There is nothing unusual about a journey from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville but this post deserves a special mention thanks to the story behind my road trip. It has to be one of the most interesting tales in my travel book to date.
After spending 3 days in Siem Reap, Lauren and I planned to leave for an Island called the ‘Koh Rong’ on the southern coast of Cambodia. The ferry for the island leaves from a coastal town called ‘Sihanoukville’. My initial plan was to visit Phnom Penh but during my stay in Siem Reap, I got know that there wasn’t much to do in the capital city and so I decided to tag along with Lauren to Koh Rong instead. We spend half a day visiting different travel agents to book our tickets to Sihanoukville and finally found the best price at 13$ for the 530km journey which was a pretty decent deal.
To celebrate our last night in town, we decided to hit Pub Street again. Pub Street had been our home for the past three nights and we drank like never before, danced like no one was watching, regretted everything the following morning only to do the same the next night. A unique thing we noticed in Pub Street were ‘Street Car Bars’. Apart from all the usual pubs and bars on the street, there were bars on carts with portable seats which were constantly on the move. Lauren suggested that we try ‘Bar Car Crawling’ rather than going for our usual ‘Bar Crawling’ adventures. The next thing I knew was that we were sitting on portable chairs in the middle of the road, having ‘Mango Mojitos’. The best part about it being that you could have your very own playlist playing on the loudspeakers attached to the cars. DJ Lauren was all over it and one after the other, we hopped the bar cars, trying out different cocktails as the night picked up its pace and we got in the mood for some crazy fun.
Before unravelling the drinking adventure, we knew that we had a bus to catch at 6:30AM and given the experience from the last few days, we weren’t very confident of whether we will be able to make it in time but we tried to remain casually optimistic. By midnight, we were on our 8th or 9th cocktail run, dancing insanely in the middle of the road with people capturing videos of the “crazy dancing duo”. It was the craziest night we couldn’t even have imagined in a place like Siem Reap. We even thought that we’d make it big on YouTube the very next day, judging by the number of people being entertained by our performances. We did try our best to leave at 1 AM still hoping that we would be able to catch the bus at 6:30AM.
I woke up exactly nine hours and thirteen minutes later. I was still in bed.
I felt like my head would split open thanks to the terrible hangover and I knew, even without having to check the time, that I had missed the bus. The first thought that crossed my mind was whether Lauren had been able to make it in time. If yes, I was in deep trouble. If no, we would both be in deep trouble.
I opened my phones and found ten messages from Lauren, asking if I had got on the bus. The message had been sent at 8 am and I took a breath of relief knowing that we would be meeting for brunch and worry about what to do next. As we met up, we didn’t know whether to laugh at what had happened or feel bad about it. We worked on a contingency plan over some delicious food and after much enquiry, we got to know that the buses for Sihanoukville leave twice a day-in the morning and at night as the journey is usually 8-9 hours long. We had the option of taking the night bus but that would mean wasting another day in Siem Reap. We decided to break our journey into two parts instead. We would take a minivan to Phnom Penh and then find some other means to get to Sihanoukville. And just like true wanderers, we were back on track within an hour, cramped in the last seats of a small minivan for the next six hours.
It was not a comfortable journey and there is just no way to sugar coat it. The overwhelming smell of food being eaten by the locals on the bus, the absence of any leg space and the massive headache of the hangover from last night made us question the essence of right, wrong and karma. The only silver lining about the situation was that we were on move.
The ticket for this journey was 20$ (till Phnom Penh). All that time we had spent looking for cheap tickets the previous day had gone to waste and we had to end up paying a total of 33$ for just half journey. The minivan stopped thrice along the way to let us stretch our legs and get a breath of fresh air. A major tip I would like to give is that never to plan your trips based on the timings given by the travel agents. We had been told that it would take five hours to reach Phnom Penh. So we had planned to take another bus from there to Sihanoukville, which is another three hours, and that we’d be there by the end of the day. This certainly didn’t happen. We reached Phnom Penh seven hours and it was late too late to find our next ride by then. We were dead tired and decided to spend the night in the capital. We would take the first bus in morning and be on our way to Sihanoukville.
Lauren found a classy and clean hostel called the ‘S 61’. The entire day’s tiredness and frustration vanished into thin air the moment that we got to know that the hostel offered a complimentary beer to their guests. Cambodia beers are as cheap as 50cents but receiving a complimentary beer at a hostel after such a long journey was enough to make us jump with joy. We booked the tickets to Sihanoukville from our hostel so that we would have our pickup ready at 7AM. We finally made it to the coastal town by 10AM but our adventure had just begun. I’ll be writing more about our time in Sihanoukville soon. Till then, enjoy the wandering.