I did this itinerary twice.
The first time, everything went very well. The road sure was bumpy, but otherwise it was pleasant enough. Everyone in the bus were super friendly and made sure I knew when to get off for the rest stop, that I knew when to hop back on and even ordered food for me when I didn’t know what to order.
I had a long chat with the young man sitting beside me – a musician who teaches in a school for children in need, if I remember correctly. He told me a few things during that conversation. First, he mentioned the fact that corruption is everywhere. This seems to be a recurring theme in South East Asia, I heard about it in Bali and in the Philippines as well. As a tourist, you might have encountered it in the form of road blocks aimed solely at tourists, to check their driver license for example. They stop only tourists and they don’t give you receipts for the fine you pay. It seems the money goes directly in the policeman pockets. Policemen aren’t always your friends. I’ve heard horror stories of tourists being arrested and fined, without them ever knowing what it was they did wrong. Yet, there is also a lot of corruption that you won’t get to see.
He mentioned that children are money-earners here and that there is no equality between social classes. He told me the story of this girl who, with her dangerous driving, caused a big accident that killed 2 men and 3 children. The girl’s father was a prominent man (a minister if I remember correctly) and she was let go after spending only one month in prison. He told me that if you could pay-off, you could get away with anything. Talking about accidents, road conditions are truly awful here, despite the public funds injected in them (this reminded me a bit of the construction scandal in Montreal).
The second time was not so pleasant of a ride. On my way back from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh the bus AC wasn’t working. The bus was full and it was really hot. I had many hours to go in this bus and it didn’t take long for me to start feeling sick and faint. We did open the windows, but this made the breathing difficult because of the dust. This being said, being covered in dust was still better than the unbearable heat.
There was a mother beside me with her baby. I’m not sure how it happened exactly, but I found myself with all her bags piled up on me for a good part of the ride. Soon, her baby was unable to withstand the heat anymore and ended up throwing up all over. I didn’t know that babies could project this way. Thankfully, none of it landed on me.
This second ride was one of the worst transit I ever had to cope with. To make matters worst, once we finally arrived, tuk-tuk drivers somehow spotted me in the bus. It was just ridiculous, people had trouble getting off of the bus because of the tuk-tuk drivers blocking their way. They were calling out to me when I was inside the bus and, as soon as I stepped out, I was swarmed by drivers who were all speaking at once. Being swarmed is not a feeling I like and it happens very often here.