I was staring outside, people were panicking and really worried about the bus driver. It was like being in a video game minus the console and joysticks. We were swaying left and right. The bus was driving in an incomparable pace. I felt I have ridden Battlestar:Galactica in Universal Studios. The road was rough, red sands made the air blurry. It was hot.
We started our journey from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh at 7:30 in the morning. The bus driver fetched the others but there was quite a problem; some of the seats that were given to our group are non-existent (unless they rather let us sit on the toilet). The journey began at 9:00. They say “A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.”, when I opened my curtain, it was hot, but instead of just sleeping, I had a few realizations; 1) I am blessed, 2) God is great, 3) Other countries are really not that far, 4) Southeast Asia is hot, 5) the bus driver sucks, but most of all 6) Traveling is all about being alive.
The road was like the lives of many Cambodians–rough. Everything turns blurry when a car passes. Heat is undeniably unbearable. But you have got to commend the Cambodians for loving their country, and for staying true to themselves. I always admire a country not because it is rich or whatever but because it has an identity–something that we do not have. Admit it or not, having an identity is the last thing in our minds. We always settle for something westernized, patronize imported things and, comparing our government or anything to a much better country. That was what I admire most in Cambodia–identity and most of all, nationalism.
It was lunch time but we didn’t have anything to eat. Along the way, people are coming in to our bus. Halfway through the journey and the bus were all filled up. The jump seats were occupied by a group of locals that made our journey somehow memorable. A Cambodian girl was watching the comedy show on TV and laughs when she finds the joke funny. But the funny thing was, she was always looking at us whenever she laughed. I guess she somehow thought that we were also locals because we were also laughing, not because of the show but because of her. (Nakakapanloko kasi yung tawa niya tapos bigay na bigay pa). That continued on until we reached Phnom Penh (imagine how agonizing that was?).
A guy was also seating beside Ate Ibang, and he has a bag that made us all nervous. While we were at the stop over for “wiwi” and snack, the guy went out of the bus and did not return even when the bus moved. Tikoy and Edge called the attention of the driver and told someone was still outside but the bus driver didn’t stop. We were all worried because the guy left his bag, Stef was nervous so she asked Lif and Kens to open the bag. I was preparing myself to see a bomb but to our surprise, a different kind of bomb showed itself. Haha. (Puno yung bag ng brief na bacon na yung garter). After a while, we stopped by a small restaurant with few stalls beside. I was starving and I was craving for something sweet (puro tubig kasi ininom ko). So I went outside, I was about to buy Pringles in a store but the vendor and I didn’t quite understand each other. The first time I asked for the price, she said 3000 riels, the next time, she showed me a 5000 riel bill so it was 5000. When I was about to pay, she said 10000. So I just bought the Coke for 3000 riels. I also bought mango–two for a dollar (nainggit kasi ako kila Tikoy at Edge na sarap na sarap sa mangga nila).
We carried on with our journey. I was about to eat my mango but Kat said I should eat something first (baka mangasim daw ako), so we ate butter toast. After eating almost a kilo (no joke), I decided not to eat my mango and save it for a while, it looks like it’s gonna be a long journey anyway. We passed by rough and developed roads, people celebrating the Khmer New Year, and lots of grasslands. A local guy was coming in and out of the bathroom and we were quite annoyed with it. Around 7 hours of journey passed, the guy stood up and went to the bathroom again. The moment he went out I was looking at everyone if they recognized a foul smell. I was surprise no one was reacting. Kat asked me “bakit anong meron?”, I said, “di mo naamoy? Umebs sya.”. Kat held her breath, and told me to not think about it because she was going to throw up. Hahaha. People started to realize it, Roan suddenly spoke “Ang bantot” hahaha. I laughed the hardest. She immediately took out her alcohol and sprayed some in her hands and in the bus. Haha. Almost the entire “back part” of the bus was reacting over the foul smell, we were laughing about it, also the “girl in the middle of Rona and Millay”. Haha. (Nakikisali lang). Kat noticed our uneaten mango. She told me “uy ibuhol mo yung mangga baka maglasang ebs” hahaha. We were really having the time of our lives.
It was almost over 8 hours of journey. My butt was hurting (promise sa sobrang sakit feeling ko flat na yung pwet ko, plus nangingimay pa). When we entered Phnom Pehn, I was like “whoah thank God!”. I really wanted to lay down on my bed and eat. 9 hours passed, we saw KFC, hehe, we were all awake. Everyone was ecstatic. The bus dropped us in a corner of a road, I thought we were already there in front of the hotel, but to my surprise, no! We needed to hire tuktuks to take us to the Hometown Hotel.
It was almost 6:00, Tikoy said we can do whatever we want. She told us that she will be downstairs at 7:30. Tikoy gave us our rooms and off we went. I was itching to take a bath, I was sweating and I’d like rest for a while. The room was a bit creepy if you will ask me. But I got the big bed so it’s fine, hehe. Tikoy knocked then entered our room, I just finished taking a shower that time. She told us that she was sad because she got a solo room. We offered that she can stay with us, of course it means we had to sleep in one bed. She said “sino ba dito? Si Melvin? Tulog ka lang naman diba?” Why Tikoy? Are you falling for me? KAPAL! Hahaha. After that, she said we can come with her at 7:30 to look for a place to eat.
At exactly 7:30, we were downstairs but no one was around, so we decided to just tell Tikoy that we’ll go ahead. We ate guess what? pizza and lasagna. Hehe. We ate at Riverside Bistro, a place full of whites–some are drinking and some are just eating, and it was surprisingly quiet. It doesn’t quite lived to it’s name as a pub. Anyhow, the food was great, the i-think-filipino band was also great. The ambience was good, very cozy, and the staff were friendly. But the service was slow–seems like it’s a standard in Indochina.
After a hearty meal, we went back to the hotel. Outside, we noticed Lif, Kens and Stef going to the massage next to the hotel. Millay and Mich were sharing a bottle of a local beer. We decided to just call it a day and sleep, while walking upstairs, we saw Ate Ibang coming down the staircase pulling her super short skirt. We thought she was just feeling awkward and a bit hot but she said “di ko makita yung shorts ko papamasahe ako eh”. Hahaha. So that’s why she was pulling her skirt down. We were laughing really hard when we entered the room and up until Vietnam, whenever we feel sad because we were the ones to leave first, we’ll just think of that and we’ll all laugh. That was the highlight of the trip if you will ask me.
Before going to bed, our phone rang, a voice said we should order our breakfast for the next day. I ordered Cheeseburger, not much of a choice I guess. I really don’t want to upset my stomach early in the morning.
It was an agonizingly long day. But I learned a lot and that is what traveling is all about. And one thing I have proven is; It’s all about the journey, not the destination.