After our little stay in Siem Reap, we had decided to do as most travelers in the area and head out to Bangkok via bus or taxi. Now we had heard that Bangkok Air, which has a monopoly on the Bangkok-Siem Reap air route, had convinced the government not to fix up the roads, but we had no idea what we were really in store for: Route 6, the roughest, most unpaved major road running through Cambodia into Thailand.
Let’s backtrack a little to the day before we embarked on our little journey down Route 6. We were in a rush. We wanted to leave the next day from Siem Reap to Bangkok on a bus or if necessary take a few taxis. After bumping into some friends we originally met in China, we found out that there was an $11/person non-A/C bus heading out at 7:30 the next morning. Tour busses in this part of the world are notorious for ripping people off, so we didn’t know if we could trust this bus (which we later found was a ‘mini’ bus that traveled in a squad with other mini busses). We headed to travel agents. Each gave us a different price for the same bus. It seems no matter where in southeast Asia you are, people are just going to want to rip you off. We looked around for a little while longer and ran into some more people we had met previously, these on the boat from Vietnam. They were having trouble finding a hotel in Thailand for Christmas, maybe a sign for the future… We went back to the hotel and started calling around about taxis. After seeing that everybody wanted us to prepay in cash, a dangerous practice, we decided to send Dad to the gas station where the taxis hung out in the morning. He ended up getting two taxis for a reasonable price to take us to the Cambodian-Thai border town of Poipet, which locals say rhymes with toilet for a reason. From there we’d get a bus to Bangkok. We woke up early, loaded up, and got in our taxis–Dad, Mac, and Asher in one and Mom, Kieran, and I in the other.
We started driving out of town on Route 6. As soon as we got outside the city, the road deteriorated from nicely paved asphalt to dirt and rocks. The cab shook and a rock smashed into the windshield. The driver, who didn’t speak a word of English, tried to gesture that it was fine. We weren’t so sure. Kieran fell asleep easily enough but I had a harder time. The bumping and rocking of the car was making it impossible to sleep, so I decided to just listen to my IPod. The scenery on the roadside was amazing so it was another reason to stay up. Rice patty after rice patty after rice patty. Farm after farm, and then of course your regular gas station. Another reason to stay awake was the fact that we nearly crashed into a few trucks and cars throughout the ride. The rules of the road are minimal so every move is dangerous. But you should watch my dad’s video for more on that. I was extremely surprised that motorbikes managed to stay driving on the road. The state of it was appalling and one would have expected them to all crash and create a hailstorm of rocks. Now we knew that there was a conspiracy to keep the roads bad, but none of us could have known they meant this bad. The road was entirely dirt, the only smooth part being the bridges which were constructed of metal plates. Every turn, every acceleration felt like we were going to launch in the air and crash into a rice patty on the side of the road. A few near crashes, a lot of rocks in the windshield, some rough sleep, and a feeling of anger towards a certain airline, and we arrived at our destination, hoping for better roads on our next adventure.
Luckily we found these roads on the way to Bangkok. The government bus was very nice and got us to the city quickly. Good for us, we needed the rest after the previous car ride.