Bus Travel in Cambodia

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When traveling in Cambodia I decided that we would just take the bus – but I’m speechless. Well, maybe not speechless, I’m not sure I’m ever speechless.  Perhaps it’s utter shock.  I’ve traveled in developing nations before but somehow the dry, dusty eye opening bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, Cambodia is leaving me in a state of awe.  The kids are bored (it’s 7 hours), but I’m riveted to the window.  I’m so captivated I’ve requested my child give up her window seat so I can really get a view of this world.

There’s so much to say I’m not really sure to begin.  Perhaps it’s my amazement over the mass quantity of trash.  Everywhere.  Really, everywhere.  It’s in front of stores, smashed on the streets, littered outside restaurants and sometimes in the corners of restaurants and along the edges of hotel properties.  When I say everywhere, I mean everywhere.  There’s clearly no infrastructure.  Roads are terrible, medical care seems beyond lacking, electrical wires hang precariously.  Yards are littered with trash that I’m not sure ever gets put anywhere but directly dropped out of users hands. It’s baffling and disturbing.DSC07392

Then there’s water quality.  There doesn’t seem to be any.  What strikes me are the all too familiar conversations and publicity when it comes to building wells in Africa…something I support wholeheartedly.  But how about Cambodia?  Do we ever hear about them? They even get extreme amounts of flooding for part of the year.  Surely more advanced catchment systems could help these people?  And water filtration systems? There must  be something that can be done.  Sitting outside homes are puddles of unnaturally fluorescent green cesspool looking water occupied by ducks, chickens, bizarrely colored waterlily pads and sometimes children.  It can’t be safe.  DSC07387

And the fisheries. Be really careful about farm raised fish and where it comes from is what enters my mind.  I’m not sure the politics behind it all, I’m not sure if we’re supposed to purchase wild or farm raised.  At the store I’m always confused which option is best for health, sustainability, politics…I usually revert to the butcher’s (is it a butcher for fish?) recommendation but I can tell you I will never purchase farm raised fish again.  I know I’m making a broad statement and I’m sure I’m over generalizing but really, it can’t be helped.  That fluorescent green water…yep! Really, really, really bad.

Which brings me to another topic….organic food. For those who know me well, you know I’m obsessed with healthy food.  I try to avoid processed goods (I fail but try really hard), I try to only buy grass fed and pastured meat.  I spend way too much on organic, pesticide & preservative free whatever, blah, blah blah.  But it struck me on that bus ride, seeing the water, that perhaps I need to focus on locally raised, grown items – which I do, to support the local farmers, decrease the environmental footprint…but I do buy items which are clearly not grown locally…bananas, mangos, kiwi…time to change that one.

Did I mention the dust?  I knew we’d need to purchase masks to deal with pollution in some parts of Asia but I’m really wishing we had them – now.  The thick airborne dust somehow permeates our fully enclosed bus.  It seems impossible but it’s everywhere – on long past colorful umbrellas and awnings of the passing markets, typically vibrant green banana fronds are orange…everything is covered, even, somehow, as I sit inside, the lens of my camera, poised on my lap ready to capture the moment.  How do the locals do it?  It’s hard to breath – and we’re in a bus!DSC07063

DSC07054And inside the bus…along with distinctly developing country decorations there’s scratching music pumping alternating with the kung fu Cambodian flick on the screen, a “bus” attendant that hands out water and some sort of pastry allow with a trash bag for any mishaps, see, just like flying!

It’s all of this that makes me glad I’m here.  It’s this glimpse away from the tourist trail that I would have missed had I hopped on a plane, had I chosen the faster, easier route.  So when traveling, just remember, easier isn’t always better. When in Cambodia, or elsewhere, travel by bus.

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