After not writing for two months me and Mel have some catching up to do, so picking up from where we left off I have still got a few more stories to tell about South East Asia, from where I get a lot of time to think as we are making our way from city to city. One of the questions which rears its head constantly however is “what time do they work to?” Everything is late; drinks, food, buses, and even the Internet feels late. Not even a little late though, sometimes you can sit there waiting 25 minutes for the bill. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, it’s just different and you get used to it soon enough. The main annoyance though is travel. .
“Be there at 8:30am sir!” You get told followed by a polite bow and smile.
“Okay sure, thanks.” I try and say in the local lingo with our tickets in hand. Then what seems like unplanned inordinance.
Here is a rough guide to our travel experience from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and I have to say it was by far the bumpiest journey I have ever been on. Ever! But you can’t hold out for too much luxury when you’re paying about £4 to travel 320km can you?
8:20 – we get out of the hotel early waiting for the bus
8:30 – due time… Surprise though, there is no bus
8:45 – mini bus arrives and travels in various loops for 40 minutes, passing our hotel 3 times along the loop
9:30 – we have now travelled the required 3km to get our bus to Phnom Penh
10:30 – non routine stop for no apparent reason
11:30 – another stop this one however with the not so hidden alternative of chucking everyone off to get people to buy food
14:30 – another food stop
17:00 – this was my favourite, a stop to get the bus washed. Yep washed, obviously the day had taken its toll
18:30 – we finally arrive a good 2 hours late… But as you’d guess, we’re used to that by now.
The annoying things you’ll come across when taking long journeys overland in South East Asia can get very tedious after a while and some new ones seem to pop up too, adding some excitement to the monotony of rumbling your way 320km along the coast or through the mountains. Here are some of our prolific annoyances so far;
- Stopping at a tourist trap to buy slightly overpriced Food or reasonably priced drivel
- Stopping at another tourist trap and getting for using the toilets
- A short stop to cool down the engine with a few bottles of water from the toilet
- As said above, a little stop for the just to the trusty wagon washed
- A stop so that the driver and his mates can run some errands, this may be anything from package deliveries and quick chats along the way, to buying phone credit or fags for the journey
- A stop along the highway to change the tire, not surprising given the state of roads in most parts of Asia
- The standard 3 stops entirely dedicated to changing bus, you haven’t travelled in Asia until you’ve been flung from one bus to another at least 3 times
- Finally the most annoying is when getting picked up two hours before bus departure time in a warm mini van, only to be ferried around the city numerous times and go past your hotel at least twice while other people get picked up – round and round you go past the same landmarks and same hotels… It’d be nice to be given that time in the hotel instead of sweating on the bus at 8 am in the morning.
My point. Time isn’t an issue on this land, people are late, people are easy going and laid back and no ones ever on time. If you ‘re on time, you’ll get weird looks. At the end of the day though you get there in one piece and with something new to talk about. Yes there are annoyances and yes sometimes you yearn for that mundane train ride that may only be 10 minutes late, but that’s the charm of Asia. It has its travelling ups and it’s downs, but it’s all part of the overall experience and enjoyment… well in hindsight anyway. Maybe in 3 years time after a few more journeys, then I won’t be posting with even that glimmer of enthusiasm, or maybe just maybe, things can only get better???