When leaving Battambang we booked a local bus for the 5 hour, several hundred kilometer ride to Phnom Penh. It was a $4 ticket. The bus arrived at the station 30 minutes past its scheduled departure time or as it is better known in SE Asia, “very early”.
As the rattletrap pulled up Nug said, “I hope that’s not our bus.” After a lot of pointing and attempting to communicate we deduced that it was indeed our transport. We boarded the bus and entered another world. It looked like a dirt bomb had gone off inside the vehicle as red dusty soil clung to every available surface. Black mud was caked on the floor and most seats. Gangs of giant flies buzzed around and harassed passengers. The lime green and purple curtains and drapes had patterns from the 60’s and had obviously last been cleaned in the same decade. People were eating and food crumbs, wrappers, fruit rinds and drink containers littered the ground. I looked back at Nug and for a split second thought she was going to lay an egg. Instead she flashed a James Dean smile at me and we found our seats to commence our ride through the bouncy, windy roads. It was akin to riding a boat in rough seas.
The only new thing on the bus was a small flat screen television blaring some horrendous Cambodian pop music. After several hours the bus started running ragged so we pulled over. Everyone was cattle prodded off the bus. We had broken down. An hour later another bus from the same company pulled up. An absolute riot ensued with people shouting in Khmer and pushing towards the bus. Nug and I were like deer in headlights. We managed to work our way onto the bus which was packed to the gills. There were 3 or 4 people in every row and in the game of musical chairs we were left standing. The bus driver started yelling at us, “NO Seats! NO Seats!! You (pointing at me), You (pointing at Nug), off bus to wait!” The thought of standing on the side of the road for an indeterminate period of time and sucking fumes was not the least bit appealing. We shook our heads no and plopped down in the middle of the aisles on the muddy floor. She stared us down and shook her head in exasperation before going to the front to take off. We copped several smiles from other passengers and a nice group of women made room for Nug to squeeze in with them for the last 50km. 8 hours after we left Battambang we pulled into the bus station in Phnom Penh and were greeted by a torrential downpour.