During our time on the road, Sarah and I have had some interesting experiences, some great, some awful. Nothing, however, could have prepared us for what we experienced on the way from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh on an overnight bus. Here is what happened.
In a hurry to get to Phnom Penh with enough time to enjoy the city with our last few days in Cambodia, Sarah and I decided to take a night bus. We grabbed two tickets from the nearest travel agent and were booked onto a luxury hotel bus for that night which boasted clean and comfy beds. After being ferried around various pick up points in the city in a minivan we finally arrived at the bus terminal and had our first glimpse of the ‘luxury hotel bus’. It left a lot to be desired. The rusting hulk of a coach clearly wasn’t what was pictured on our tickets. However, with a tight schedule and having spent thirty dollars on the tickets we climbed on board.
Inside was the same as outside, rusting and old. There were bunks lining one side with space for two people, Sarah and I were ushered into our space for the night, a lower berth. It was cramped, with just about enough room to lie flat, we were given a shabby pillow and moth eaten blanket to share. A few moments later the bus began to move. An hour into the journey the driver switched the lights off and we hoped that despite the state of the bus we would be able to get a little sleep. Any hopes for sleep were dashed a few seconds later when we heard the couple in front of us frantically scrambling around in their berth, the light of their iPhone revealed what the fuss was about. Cockroaches. A common saying is that if you can see one cockroach then there are hundreds there that you can’t, if that’s true then the bus must have contained thousands as we could see dozens of them coming out from the matting that was serving as a mattress. In our section of the bus I heard people moving uncomfortably as they became aware of our six legged stowaways. Pleading to be allowed off the bus the girl in front of us looked devastated to be told that this bus was nonstop to Phnom Penh and would under no circumstances be stopping, cockroaches or not.
I realised that at this point there was nothing I could do apart from accept the fact that we had company. Sarah and I had a quick discussion as to whether to use our insect repellent or to squash them, but the fear of causing a swarm and the gross idea of being stuck amidst crushed roaches put us off either idea. Never more thankful to be wearing jeans I tucked them into my socks, put on a long-sleeved shirt and read my book to distract myself from what was happening while the roaches scuttled around, Sarah followed my lead and did the same. This is how we spent the next five hours rattling along the bumpy roads to Phnom Penh. Our relative peace coexisting with the roaches was sadly shattered when they made their way further up the bus. With a scream, someone pulled out a can of bug spray and despite everybody else’s attempts to stop them, filled the bus with insect repellent. All hell broke loose. The roaches started manically swarming, climbing onto any surface or person to avoid the spray! People who hadn’t been aware of the extra passengers suddenly woke up and joined in the commotion. The atmosphere on the bus was practically hysterical with people choking on the bug spray and dealing with roaches scuttling all over them.
Mercifully at this point we were pulling into Phnom Penh. The second the doors opened there was a near stampede to disembark – everyone was frantically brushing themselves off by the side of the road. After jumping off Sarah and I flagged down the first Tuk Tuk we saw and raced to the nearest hotel. We left our bags as far from our bedroom door as we dared and just stood for nearly an hour in the shower, exhausted.