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Posted on Nov 16, 2012

A  Sleepless Night on a Sleeper Bus-Cambodia

A Sleepless Night on a Sleeper Bus-Cambodia

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Kobi here.

Here is an another great example that planning is for diaries and fairy tales.  We had planned our departure from Siem Reap as best as we could and part of the planning was what kind of bus will we take: the day bus or the night bus?  The day bus cost much less, you only sit the whole time, suffer from the Khmer Karaoke that plays for the whole 12 hours ride, and there is a one hour stop where we exchange a bus in Phnom Penh. On the other hand, the night bus which is a direct bus, one stop in Phnom Penh but not a bus exchange, each person has his own bed, and the best part that we get to SLEEP during this long ride.  But again, planning is for fools.

The Expectations

As we were excitedly transported to the “sleeper” bus I reviewed in my head the brochure I was presented that showed two story bus and the internal pictures showed wide and long beds. We had the sense that we did a good job about the planning. The bus was scheduled to leave on midnight so we kept ourselves and the kids awake for that late knowing that are going to SLEEP on the sleeper bus.

Usually, we put our kids to sleep by 9:00 pm. We try to stick to a normal schedule. And by taking the night bus, we thought we are doing the right decision.  We could as easily take a local cheap flight with many sites such as www.flights24.com that shows you results from hundreds of airlines. We could do that but since we travel on a cheap budget, bus it is.  I got the kids all excited about the two-story bus and bragged about the fact that we are on the upper floor! They have been waiting for so long to be in the second floor of a bus. They never did that and it was a great opportunity for them to experience it finally.

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The Disappointments                                       

And here it comes: when we loaded ourselves to the bus, we found out that the bus is a normal modified bus. No two-story bus. “No bear and no forest” like we say in Israel. The bus was cramped with so-called beds in strange angles so more beds can be inserted in this small floor plan.  There was not even room for hand bags considering the fact that all travelers will have their day bag with them. And to avoid common theft on night buses, each holds his or her bag tight which leave no room even to stretch the legs.  No way a western average person can sleep in this prison-like bus.

Maybe this great engineer who planned this thought about local people who are usually shorter and slimmer. We were shocked by what we saw.  We tried to make the best out of it.  At least the kids had a better experience.  “At least we don’t have to get off the bus” I thought to myself.  And guess what?  When we arrive to Phnom Penh’s bus station, we were asked to get off and wait for the next bus. We had to wake up our finally-fell-asleep children.

To be honest, I was pissed. So pissed that I could beat anything that moved near me.  [Editor note: this is Kobi writing the article, Gabi was too busy laughing hysterically and chanting “anicca”.] I was mad with everyone. With the lady who sold us the tickets and lied to us, with the bus driver, with the guys that told everyone to get off the bus, with the kids that did not want to wake up, and finally with Gabi who told me that I should calm down.  Again, we were loaded to another bus who drove us to a different station where we waited for over an hour for the next bus. I guess, after all, a flight would not be a bad idea.

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The Lessons Learned

One traveler told me after hearing this story “In Cambodia, you never get what you paid for”.  In Sihanoukville, I witnessed another scenario which brought up the question of honesty by local people toward travelers.   Two days ago, as I am approaching a local supermarket in Sihanoukville, I  see a traveling woman around her 30‘s screaming on a local motorbike taxi driver. She shouted from her top of her lungs “ I cannot believe you lied to my face!!!!”.  I did not know what it was all about and I frankly I did not care.  She had this furious face that was about to explode any second.  I kept the distance so  when the blast happens, I won’t catch the blood splatter from her face all over my face.  And at the same time I was thinking “Dah!”.  Of course he will lie to your face. Why not? And why yes? Because he can and because we, tourists believe what we are being told. Some tourists do not cross information and do not verify what is being communicated to them.

One wise man said once that whatever doesn’t kill us only make us stronger. I must add that it makes us wiser as well. I know better now not to consider a night bus unless we have not other choices. And we are wiser not to believe everything we are being told. It is better not take information for granted and always keep enough room for unexpected scenarios.

If any of you have any similar stories of using a night bus or being lied to, please share with us.

 

Comments

comments

8 Comments

  1. Hahahaha…..I have so many stories that there’s not enough room here! Yes the bus has a toilet (no it didn’t), yes the driver will stop for dinner (no he won’t), yes the trip is 19 hours (actually it’s 26 hours!). You just have to suck it up and be prepared. Know where you are getting off, have water and snacks for hungry kids and keep your sense of humour! Even when they offload you in a dark street to empty the bus of smuggled wood and you are sure you’re going to die ( Laos to Vietnam). Fun times!!

    • dear god how do they lie like that? tracey, this is gabi. i haven’t even read what kobi wrote yet, but i can only imagine cuz i was there. everything they said was just a slight vague in-the-ballpark-parking-lot arena close to truth. i felt like an 80 year old who was just run through the washing machine after that. where the hell did you put your feet? just laugh, right?

  2. I love when they show you the brochure and tell you the bus is “same same but different”.

    Travelling with a kid who uses a wheelchair can have its advantages in SE Asia. We usually try to book the front seats. One time my husband got on to find a Monk sitting in one of our seats. The Monk obviously didn’t understand what my husband was saying and continued to sit there. But when my husband came back with our daughter in his arms you could tell the Monk realized that “kid with a disability trumps Monk” and he moved.

  3. PS Night busses are ALWAYS a bad idea!

  4. Oh you poor dears! I once took a bus from PP to Sihanoukville and was so terrified I hired a taxi for the journey back!!!!

  5. There’s a term I’ve gotten quite fond of here in the Middle East: “Insha’allah” meaning God willing, whatever happens will happen. Easier said than practiced, but it has calmed me down a time or two.

  6. a) Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon, is only less than 2 hours away to Cambodia at the Vietnam Moc Bai border. And from the Moc Bai border, Phnom Penh is only another 3 hours away by bus. With Cambodia being so close to Vietnam, why not take the chance to ‘conquer’ another country while you are touring Vietnam?
    b) It cost only US$11 for an air conditioned tourist bus to get from Vietnam to Cambodia.Any thing pls contact to 08 66 84 64 27 or 08 62 74 64 27

    • Jimmy! hi! Thank you for all the great information. You are so very kind to take the time to let people know what is available to them when they arrive. I hope people will use your services with love. Thank you for commenting. Gabi

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