How to Survive A Cambodian Taxi

...or alternately, Three Cities in One Week. There are many titles I could assign to this post, but none would completely capture our hectic week and how rapturously happy we are to be back home.

After our weekend in Siem Reap, we all loaded up on a bus and drove the 7+ hour long trip to Phnom Penh. It's so funny how in the States, I almost never drove more than 4 hours anywhere. But here, 6+ hour long trip are becoming a frequent occurrence. We finally washed up at a friend's house for the night. While Andrew headed off to work early Monday morning in the Phnom Penh office, I lazed around our room, checking email and taking frequent cat naps, recovering from my "exhausting" 3k run and getting a $2 manicure (why not?). We spent three days in Phnom Penh, enjoying air-conditioned cupcake shops, coffee shops with free wi-fi, and shopping in Western-style grocery stores (I hit 4 of them in one morning...gotta get my cheddar on).

Night #4 was spent in Kampong Chhnang, about 2 hours from Phnom Penh on the way to Poipet. Andrew is managing a water access project at the SP office, and he likes to stop in about once a month to check on things. The next day, we tried to find a taxi to travel the remaining 4 hours to Poipet, but apparently, no taxis travel that way - even though taxis pass through town almost hourly on the Phnom Penh - Poipet route. So we opted for the economical but previously unexperienced bus ride. Which meant spending 6 hours on the dirtiest, smelliest bus I have yet encountered in my travels, populated by Cambodians who stared at me like I was an alien from another planet. Which, trust me, I felt like I was.

It's just funny how you can spend 9 months in a country and have moments of culture shock like that - inwardly panicking,, I have to spend the next 6 hours of my life on this bus. But once I got over it, it really wasn't so bad. Buses may take 3 hours longer than their taxi counterparts because of frequent stops and slooooow travel speeds, but I did feel marginally safer. Even if the window rattled so much I expected it to pop out of the frame any minute.

After spending 6 hours in the bus and getting to know our neighbors quite well, we stopped in a city and transferred to a taxi for the remaining 40 kilometers. And when I say "we", I mean a driver and 8 passengers. In a four passenger car. This involved me sitting between the driver and Andrew, basically on top of the gear shift. I think my rear end popped it into neutral more than once. Initially there were 5 people in the back seat, and the driver started to shove another person between him and the door. Between the driver and the door! I've heard about this happening before, but I spoke up (of course) and told them in no uncertain terms that would not be happening in any taxi I rode in. So of course, they did the most logical thing - opened the trunk, and he sat on the edge with the trunk lid resting on his legs, while driving down the highway. This was so much safer than sitting between the driver and his door.

Eventually, they just stuck him in the back, for a total of 6 people in the backseat of the car. Halfway down the road, they let out the family traveling with us, which was about half the people, and it was quite comfortable after that. When we pulled into town, I could have knelt down and kissed Poipet on its scrummy, dirty little face, I was so happy to be home.

Until I saw that my Christmas tree was dying. Guess that's what happens when you lock up a tree in your house for a week with the windows closed.

Yes, my helper did water it...but I didn't think about the whole lack-of-airflow-leads-to-rampant-fungus part of it.