotel so that I could request specific seats. Good thing I did…
After buying a coffee from the shop next door and some waffles from a lady with a bicycle, we were loaded into a mini van for the short trip to the bus terminal just outside the city centre at 6:50am.
There was a short wait as the mini van went back to pick up the remaining passengers.
By 7:10am the bus was loaded and we were on our way. There were only about 12 passengers on the bus…a full size coach that seats around 60 people…I was wondering if it had been necessary to book…but we were in seats 2, 3 & 4…the front row, with plenty of leg room.
Our ETA was 11:45am according to the companies advertising….5 hours to travel about 300km…sounds okay…but we had been warned by others that it will be more like 6.5 hours in reality as the bus will stop frequently to pick up and drop off people and goods on route.
I was in seat 2, seated beside a friendly Cambodian lady who touched me when she talked and had no worries falling asleep on my shoulder…she was able to tuck her legs up on the seat easily…I wondered why she booked a seat with extra leg room…she said she liked to be at the front so she didn’t feel ill. We talked quite a lot and I found out about her family, work, home, places she has traveled to, what she likes and dislikes about Cambodia, the government, schools and tourists. She showed me photos of her children and grandson on her laptop.
The trip was entertaining…watching the way everyone maneuvered around each other on the road…the villages and towns we passed through…the farm land in between…what can be carried on the back of a motorcycle…how many people can fit in a car, truck, trailer…learning how much karaoke we can stand and confirming that no matter how many times you watch a dvd of a comedian in a foreign language, the jokes never get funnier…
I believe the reason there aren’t more accidents on the road is that every driver is looking out all the time, beeping their horn if anyone else is potentially going to get in their way and avoiding obstacles…they are constantly expecting the unexpected…they aren’t worried if a truck is coming toward them on the wrong side of the road as it overtakes a slower vehicle, they just move off the road a bit more to give them room and slow down enough to give them time to move past. Our driver was definitely observant, he would honk the horn often to be sure everyone knew he was coming through…even when it seemed there was no one around to hear it.
and then dropping them off at multiple places on the road into Phnom Penh, we arrived at the central bus station in Phnom Penh at 2:15pm. This was not the end of our journey today though as we were booked into a hotel in Kampot some 150km further on. We could have booked a thru ticket with the bus company we had come so far on already, however feedback and earlier research suggested this would not be wise as the Sorya company don’t go direct from PP to Kampot, they go through Kep which adds hours to the journey.
The company Giant Ibis Bus Company advertises that they take the new road direct to Kampot and have onboard wifi…feedback confirms that they are ‘express’ and do not do any en route pick up or drop offs. What they fail to have on their website is a clear map or directions regarding the location of their sales office/depot…so we had to trust a tuk tuk driver to take us to the right place. Now, I had not pre-bought tickets for the GI bus as I wasn’t confident that we could make the connection work…the GI bus was scheduled for departure at 2:45pm. We managed to find a good tuk tuk driver who spoke some English, had a map which he used to show us where the GI ticket office was and was prepared to negotiate a fair price…so off we went as quickly as our luggage would allow us. As we pulled up the bus was on the road with passengers onboard. Our tuk tuk driver talked to one of the bus guys who said they only had ‘small seats’ left…given that neither David nor I are small, I thought it best to see for myself before committing, so he took me over and showed me the seats…they were the little ones that fold down into the aisle space, then you lift the seatback up…they would do…and there were just 3 seats available. We were only just in time, as another couple were also wanting seats…phew, we made it. By 2:45pm we were on our way…this bus had an estimated travel time of 2.5hrs.
The wifi worked to connect, but didn’t have enough strength to check facebook or upload a blog post (even without photos). I managed to send an email though David couldn’t even do that.
The trip took just on 3.5hrs to the Kampot bus stop, it passed okay as I typed up some blog notes on the first leg, then after a pit stop I started chatting to the lady in the seat beside mine. It turned out she was originally from France, but had moved to Cambodia with her partner about a year ago to take up the lease of a guesthouse in Kampot (for 9 years). She was very helpful about suggestions for things to see and do in the area, even writing down the names of places and the name and number of a recommended tuk tuk driver if we wanted to do a countryside tour one day. Even though our hotel wasn’t very far, with our bags we decided to grab a tuk tuk to the hotel…we walked in at 6:20pm…All in all 12 hours from door to door..Battambang hotel to Kampot hotel…I think it was about 450km in total…
Checking into the Kampot Riverside Hotel was straightforward as we had booked online and they were expecting us. Our room was on the third floor (4th if you count the lobby and fifth if you consider that the lobby is up a few stairs from the restaurant. ..there is no lift…it is hot…but the view is nice over the river…there is no pool…the power only works when the key is in the room so no air conditioning running when you’re not in…the building has been renovated…the room is an adequate size though not large…shower pressure is very low but bathroom is clean.
We went out to find somewhere for dinner…the first place we went into looked okay, though the service was not good and what we liked on the menu was not available…so we paid for the drinks (even though we received the wrong drink from what we ordered) and left.
We walked on down the road to the Frangipani Bar and had dinner there instead. The owner was an Aussie guy that was happy to share his thoughts on the local area. He employed locals… one of which was soon to be married and his wife to be was there to work on wedding plans…I’m not sure but I think this could have been the reason why the service was a bit slow and our meals came out one at a time. ..with time for me to finish my meal of fried noodles and pork entirely before Amanda’s chicken burger arrived (with cold fries). The meals tasted okay and we all left full, tired and ready for bed.