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Wet Season

Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bucket List, Cambodia, long term travel, Southeast Asia, Transportation, Travel, Wet Season

Transportation Woes in Cambodia


From Siem Reap, we were making our way to a northeastern province of Cambodia called, Ratanakiri. Now, Cambodia is not a huge country, and on the map, a straight line from Siem Reap to Ratanakiri doesn’t look that far. The only problem is, there aren’t yet roads that go from point A to point B, so we had a bit of a journey ahead of us.

We decided to break our stay up in Kratie, but had to go via Kampong Cham to get there, so we booked tickets in Siem Reap for the entire journey, and boarded our first bus. We made it to Kampong Cham with no problems, but once we arrived there, we were told there were no other buses going to Kratie that day. We were getting mixed stories- some people told us the bus had left earlier that day, others said the bus was broken, so after making a few phonecalls and haggling with some locals, we were told that someone would drive us to Kratie for free.

We spotted an English couple, who were in the same predicament as us, and they had paid the same driver to take them to Kratie too. So, it was a bit of a squeeze, with three in the back and one up front and our bags, but I guess our driver didn’t think so. As we were pulling away, a lady ran over and asked for a ride, and he obliged, so she jumped in the back too. Ok, this was really a squeeze! Then, wouldn’t you know, about 20 minutes into the 2-hour drive, a man standing on the side of the road flagged us down and he jumped in too. So we now had four people in the back seat, and two in the front along with the driver. And we were in a very old Nissan Altima, or something of the like.

We were making our way to Kratie, and just hoping to get there quickly, but we were also noticing that the roads were getting progressively worse. Wet season was wreaking havoc on the unpaved, red muddy roads. We were beginning to slide around a lot, but so far nothing had set us back too much. Oh, did I speak too soon?? As we made our way to an upcoming bridge, we saw that traffic had come to a standstill, due to the fact that a truck was stuck in the mud, literally on the bridge itself. There was no getting around it, so we began to wait.

After about an hour of waiting, and no immediate help in sight, our driver was ingenious enough to find someone on the other side of the bridge who was going to Kampong Chum, so he could basically switch passengers with him. Great idea, but this entailed a ½-mile walk across the bridge in red mud that was coming up to our ankles. With each step, I lost more footing, so I decided to lose the flip flops- I could get more traction that way. Now with each step, this gooey red mud was seeping between my toes and I was just praying I would make it to the other side without falling over.

We all made it to the next taxi without toppling over, tried to rinse our feet in rain puddles and got into the car just as more rain was beginning to fall. By the time we reached Kratie, it was monsooning. We checked into a guesthouse and learned that the only ATMs in Kratie (and most of Northern Cambodia for that matter) were only Visa friendly. That was a bit unfortunate seeing as we both had Mastercards. We had enough money for our guesthouse, dinner and bus tickets to Ratanakiri, and we rose early the next morning to organize a Western Union transfer- Phew, dodged that bullet.

Kratie was just a stopping over point to break up the journey, and to scrub our feet! We left the next afternoon bound for Ratanakiri, with a short stopover in Stung Treng. Kratie to Stung Treng was no more than an hour journey, on a half empty bus. We then waited for the second bus, which arrived looking a little worse for wear. We boarded and got the first two seats behind the driver. We drove on a paved road for about 30 minutes and then it was back to red mud roads.

Our driver proceeded to drive as fast on these roads as he did on the paved roads, despite the mud and numerous pot holes, and every time we hit a pot hole, the bus sounded like a tin can that was about to collapse.

This journey seemed to be taking forever. After about two hours in, we reached a flooded town, where we proceeded to literally cross a river.(I was learning just what engines can handle!) Not to mention, we were sliding all over these roads. After about 6 hours into the journey that was supposed to take 4 hours, I was getting antsy. Surely, we had to be close, right? The roads were getting worse, and we came upon another bus that was stuck in the mud, so after maneuvering around that, I was also wondering if we were going to make it.

Shortly after this thought entered my head, we got stuck, and as we tried to get unstuck, the driver managed to reverse the bus off the road at an incline. It wasn’t a pretty site. Everyone got off the bus, as he attempted to get the right side of the bus back on the road, but it wasn’t working. We found out we were literally 10 kilometers from town. Ah, to be so close, but with no help…this could take all night.

After about 30 minutes, a tractor pulled up, and the drivers chained it to the front of the bus, and after a few attempts, we had success! We finally arrived in Ratanakiri at 11:00 that night, only about four hours later than scheduled. Thank you wet season!

Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bucket List, long term travel, Phu Quock, Southeast Asia, Travel, Vietnam, Wet Season

Phu Quoc Island, aka “F*ck off Island”

I suppose the title of this entry says enough. This wasn’t the highlight of the trip, by any stretch of the imagination. We left Saigon looking forward to some beach time, some time to just catch our breath, chill out and top up the tans that were gradually starting to fade from Ko Tao. More than that, we were expecting a beautiful island, similar to the islands of Thailand, but that’s not what was in store for us.

We left Saigon at 11pm on an overnight bus. There were no sleepers this time, and the bus proceeded to stop multiple times, and each time it stopped we were forced to exit the bus and wait until it was time to leave again…not fun. We arrived in Rach Gia, which was moments away from where the boat left for Phu Quoc. The weather didn’t look too terribly bad, but we had seen the forecast, and it didn’t look pretty. Still, weather is finicky and we were being optimistic.

We boarded the hovercraft and were told the journey would take 1 ½ – 2 hours. Then the Jackie Chan movies began to play, with the loudest Vietnamese subtitles possible. We put in earplugs and managed to get some shut eye on the way over, but awoke to the smells of vomit filling the bottom area of the boat where we were sitting. The weather had taken a turn for the worse and the seas were choppy, and for some passengers it was just too much. Fortunately we didn’t have too much longer to go, but the rain was getting heavier by the minute.

We docked at a pier, donned our ponchos, and made a run for the men standing nearby yelling at us to come to their guesthouse. We had done a little bit of reading in Lonely Planet as to where to stay, but we were at the mercy of these men, seeing as it was pouring down now, and we just needed to get somewhere. On the drive, we learned that a lot of guesthouses were closed given the time of the year, but they took us to one of the places we had read about, and we figured it would do- put it this way, it wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst either.

Fortunately, after arriving, the clouds began to lift and give way to the sun, and we managed to walk on the beach. This was a good thing, considering I don’t think we wanted to spend any extra time in our room- our room that was damp, muggy, had weird nests growing down the wall from the ceiling, had no TV, no hot water, and appeared to be home to massive spiders! (I can handle all of the above, but when I find a massive spider and then lose sight of it, I don’t usually get a very good night’s sleep.)

The rain didn’t hold off for long, so we took to lounging in the hammocks watching the rain for the rest of the day. The second day dawned dry, but dark and threatening. Still, we made our way out to explore…by motorbike. This is where I learned the lesson that wet season and unfinished roads don’t really mesh. We managed to get to more secure ground and literally drove the whole circumference of the island. There were dry moments throughout the day, but most of the day was spent on the bike getting pelted by raindrops, wondering if we were going to stumble on anything worth seeing.

Unfortunately, Phu Quoc wasn’t all we expected it to be. It was one of those places that made me think, “We should just leave tomorrow.” Still, this was supposed to be some time for us to chill out, so we decided to give it one more day.

Fortunately, we had a sunny day on our last day in Phu Quoc, and some time on the beach was in order. We also managed to get an amazing sunset, and it felt like our time on the island wasn’t for naught. We left early the next morning, and the boat ride over was just as adventurous as the incoming ride, except with added vomit. And little did we know, we were in store for quite a journey that day…