Monday, 14 February 2011

Beeping horns

Monday 14th February 2011

MP3 track of the day: Hotel room - Pitbull

Weather: Hot

My free pickup, to Siem Reap's bus station, could arrive at anytime between 8:30am and 9:30am. I therefore got up and was waiting, within my guesthouse's large reception area, from 8:20am onwards. I waited, and I waited. As I waited I eat a whole packed of biscuits, checked the 'BBC news' web pages (Yemen is now in uprising, where will it end?) before checking my watch. 9:40am. The guy behind reception had already called the bus company twice and the reply was always the same, 'on way, on way', however still no pickup. It took a further twenty minutes for a very old and crammed looking mini-bus, with a stressed out driver, to arrive. I squeezed myself onto the last remaining seat and waved the staff at 'Bun Kao Guesthouse' goodbye. I was sure going to miss this place.

It wasn't long before we had left the nicer 'tourist area' of Siem Reap and made it to the more Cambodian 'shed-looking' buildings that most of the locals, I presume, live in. It was here that Siem Reap's bus station was located and I, along with my luggage, transferred onto a coach. I took my coach ticket out of my back pocket to see that I had 'seat number one'. Within seat number two was a lovely Cambodian lady who was heading back to her home town of Baya - or something like that – for her cousins wedding. She works within Siem Reap and she has six days holiday to take; she has decided to take the lot and go back and see her family. Nice.

As the service was running late the coach driver didn't hesitate a second; we soon pulled out of the station and headed south to Phnom Penh. Now, being right behind the driver had it's positives and its negatives. Firstly the pluses were that I had a pretty good view of the surrounding landscape and I was one of the first off said coach every time we stopped. The negatives, unfortunately, outweighed the positives. Firstly I had a speaker right above my head pumping out Cambodian music. The music wasn't even any good; most of it was Cambodian with the lyrics popping up on a screen to the right of my head (The Cambodians love their karaoke). If it wasn't 'Cambodian karaoke teenage pop' then it was either a really bad Chinese film - in Chinese dubbed over in Cambodian - or it was a Cambodian version of an American song. The only song I reconsigned was 'Hotel Room' by Pitbull, which isn't that good.

However what was worse, what was much much worse, was the constant horn beeping coming from the driver. Within South East Asia a driver will blow his horn to let the vehicle in front know that he is intending to over take it. Due to most of South East Asia only having one lane roads you would have thought that this was a good idea … it stops scooter drivers constantly turning around. Within Thailand and Laos it is a pretty good idea however here the horn is beeped continuously. What was worse was that our coaches horn was one of those piercing horns that, after you herd it once, you immediately got an headache. For the six hour journey that followed the horn was sounding more than it was quite. I could have killed the driver.

Just when you think things couldn't have got any worse the 'pluses' about the journey started to fade. Firstly the view wasn't that impressive; for the first four hours of the journey scorched, sandy earth with the occasional tree covered much of the landscape. The odd town that we did go through was constructed of the usual mixture of really nice buildings and sheds, though I didn't like going through urban areas only because the driver would use his horn a lot more than out in the countryside.

After four hours of the traveling the fields started to turn green, however this didn't improve the view much We had set off late however, after two 'pit stops', the time on the clock didn't look too bad. I glanced at road signs as they appeared and performed a rough calculation within my head (kilometers into miles … miles into time left) to reach the conclusion that we might arrive on time. I sat back, a little more relaxed. The lady next to me got off at her town and I wished her all the best for her holiday, and the wedding tomorrow; she did the same for my trip. I was then partnered next to another local, this time a male, who was alright apart from he was trying to go to sleep on my shoulder. Eventually he woke up and I had no further issues.

Thirty kilometer's to go … only thirty kilometers to go! I was overjoyed; this journey won't be put down as one of my 'all time favorites' and I knew that, say in thirty minutes, I would hopefully be off this coach. That was until, for no apparent reason, the Cambodian police had closed the main road into the city. What was worse was that:

a) the road we had to take had no tarmac

b) I don't think the driver knew where he was going as he kept very close to the petrol tanker in front of him.

It was all very depressing; we were traveling down a road that, if the Romans were in charge - or indeed if they were still alive – they could have surfaced it better. I was thrown this way and that even though we had ground to a snails pace. It seemed to take forever to reach another tarmac road however things didn't get any better. Traffic.

I was now officially late and the guesthouse said that it would send out a pick-up for me. There was nothing that I could do, I just sat back and looked at either the back of the petrol tanker in front of me, the surrounding buildings or I stared daggers into the drivers back each time he pressed that damned horn! I concentrated on the view outside the most; I have to be honest but I didn't like what I saw. Unlike Siam Reap there was a lot of rubbish lying around the outskirts of Phnom Penh, less public street-art could be seen and much less greenery; overall I wished that I was back in Siem Reap within my guesthouse … had I made a big mistake? As we went past some buildings a few were schools, I did wonder if I would be teaching in any of them.

The bus eventually stopped in the middle of a square. Tuk-tuk drivers were touting for business even before the coach had come to its final halt. As I was near the front of the vehicle I was off almost first and I collected my bag. I scanned for a tuk-tuk driver, with a card that read my name, but alas there wasn't one (I wonder if these 'free pick-ups' actually happen). Just like in Siam Reap I was tired and wanted to head out of this ghetto and into the center of town. I found a tuk-tuk driver, bartered him down to $2, and off we went. As we traveled through the city the tuk-tuk driver tried to sell his services by offering tuk-tuk rides to attractions. In return I told him that I was in town to help poor Cambodian orphans learn English, in the vane hope that he might give me a fair price for this ride. Neither of us were successful. On the way I didn't see any cake shops, KFC's or anything of particular use. This made me miss Siem Reap even more as I knew where everything I could possibly want was located within that city.

The outside of my guesthouse was pleasant enough. The staff weren't really that helpful and I did miss the 'family run' feel of 'Bun Kao'. I was shown my single room which was okay, a little bland and no air-conditioning but it certainly had less mosquito's than in Siem Reap. I tied to use the internet within my room with little success. That was a little annoying as, when I booked, the guesthouse owners said that 'all rooms had wifi' meaning that I could have uploaded the many photos of Angkor Wat I had onto the internet overnight. It also means that I shall have to do my English teaching revision downstairs … worse things happen at sea I supposed.

I went downstairs to use the internet, I also decided to eat at the guesthouse tonight as I couldn't face the big city just yet. Once downstairs I found that the internet didn't work for me at all, though it worked for others. I explained the problem to the manager but he wasn't bothered. I asked if I could use the guesthouse computers to which he said yes, however there was a charge. This annoyed me and so I told him that tomorrow I wouldn't eat here and find a restaurant with working Wifi ... he's lost out on business, the fool. I came back to my room, read more of my book (Emperor: The field of Swords … a really good book and I'm getting quite into it now) before having an early night. Tomorrow I need to be up a decent time as the Vietnamese embassy opens at 8am. I reckon it should take me thirty / forty minutes to walk there and then after I'll head to the Genocide Museum. This is where the Khmer Rouge exercised there evil deeds on the Cambodian population. After this I shall try to fit in as many of the other tourist sites as possible, without rushing them. I hope to complete the tourist bits of the city within forty-eight hours so I can concentrate on my English revision for the remaining two days. Busy, busy, busy

Toodle Pip!

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