Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Merde !

Wednesday December 17 2014
Kratie, Cambodia
No photos

Sorry I didn't write yesterday. I was in such a snit the entire blog wouldn't have been NSFW (Not suitable for work). It would have been a Lexicon of all the swear words in the English language and a couple other languages.

It all started with a bus ticket. Any thing longer than 3 or 4 hours on a bus is torture for me. Yesterdays bus promised nine hours of pure bliss.

Here it is from my point of view. The bus leaves at six-thirty am, so pickup at the hotel by the bus company at 6. Right at six a lone 125 cc motorcycle arrives at the hotel. My ride. Let's see. I have one large bag, one medium bag and one small bag. Me, the driver and a recent head injury. I think I will pass on this treat. Get me a tuk-tuk or no go, Dude. I'll eat the bus ticket before I risk life, limb and camera for something I am already dreading. So he hustles up a tuk-tuk. Says something to the driver and hot foots it away. I can see the tuk-tuk driver had intended to follow him, but we were left in the dust. So we go on a tour of Seam Reap. It is very peaceful at six-thirty'ish in the morning. We putter hither and yon. Hill and dale. Over the river and through the palms. I show him my ticket and he is still mystified on where to take me. I am getting happy. If we miss the bus, I don't have to go. No that would be a bonus.

Eventually he did find the proper bus station (each company has their own ya know?) and I guess I'm stuck. Bags into the belly of the beast I find my seat and we blast off – for a quarter mile. When we stop to pick up other passengers. Then two more miles for the same. At last we really are on the road until the next town where we stop for addition fares at an umbrella with a sandwich sign. Then we drive and actual 50 feet, skipping one umbrella and stopping at the next. I think this was a four umbrella town, and so on.

We are following the same route that the bus took from Seam Reap to get to the cruise boat I took two years ago. I am recognizing some of the landscape. We stop along the way for five or ten minutes. All the guys get off the bus walk towards the nearby bushes, face away from the road .. and you know the rest. The women get the privilege of paying a nickle to try and not pee on their feet (at least that is what seems to happen to me in those squat facilities). I am NOT drinking anything. I know I can hold it for nine hours. Just don't ask me to go nine hours and one minute. I think.

After a while it is obvious I was optimistic in my nine hour plan. Okay, I'll submit the next time we stop. We are passing through a grove of rubber trees where we stopped on the cruise boat trip and our guide showed us how they collected the sap from the trees. The darned bus pulled over. WTF? I'm the only whitey on the bus, why is he going to show the locals how they catch latex? Wrong! This is the Rubber Tree Pee station. All the guys wander a ways away and (to the tune of the theme from Frozen) “Let it flow, let it flow ….” I'm looking at the other women on the bus and this is just the way it is.

About six hours into the ride we pass over a big bridge to cross the Mekong and I look down to see if the bamboo bridge is where it should be and where we were docked last time and sure as shooting there sits on of the Pandaw boats. It might even have been the one I was on but no way to tell.

Another half hour and the bus stops at a covered concrete pad and the bus drives says this is your stop. A lone Cambodian woman and myself de-bus. I gave in and did indeed pee a small bit on my foot. So much for the Zen of chanting.

This was the local truck stop cum bus stop. A family owned enterprise from Grandparents, to a married couple with a baby and unmarried sisters. All working together. Every time some one walks by the baby's hammock cradle they give it a push to keep in rocking. It never stopped the entire forty-five minutes I was there. Nobody moved very fast, but boy were they efficient. Not a single wasted movement. Everything purposeful. Nothing had to be done a second time or done over. Kind of a ballet in reality.

Then a bus stopped on the road and my travel companion motions to me to get a wiggle on, this is our bus. How she knows is beyond me, because there is no destination marked on the bus, just the company logo. This bus eats my luggage and I get on to find a mix of about 50/50 local faces and white faces.

This bus doesn't stop for anything. It just keeps rolling. The reason it keeps rolling is because there is nothing between here and there. We did make one or two stops along the way, but that was very near the end of the line where my travel mate departed with a smile and (I think they are called) a wai where she put her palms together under her chin and nodded good bye to me.

I watched the sunset over the Mekong as the bus pulled into Kratie. Got off and the bus regurgitated my luggage and it was off to find a tuk-tuk to my hotel that I had reserved and pre-paid one night ahead. The tuk-tuk drive has never heard of my hotel, and it is now dark. Finally after him reading the hotel and me saying the hotel he says something like “Oh, that one! It's on the island! The ferries are finished for the day.” He takes to a nearby hotel where for $15 dollars I can live like a queen with A/C and cable TV. At least according to the owner. Eventually he gets it that I gave a non-refundable hotel room reserved and tells me the only way is to call out a private boat and have him ferry me across. This for the mere give away price of more than his hotel room. What are you gonna do? Call the motor boat.

The motorboat arrives. It looks like something you would see on most American lakes except for the squat long tailed engine. The crossing is smooth and totally uneventful. We pull up to the dock, which turns out to be another boat, which leads down a ramp and straight into mid calf deep water and slog ashore. In the dark, with tree bags of various sizes. I hope my boots dry out before I get back to
Bangkok.

Once on the sand bank they way to the hotel is via motorbike..Come on! Really? Somehow we all jam on the ride and go scooting across the sand on a wooden trail two feet wide and then to the river bank where we climb a 45 degree incline to reach the cement roadway. The roadway is just with enough for two motorbikes to pass each other and not fall off the cement or clip handlebars. It is full dark and we are clipping along at 40km (almost 25mph). At this point I am really glad of the previous pit stop.

We pull up to the hotel and no one is around, Finally after some furious honking somebody stumbled out and said “Are you Booking.com?”. Ya, that's me. You want food? Yes, I do, but I want to see the room first. No you order and we make while you see the room. Okay, okay. I ordered a chicken sandwich and they had to confer that they had all the right ingredients before taking my order.

The room has a big fan, no A/.C and a mosquito net over the bed. It is now about seven-thirty. Eleven hours of bus travel and all the rest. I don't care if it is a concrete box with a bed on the floor. I ain't going back across that river tonight.. Oh ! The chicken sandwich? Bread, chicken and a slice or four of cucumber. Give me a beer too, please.

Now. Aren't you glad I mellowed eighteen hours before writing this?

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