Death Ride in Cambodia [READ]
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A story about a time I was SURE I would die
It was a hot, sticky day in Siem Reap, like every other day. The heat was beginning to get to me. I’d compared prices around the tourist offices and found a ticket for an “express” van that cost little more than the tourist bus. I hastily purchased my ticket, unaware of the horrors that lay ahead.
The next morning I sprung out of bed early, ready for my next adventure. I was heading to Sihanoukville, a 12 hour drive away, for some long-awaited beach bumming. I easily found and got into my van, looked around and began to wonder why there were no other tourists around me, only locals… I have no qualms about catching local transport but due to the price of the ticket I assumed more tourists would have revelled at this.
As soon as the van pulled out onto the tiny one-lane highway I realised what I was in for. People had talked about them. The sides of the roads were littered with them. I had heard all about them. And now I was closer to one than ever before. Crashes. Crashes everywhere. And our van was flying along the tiny, potholed highway at speeds I’d have hoped for an aircraft. The narrow two-way road, room only enough for one vehicle max, sped by underneath.
A half an hour into my very own episode of ‘Fast and Furious’, I snap my neck to the right to catch a scene of utter concern. An open-back truck had fallen into a huge ditch. The truck had been previously filled with a bunch of Cambodian people all on their way to work, whom were now standing around scratching their heads and looking confused. Presumably the truck had jumped off the road and into the ditch to avoid a head-on collision with another vehicle. And, oh shit, the same thing was going to happen to us! As this revelation began to dawn on me, I scrambled for my seatbelt. None. I look around me and everyone was calm. Calm? How can they be calm? We are going 200km/h +! We will die, guaranteed..! Nope, no one cared.
The death-van continued to rumble along the road, forcing cars and motorbikes out of its way. An unfortunate motorbike took too long to realise the presence of our devil vehicle and jumped so far off the road when we passed that it too, sailed into the ditch. Then we stopped for lunch. Thank god.
The driver, who didn’t speak any English, happily munched away on his lunch clueless to the multiple heart attacks I’d been experiencing due to his driving. I felt it was my duty to ask him to drive slower. But in my attempt to tell him, it was then I realised that talking louder does not, in fact, make you easier to understand in English. Instead, I found a young Cambodian lady to translate for me. “Please tell him that I’m really scared and can he slow down?” “Yes, yes, he says he understands and will slow down.” She said. He didn’t.
Three more hours of near-death experiences in the van from hell, we stopped again in Phnom Penh at a bus stop. Parked next to us was an old, rusty bus with the word ‘Sihanoukville’ on the front. I alighted, found a ticket salesperson and asked if I could swap my seat on the van for one on the bus. “But Madam, bus take longer, van faster.” “Excellent!” I replied. Seven hours later, late at night I was dropped at my destination. Alive.
Currency: 2 Currencies – USD and Cambodian Riel (KHR, ៛)
$1 USD = ៛4, 000
I was here: September 2013