A mini bus from Mekong Express arrives just before 6:45am. It’s a battered and bruised van but the aircon is cranking and the driver negotiates the traffic slowly. We do loops of the city collecting other passengers headed to Siem Riep on the 7:30am bus.
At $US13 the bus ride is comfortable, safe and efficient. There’s only 40 passengers, each with allocated seating, individual aircon vents and curtains to block the sun of you desire. An English-speaking guide ensures all passengers are comfortable and provides basic information about the duration of the trip and the midway rest stop.
We leave Phnom Penh’s noisy streets behind and rural Cambodia comes into view. It’s quiet by comparison from the windows of the bus. There’s no congestion and chaos. Just small houses on stilts amidst rice paddies, cattle and ever encroaching jungle plants. The road is relatively empty the whole way to Siem Riep save the onslaught of hundreds of children cycling home for lunch around midday. I last saw this a couple of years ago on Java but there it was like a sea of white headscarves while here the children’s heads are all bare.
I slept most of the bus trip so the six hours passes quite quickly. By 1:30pm we’re jolted from the airco out into the harsh hot Siem Riep air. Our guesthouse is 400m (1/4 mile) from the bus station so we decide to walk. Poor Paul is a puddle of sweat by the time we arrive and falls into a snooze on the bed. I think it’s a sensible choice so I join him to rest out the midday heat.