Less is more: The Siem Reap-Phnom Penh bus

The ticket from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh was a great deal even by Southeast Asian bus standards: $4.50 for a 6-hour ride. But it followed that unwritten bus rule of less-is-more: pay less money, get more noise.

First were the music videos, which were pretty fun. Some guys in the back started playing their radio at the same time, but our hero, the bus captain, strode down the aisle and told them to knock it off. After that came a Jet Li action movie, overdubbed into Khmer by two men with husky voices. About an hour into the show, the picture froze. Then the movie commenced again from the beginning, but with the soundtrack turned off and pop music blaring instead. After a few minutes, all attempts at movie-watching were abandoned and there was a period of blessed silence.

We stopped at a roadside stand and had some delicious anise-dominated beef curry with noodles. (I think of anise as Chinese-y, but I’ve been surprised to find it in force in Northern Thai and Cambodian food too.)

After dinner we were treated to a stunning sunset.

We optimistically put our headphones on and started listening to a podcast. But it was not to be. As darkness gathered, 90 minutes away from Phnom Penh, the bus driver put the radio on over the loudspeakers. I got all caught up on my Cambodian news, but I’m sad to say I didn’t understand a word of it.

Author: Trish Anderton

I am a nonprofit communicator, Red Sox fan and amateur streetfoodologist. Once upon a time I worked for the Jakarta Globe & Jakarta Post.

4 thoughts on “Less is more: The Siem Reap-Phnom Penh bus”

  1. Is it the dry season there now? I remember when I took that same bus (same music videos, bonus vomiting children, no vegetarian food at the rest stop), the view out the window was one of the most amazing things I've seen– pretty much unbroken water from horizon to horizon, with the occasional house on stilts. When we went to Sulawesi in April, it reminded me of Cambodia…

    Did you go see the floating village outside of Siem Reap? That was one of the highlights of my trip, but admittedly it might be less interesting in the dry season when the village isn't, er, floating.

  2. I loved the pics too. The stew picture makes my mouth water – I need to find some rawhide to chew on until it passes.

  3. Ash: Thanks! I love taking photos out bus windows. Which is lucky, considering how much time I'm spending on buses lately.

    Shelley: I think it's just transitioning into rainy season. Thailand was bone-dry but we got some rain in Cambodia. I liked looking out at the rice paddies with the regularly-spaced palm trees. They must use them to mark the corners of the fields. We didn't get to the floating village, sadly. But on the happy side: no vomiters on the bus!

    Drewskya: Thanks! You can chew on Susu a little if you want. God knows Rugrat does.

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