Wednesday, 8 June 2016

321 ADVENTURE THRU THAILAND, LAOS AND CAMBODIA (4-16 January 2016), Day 11 - Siem Reap to Phnom Penh

Cambodia is undergoing rapid growth, hence the roads are typically dusty due to expansion works
Team B on Giant Ibis bus heading for Phnom Penh
Typical toilets at bus stop areas
Bad masonry work
Tip box strategically placed next to tissue box
The exterior surroundings are so much better than the toilets
Orderly queue
Food sold at rest stops
Does anyone actually buy these expensive souveniers?
Team A waited for almost an hour for their pre-arranged pick up that never came!
No helmets
Rexmy playing host
Suk Porn and Kim entertaining us
Celia and her medical staff
The restaurant
Balut or Pong Tia Koun, in Cambodia is a developing bird embryo that is boiled and eaten from the shell
A view from the room
Indochine 2 with its grilled windows fashioned from the 70's
A closet that will never be attacked by termites or woodworm!
Super clean toilets
LTF Chief's new ride!

It was a very well conceived plan! 10 passengers can go up a Giant Ibis bus but not all 10 folding bikes can go in the trunk!! With that in mind, Alvin separated us into 2 teams.

Team A, led by Alvin boarded the 7.45 am bus heading for Phnom Penh. Between Alvin, Frank, KC, Barbara and Colin, the 5 became the scouts for Team B. So, when the smaller feeder van arrived one hour later to pick up Team B, all 5 members were already briefed on what to expect. 

As Team B boarded their feeder van, there were already quite a number of passengers on board. All were tourists from various countries, some even from Kuala Lumpur! The van went on to a few more hotels before dropping everyone off at the Giant Ibis bus terminal, heading for various destinations.

Ian, Anne, VT and Claudine led by Papa Mike moved their bikes from the front of the van to the Giant Ibis bus. The trunk of the bus was spacious unlike the van which did not have a boot space nor trunk.

Earlier, four bikes were stacked precariously, one on top of another next to the driver while one more was blocking the walkway! When the van, did an emergency brake, the top bike slid off with a crash! Most unnerving were the Bike Fridays which bore the full brunt of the weights!

As Team B managed the logistics, the vultures descended as expected. Already prepped, they left Papa Mike to do all the talking. It seems like Papa Mike is better at negotiations for we neither paid USD5 per bike fee for cargo nor the USD5 for all bikes as pre-negotiated by Alvin.

Team B were accorded seats at the very end of the bus. But no one was making a fuss. They were just happy with the good wifi connection and charging station on board. Besides, there was a well dressed steward to hand out drinks and Blue Pumpkin buns to everyone! For a Cambodian, he spoke laudable English.

The bus did not depart on schedule. When it did, it went on to another bus terminal, probably hoping to pick up some last minute passengers. Then, it left Siem Reap.

It rattled through bumpy roads, most of which were undergoing expansion work. The roads were so dusty it turned everything brown.

Peering from the bus' window, through the clouds of dust, we noticed many houses with ceramic plates hung at the front of the house. It proudly displays the year the house was built.

We passed by many rice fields.

Passing villages, we saw petrol sold from recycled glass bottles.

Team A soon fell into a game of giving thanks. They started with Amazing Adventure and went on to Brilliant, Culturally rich and Delicious food! E was for Energy when we needed it! Somewhere in the game, Faith in God came in!

Ian's need to go to the toilet interrupted the game at "G"! He stumbled with "Did team 1 stop for a toilet break yet?"

Coincidentally, both buses stopped almost at the same time!!! While Team A were having their lunch break, Team B were allowed a short toilet break.

Team B were briefed not to order the green curry! They will get better value with fried rice or fried noodles with egg for USD2.25. Alvin secured an even cheaper meal of vegetarian fried rice with egg for USD1.75. But that got him pining for sambal belacan!

45 minutes later, Team B arrived at the same rest stop. The cat that Barbara had captured on camera and sent to the groupchat was still lying on the same chair!!! We could have played a game of caching had we wanted to!!!

After their lunch break, Team B had a third stop 2 hours later. Closer to civilization, the refrigerators even offered Starbucks coffee!

When they rolled out again, the countryside became greener. Soon, they trundled into the city.

Once the bus stopped, the porters came and started unloading even before the passengers were let out!!! Stuck at the very end of the bus, we were worried about our bikes. Thankfully, all luggages were carried into the air conditioned office and not carted away! It was chaotic as everyone were concerned about their belongings and scrambled after their baggage!

Outside, there were many tuk-tuks waiting for passengers. Through all the pandemonium, Papa Mike managed to negotiate 2 tuk-tuks at a reasonable fare for us.

We arrived safely in Hotel Indochine 2 to see Alvin and KC at the lobby. Alvin was waiting for his adopted son, Rexmy to take him out shopping for bike boxes. We will need them for our return trip.

Meanwhile, Barbara was just sitting down for coffee at the cafe next door. Next, on her agenda is Central Market.

Team A had just arrived recently, having waited for almost 1 hour for their pre-arranged tuk-tuk. It never came!

As this is not his first trip to Phnom Penh, VT guided Claudine through the riverside walk. Peddlers were seen selling cold drinks from orange ice boxes.

They saw many boat houses docked by the Tonle Sap River. Rubbish were strewn all over the river bank.

They walked past Wat Ounalam. They came to the Royal Palace and Royal Palace Park. There were lots of pigeons in the park.

Trying to get out from the scorching evening sun, they left the riverside walk. They came upon the National Museum, decided against climbing up the stairs to the Foreign Correspondents Club but prefered the air conditioned Blue Pumpkin Cafe. Settling down upstairs with a view of the riverside walk, Frank walked in.

A distraction down by the riverside walk caught their attention. Out in the open was an aerobic class. A male trainer led the public. Everyone gyrated over music blasted from a loud speaker.

At dinner time, Rexmy, Kim and Suk Porn came to the hotel to take the team out. They are some of the kids "adopted" by Alvin and Celia. Another success story from Cosi Orpahange, they have graduated or graduating from college!

Every dish we had for dinner were small and loaded with vegetables to give an appearance of a bigger portion. But when we dig through the vegetables, the pieces of meat were chopped so small, there were hardly any meat on them. Most of the time, we were sucking on bones. If it was fish, we figured it based on the small comb like bones. Then, there were the chicken and the chicken that tastes like fish! Later, Alvin came to tell us that we had been sucking on frog meat!

We had another round of Blue Pumpkin Cafe after dinner. Our LTF chief was presented with a thank you card and momentos from the team. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him!!!

We also learnt that Papa Mike did not actually "lose his nuts"!!! The missing hub nut from Day 1 was actually stuck to the protective wheel covers. He discovered it at Siem Reap while packing his bike!

Not getting their fill, Papa Mike, VT and Claudine ventured on to the night market. They were already closing. Papa Mike got a new cap but not food!

Instead, he convinced VT that KFC tastes a lot better in Cambodia. They trooped into a dusty KFC which was partially undergoing renovation! At 10 pm, the kitchen was already closed but the manager took pity on the 2 hungry boys. They reopened the cash register to sell them the cold chicken.

That night, Alvin and Celia were snuggled under the luxurious bed covers of a 5 star luxury hotel sponsored by the company. The rest of the team though, slept on good cotton sheets at Indochine 2! Nobody dared to run any UV lights through the bedroom. Ignorance is bliss for the hotel is situated in a red light district!!!

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