Another long transit day from Kep to Battambang, Cambodia
One of the more mentally and physically draining parts of long term travel are the long transit days between destinations. Our journey from Kep to Battambang was one of those transit days that really tested our patience!
The next stop from the sleepy town of Kep was to the town of Battambang. Our hotel helped us book bus tickets from Kep to Battambang. Since there are no direct buses between the two cities, we would have to transfer in Phnom Penh. To top off our interesting stay at this hotel in Kep, the morning we were to be picked up, they told us there were problems with the bus and were being picked up in 30 minutes instead of the original 1.5 hours later. We packed up all our stuff as fast as we could and hurried out the door. Just as the car arrived to pick us up, the owner’s dog decided to mark its territory and peed on the front of one of our luggage! The owner grabbed a dry rag, wiped it off and kind of just shrugged it off before being rushed into the van. We were dropped off at a store/waiting area that was 10 minutes away from the hotel, and waited there for a good hour for other passengers to be picked up. At this point we were pretty grumpy as it felt like we were unnecessarily rushed out of the hotel and were sent off with a lovely dog pee parting gift. At least we were able to thoroughly clean off our luggage while we were waiting.
A couple other passengers joined the waiting area and it was time for us to finally head to Phnom Penh. The van was also filled with random things like a big metal display sign, in which Minh had a giant sharp metal corner behind his head instead of a head rest. To top it off, the driver was really aggressive when driving and would brake really erratically and hard. About an hour in, the driver seemed to have gotten lost a few times looking for the shop that he needed to drop off the metal sign at, as we had to circle back the same block a few times. After no longer having to worry about being stabbed in the back of his head by a metal sign, we had another 1.5 hour ride to Phnom Penh.
All the other passengers got dropped off, then we got dropped off at another store front. They told us to wait there, hand us a new bus ticket, and we would be picked up in 1 hour. As we were deciding to look for some lunch, another person comes up to us and tells us to grab our things, as we’re getting taken to a different bus. Ok…(good thing we didn’t leave!) We hop in the bus thinking we’re heading to Battambang, and we get dropped off at a bus terminal in Phnom Penh with a new bus ticket for Battambang. Since we had no idea what was going on and were just literally dropped off there, I went looking for someone who could direct us where to go. I walked over to the main ticketing area, where a bunch of tuk-tuk drivers saw I had my backpack on and started hollering to get my attention and asking where I was going. I said, “Battambang?” and all the drivers started laughing and groaning in disappointment as one guy exclaimed, “Oh! You have a ticket already!,” as they were hoping I was newly arriving and needed a driver to a hotel in Phnom Penh. He kindly directed me to ask the lady at the ticket counter where our bus was. I thought that was really funny how they all got really excited when they saw me headed their way and all had the same reaction when they found out I didn’t need a ride.
I finally got clear direction which bus number to wait for. Once we got into the correct bus for Battambang, we noticed that we were the only foreigners on the bus, and we were on a very budget local’s commuter bus. The luggage compartment was pretty filthy, and was packed to the brim with various boxes that were being delivered to vendors in Battambang. We figured out our bus tickets got re-sold 3 times to more and more budget lines. Transit days are the worst and you really learn to try to go with the flow the best you can.
The ride from Phnom Penh to Battambang was about 5 hours and the bus played old classic Chinese movies dubbed in Khmer and very entertaining Khmer music videos on the overhead screens and speakers. The bus dropped everyone off just a few miles out of town (as buses are no longer allowed to drop off in the middle of the city). As we pulled into the lot, I saw a tuk-tuk driver scanning for foreigners and saw that he saw us and could tell we weren’t locals. He chased down the bus to where it was going to stop, and waited for us to get off the bus asking where we were headed. We usually avoid interacting with any tuk tuk drivers coming off a bus, as their prices will usually be double or triple what a tuk-tuk driver across the street or down the block would charge. As it’s no surprise, these interactions are when you’re most likely to get taken advantage of, as it happened to us multiple times all over the world, especially South America.
Since it was dark out already and we were practically in the middle of nowhere, we agreed on a price with our driver, and were on our way. Something I read about that a lot of drivers in the Battambang area is offer to drop you off at your hotel for free if you hire them for a full day tour for another day. Our driver offered this to us during our ride to the hotel, which we politely declined. It’s always tough with tuk-tuk and cab drivers, as many are just trying to make an honest living, but there are also many who take advantage of naive travelers and rip them off. This driver seemed to be more on the honest living spectrum, so we asked him to drive us the next day, where we were planning to volunteer at a non-profit school for children.
After an exhausting day of travel, we finally made it to our hotel! Similar to when we were in Kampot and Kep, Minh was counting down the days until we would arrive at our next “upgraded” accommodation which was on a high floor with A/C (aka not in the middle of the jungle with creatures running around and sealed). When booking this hotel, we noticed there was a slight price difference between a room with a window and one without. We figured, we don’t really stay in the room that much, let alone look at the windows, right? Sure, let’s save a little where we can. Another rookie traveler mistake! Being in a hotel room without windows feels like you’re in a prison and you have no idea what time of day it is! At least there weren’t any geckos crawling in from the roof and jungle rats scurrying across the tiles above our heads. Oh wait, there’s actually a lovely dead cockroach in the corner of the hotel room, but we initially didn’t see it, because the floor’s tile is a swirly brown and black pattern that basically camouflages bugs! (Can you tell we were having a rough time adjusting to the living quarters in Cambodia? lol)
We have our first real meal of the day, or I should say, night, and Minh gets his legs bit up by a bunch of mosquitoes during dinner. During dinner it starts pouring rain out of nowhere and we wait it out in the restaurant for 25-30 mins after we’re done having dinner. Luckily, the rain lets up and we don’t have to walk back home in the rain. Another tiring, yet successful transit day!