A Sleepless Night on a Sleeper Bus-Cambodia
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.
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.
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.
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.