Another journey and another slightly unusual one. To get from Otres beach to Battambang (or Battambong as the locals call it), we went by tuk tuk to an office in Sihanoukville. This is where the bus to leave from.
When we arrived, there were a few staff and a lot of boxes. It seems that a lot of bus companies also double up as delivery guys so the passengers get loaded in and then a lot of boxes are loaded on to the bus as well.
This bus journey ended up being one of the worst journeys. We didn’t know at the time but it went via Phnom Penh. The bus from Sihanoukville was about 1 hour late and nobody told us that we were going to Phnom Penh. We just stopped somewhere and were told to change buses.
This was shortly after midnight and we recognised the empty place as being Phnom Penh because we’d been there before. It wasn’t like you’d see Glasgow at 1am, it was an empty looking ghost town at this time.
After a bit of confusion, someone seemed to remember that they had a lot of passengers going to a lot of places and forced our luggage on to the storage part of the bus and showed us on to the bus.
There were no beds left so the option was to sit on a plastic box at the front of the bus next to the driver or wait 3 hours for the next bus to arrive. As much as we enjoyed Phnom Penh, we decided not to spend 3 hours waiting around the empty market place for the next bus that may or may not have arrived on time.
When the bus finally moved, I felt lucky that I had a plastic box to sit on as the guy next to me had nothing, he just leaned against the stairs and shared his space with another 3 Cambodian guys. This means there were about 5 people to the right side of the driver.
Prior to visiting Cambodia, we had heard all the usual stories about police corruption and how it was pretty widespread. About 30 minutes into the journey, there was a guy standing on the road who motioned for the bus to stop.
And it did. The guy in question walked over to the drivers window and the driver furnished him with a handful of notes. It wasn’t clear how much but given that this ritual was repeated three times throughout the night, I suspect the driver may have ended up the journey with an empty wallet.
The rest of the journey passed without much happening until we arrived in Battambang. The bus station was a few miles away from the city centre and there was the usual crowd of tuk tuk drivers waiting around with offers of accommodation and of course with offers to take you to the accommodation.
The drivers seem to have an unwritten rule that the first person to talk to or wave to a tourist and get a response is the driver who will “claim” that tourist.
After being on a few buses overnight with no sleep, we half heartedly tried to negotiate a lower price and got the usual questions from the driver of where we were planning to go to and what sites we were planning to see during our stay in Battambang.
We went to the hotel and that was a massive improvement from the bus journey. Despite arriving several hours before check in, they were able to get the room ready for us to use and allow us to check in early.