For details of the places I visited in Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, with GPS Coordinates, see my book Vietnam Caves.
For details on motorbiking in Vietnam and Cambodia, from buying and selling a motorbike, to border crossing, see my book Motorbiking Cambodia & Vietnam.
The room i got is very nice, and reluctantly i crawl out of bed. I head downstairs early, and order breakfast, then head to my bike, or not! I get a faint heart attack as I stare at an empty space where my bike was the evening before. NOOOO!, my precious. I look around, and my heart rate returns to almost normal. Across the the road, behind a tuk tuk, is my motorbike. It seems someone decided my motorbike was in the way, and moved it, even though i was told to park my motorbike in the spot it was. I try to start her, and nothing. I keep going and about 2 minutes later, she starts to put put to life. I keep the engine speed up for about 5 minutes, until she can idle on her own.
Happy that she starts and is warmed up, i go and have breakfast. Van after van comes and picks up tourists, but every time as i jump up, i am told no, it is not my van. I ponder if i should not maybe go to the bus station and find my bus there, but a small voice tells me no stay. Eventually, 20 minutes late, a van arrives and it is mine. The driver looks at me as i walk to my bike and he is like, No no no, and wave his arms. The guest house owner comes out, and ask what is the trouble. The guy shoots off a string of words to her, and then she turns and says that he says i cannot put my motorbike in his van. I am like, Duh dude, i will ride behind you. The owner translates, and suddenly this guy is as happy as a pig in Palestine.
I follow the guy, and he zig zags through traffic, while now and again slamming on the brakes to stop at guest houses and hotels to pick up people.
Eventually we stop at a travel agency, and i discover it is the head office for the bus company. I go to the bus, and tell them my bike needs to go on the bus. The guy loading the bus looks at me, then at the bike, then asks how much did you pay? I answer that i still have to pay, and was told $6? He is no way,bike cannot go on bus, no space. I go $12? He is like, okay, got space, mmm. So i pay my fee for the bike, then help him get it in the bottom of the bus. I also find out that the bus does not go to the bus station, so good thing I did not go there to meet the bus.
As my ticket has no seat number (not that it means anything), I just sit in the first seat i find. The conductor comes over, asks my ticket, looks over the piece of paper, shakes his head, then tell me no, i must move one seat back. I move, while wondering how he worked out where i must sit. Then other people get on the bus, and they basically just sit here they want, mmm.
The bus is in excellent condition, the air-conditioner does not work, the roof exit hatches are broken and have gaps in while being held fast with ropes, and the seats are mostly shot.
The good thing about having open escape vents, is that we get fresh air, mixed with Cambodian dust. As a large part of the road is dirt road, the whole bus and all of us inside look like we did a few laps around a dirt track with go-carts. The bus is so full of dust, while a dust cloud looms in front of the bus from trucks and other buses that you barely can see the road, yet we are speeding along as if it is a racetrack. (Actually the road between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is a racetrack). My lungs gets squashed against my stomach as we hit pot hole after pot hole. I pull out my phone, and yes, we are doing 80km/h on a dirt road with almost no visibility.
I had too much water to drink, and with all this bouncing up and down, my eyes start to water as i desperately need a restroom. I briefly consider going up to the driver and asking him to stop for a minute, but dismiss the idea immediately. I would almost certainly be killed by being flung around as the bus flies into the air each time it goes over humps or through pot holes. I also do not want to disturb the driver, as he is concentrating hard on driving, while juggling two cell phone calls at once.
Soon we stop for rest, and a much needed release of pressure of my bladder. I rush with tears in my eyes (from the dust i promise, not being glad of having feet on firm ground), to the toilet. Hmm, well, it is better than a tree I guess.
Soon we are back on the dusty, sweaty bus. All goes good for about 30 minutes, then a banshee starts screaming in the back. When we stopped, i did note that the driver and conductor had to pour buckets of water into the leaking radiator, so i wonder if the engine is not overheating.
A few minutes later, the bus comes to a grinding halt. The conductor jumps out, hammers under the bus against something with a pipe, then 5 minutes later informs the driver we can go. We studder forward, and make it maybe 500m when we grind to a ever screeching halt. The driver keeps revving the engine, but about four banshees have joined the first one, then Thor releases lighting and thunder in the back, and Odin finish things off with a loud bang, then silence.
The driver jumps out with no worry no worry, soon fix. We wait about 3 minutes, then are told we can get off if we want. So we reluctantly find some shade under a tree next to the road.
It is a full on meeting at the bus with two then three guys having a look.
There is a local Khmer restaurant across the road, so i head over while they wrestles Thor’s hammer from him and kill the banshees with it.
All the time, the conductor is topping up the radiator.
Eventually they kill the banshees, and pull the remains out.
The interesting thing is, that they actually have a spare. Now using both Thor’s hammer and Odin’s staff, they struggle for about 12 minutes to get the new part in. Then it is get on get on the bus, late late. The bus pulls away and reaches a blistering 60km/h, while filling up with dust while we sweat as now the fan does not even work. However, no one complains as we are just to glad to be on the road.
The miles fly past in slow motion, and about 4 hours after our scheduled time, we arrive at the Siem Reap bus station. We are swarmed by tuk tuk’s that want to give us a ride into town. I decline, and a bunch of taxi drivers laught at me for declining their service, probably thinking that i have the intention of walking the 5km to town. Then it is my turn to laugh, and see the dropped jaws on the taxi drivers’s faces when we offload my motorbike. Suck it dude, eat my dust.
I breathe a sign of relieve when the motorbike actually starts, and limp home. Tomorrow, i will take her to my mechanic.