Well, we wanted an experience.
Instead of heading directly from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, we decided to make a midway stop in Battambang. Famed for its small town feel and French colonial facades, it sounded like a great stop. We could join a bike tour in the afternoon and stroll the riverfront in the evening. Even stop at some charming stores and try local cuisines.
Hindsight. If only it was foresight.
Our hotel recommended that we take the boat to Battambang. For the mere sum of $25 USD, we could be ferried there in a boat with others and arrive after six hours, opposed to eight hours by bus or van. Sounded reasonable.
The boat was slated to leave at 7 AM. We were up before six, had our almost pre-made breakfast (though they seem peeved that our breakfast should have been ready at 6 AM, as we’d asked the night before and they’d agreed to), and went out front to wait for the person meant to take us to boat.
Got asked if we wanted a tuk-tuk … ten times.
Waited some more.
Finally, we had the hotel ring the company. Yes, yes, the bus is on its way!
An hour later than it was supposed to arrive (and the boat was to have departed at 7 AM, now it’s 7:15 AM), the bus driver pulls in. No sooner have we gotten our feet in the door, he’s gunning down the potholed road.
We pick up more victims – ahem, passengers – from other hotels and hostels. Then, two blocks later, the driver deposits us on the sidewalk in town and says to wait here, another bus will pick us up and take us to the boat. As the first bus is filling, there are a crap ton (that’s a metric unit, by the way) of people with a crap ton of unnecessary luggage. Really. You don’t need a supermarket full of food and drink for a six hour boat ride. Or two massive suitcases.
Anyway, we hang out on the sidewalk. More people arrive to wait. It becomes apparent that we will be waiting for a long time, so I give up and go across the street to get a sweet milk coffee. That is absolutely the only thing that will take the edge off my razor edge sarcasm at this point.
That, and entertaining a New Zealand couple with stories of my exploits in China.
FINALLY, about 8:15 AM, a second bus pulls up, clearly not large enough to handle the NYE’s size crowd that has gathered and all their luggage. People doggedly queue up, and the two workers shove and girdle as many people into the van as it can’t safely hold, along with sliding luggage in through open windows onto to people’s laps and or the people already sitting on their lap’s lap.
They take off, leaving us in the dust. An additional 20 minutes go by, and a second bus rolls up, and this time, people aren’t so polite. Those of us who had waited longer, we Shanghaied that thing and got on, our backpacks digging into our legs. Apparently, because of my generous hips size, the driver sticks me in the front seat with six bags stacked around me like dominoes. That’s fine by me – when I look in the back, the others look like really bedraggled potatoes being stuffed to the brim with the fixings.
A 30 minute or so journey outside town lands us at the loading docks, where women are immediately trying to see us food and drinks, saying “you won’t stop” and “won’t come back” with serious, Lurch-like faces.
Their words sounded ominous and a little less than auspicious right before a water journey.
But then … I saw the boat.