Taking the Long Way travel blog

Heading out of Sihanoukville, firstly via tuk-tuk

Early morning Sihanoukville




The first bus

The first breakdown

the second breakdown....

the third breakdown....

Waiting for a miracle...

The last breakdown

Everyone else was bailing to jump on passing pickup trucks so I...


The bus ride north to Battambang was long and arduous. I had decided to fork out the extra few dollars for the ‘limousine’ bus, which basically means its slightly more comfortable, has airconditioning, only one person per seat and doesn’t stop to pick up locals every 5 minutes, plus it has a toilet. This bus cost $16US and the public bus would have been $10US. I figured the extra money was well spent for such a long trip. The bus was everything I had expected and I rode along merrily.

The bus stopped about half way in Phnom Penh and I scanned the waiting passengers looking for Fran, who was supposed to be meeting me there. No sign of her whatsoever. This was not part of the plan, she has no mobile coverage in Cambodia and the only way I can contact her is via email, which is how we arrange to meet on the way to Battambang.

Well, there wasn’t much I could do about it so I got on the bus which was NOT the bus I had expected. It was very overcrowded and 3 children had to get off my seat and sit in the aisles. There was no aircon, the windows didn’t open and very large signs plastered around the bus saying ‘no excrement’. Which meant it had no toilet! We drove for a for the next 2 hours with Cambodian karaoke videos blasting through the bus and the whole bus laughing and singing along. All going smoothly I should have arrived at Battambang at 5pm.

Then…the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere and the the driver got out, armed with a hammer and started doing something to the engine. It was roastingly hot and we sat and waited in the blistering sun for about 2 hours while the driver tinkered with the engine. Finally the engine roared to life and we piled back on…only to break down 50m down the road. Again we piled off….waited half an hour then got back on and drover off. Then broke down 100m later. It was starting to get dark and some people were flagging down passing trucks and getting lifts elsewhere but as NO ONE else spoke English at all I couldn’t communicated very well to find out where we were or where I could go.

In the end I decided to stay put and put my faith in the bus and eventually, an hour later we took off. Slowly but surely. BUT…calamity was not far away!

In overzealous attempt to overtake truck, and then having to pull in swiftly behind it again due to an oncoming car, the bus crashed into the back of the truck and stopped again. I was hungry, thirsty and dying to to use the toilet and I had had enough. I had been travelling for 14 hours by this stage.

I didn’t bother waiting around to see what, if any, damage was done. I was outta there! I grabbed my backpack and stood on the side of the road and flagged down passing pick up trucks, asking ’Battambang??” until one man smiled and nodded. So I hastily piled in the back with about 12 other people and a dog. It was still another 2 hours whizzing through the darkness until I got to Battambong and the driver let me off on the outskirts of town as it seemed he was going further with his band of merry men. From there I caught a motorbike to the hotel I had agreed to meet Fran at and fortunately she was there, despite a slight misunderstanding that nearly had her arriving at Siem Reap instead.

The elegant, but shabby, city of Battambang, population 150,000, is set on both side of the Sanker river. It’s home to the best preserved French architecture in the country, which isn‘t saying much because everything seems pretty dusty and run down. It certainly doesn’t seem like it, with its very chilled atmosphere, but it is the second largest city in the kingdom. Its pretty compact and easy to walk around, which is what I plan on doing for the rest of the day and maybe arranging another cooking class for tomorrow.

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