Days 7 & 8: Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
Let me frame the setting for you. We left the beautiful town of Kampot, Cambodia and are making a pit stop in Phnom Penh, before we take a bus to Siem Reap for a few days. We’ll be traveling throughout Thailand with a brief stop in Malaysia, ultimately ending at our final destination in the Pyuthan district in Nepal— the location of the 2nd SWAP Socks funded eye camp.
This morning was straight out of a movie.
“No, you said you were going to come up when you were ready” -Culprit #1
“Noooo, I said to come down when you were ready” -Culprit #2
It’s 7:15 AM and our bus to Siem Reap departs at 7:30 AM. We have 15 kilometers to cover in 15 minutes. Classsssic.
The bickering continues in the lobby of the Nan Jing Hotel while we figure out how to defy the odds of missing our bus. I guess you can say this was our first fight abroad— the inevitable happens.
We rush out the Nan Jing Hotel, located in the center of Phnom Penh. Imagine the Grand Budapest Hotel from that Wes Anderson movie-- but subtract the Grand and Budapest, downsize it by 20 units and throw it in a hectic Cambodian city. So basically, it’s a “snazzy” red hotel with a very bizarre staff & restaurant at the bottom.
Okay. Now, flip scripts-- imagine the movie Rat Race. We throw our backpacks in the rear of in two tuk-tuks and the race begins.
(For those of you that don’t know what a tuk-tuk is, it’s just an auto rickshaw)
Pear and I lead the way with the first tuk-tuk, followed by Match and Cole in close 2nd. There are zero buses departing after this one and our plans don’t allow for any spontaneous iteration. I guess you could say tensions are high, especially for Cole who doesn’t deal well with the idea of being late. We try to stress to the drivers to hurry, but our English words weren’t going too far with our Cambodian drivers. So Pear and I rapidly rotate our arms, as if we were fans in the stands of a basketball game angrily looking for a travel call from the referee. I think they got the idea after that.
Tick. Tick. Tick. 7:20. 7:25. 7:28…you get the picture.
We notice our drivers had taken us in a mini circle upon recognizing a small landmark. Welp! It turns out our drivers don’t even know where the location of our bus station is, but of course eagerly took our business. Money talks, however they don’t like to.
I luckily glance over my left shoulder and see two buses in the midst of rolling away. Could these be ours? No idea but I had to take the chance. I went into pure Daniel Craig mode, sized it up with some Sherlock Holmes math, and darted out of the tuk-tuk. I yell at Cole to do the same, while Match and Pear stay with the bags and ironically direct our drivers around the corner in the direction of the moving buses.
So I think I’m super suave dodging through oncoming traffic like Frogger, followed by my sidekick Cole. As I clear the street, my movie-like chase scene comes to a quick halt when I conveniently pull a hamstring. WHAT? Why now? I haven’t done this since 9th grade tennis practice and now I’m going to collapse on the side of the street in the city of Phnom Penh. My stride decelerates as I wave on Cole. I think I said something disgustingly cliché like “Go on young grasshopper, go stop those buses!” But that’s for him to know and none of you to find out.
Luckily, Cole anticipated the buses turn and cut the corner, ACTUALLY stopping the bus; something I’ve never seen before. Pear and Match arrive shortly after with the bags, as I skip to the bus about a quarter kilometer away. The gang is reunited as we hop on the bus and we all started quietly chanting and high fiving random passengers. We received a small applause from a group of Australian passengers-- Instant boost of street credit! The bus rolls away to start our 8 hour ride and we finally take a deep breath. The SWAP Socks team can now be friends again :)
The downside though was that Pear was a little busy and stressed to whip out the camera during this crazy intense 20 minutes of our morning. Though we do have one shot of Cole having a minor meltdown before we take off from the hotel.
The rest is history. I’ll sign off here.
Time to Recharge.