My bus from Siem Reap arrived to Phnom Penh station in the wee hours of the morning, and I realized I was out of dollars and needed to change Thai baht over into Cambodian riel or dollars in order to buy my next bus ticket to Kratie.
As it was 5am, of course no one was open.
I rushed around for two hours trying to find a money changer and cursing my poor planning. No luck.
Lesson Learned #1: ALWAYS HAVE PROPER CURRENCY
I had resigned myself to missing my bus, but decided as a last ditch effort to ask the bus attendant for advice.
He offered to do the conversion for $5 (a 20% fee). When I asked him what the rate was (instead of knowing the exchange rate), he said I price I knew was wrong, though after some haggling we agreed on what I later found was less than half the going rate, then sold me a vastly overpriced bus ticket (which I noticed immediately after purchase by simply looking at the advertised fare. DOH!).
Lesson Learned #2: IGNORANT TOURISTS ARE CHARGED MORE
Before boarding the connecting bus to Kratie I experienced my most unique bathroom situation yet. (This is coming from a girl who once shared an outhouse outing with a chicken.)
To get to the women’s room you had to walk through the men’s room, urinals and open stalled squatting holes including.
The shared faucet was right next to the men’s urinals.
I boarded the bus, naively hopeful and everything started fine.
About an hour into the bus ride, the air con stopped working. Only two windows could open – every other one was stuck shut.
The whole ride was supposed to be 4-6 hours but ended up being 8 sweaty, stagnant, sticky hours of pure torture.
Lesson Learned #3: THE BUS ALWAYS TAKES LONGER THAN ADVERTISED
Not even a breeze could be felt for the rest of the too-long trip, and I was seated as far away from the two open windows as possible.
A pit stop saved me, allowing the hot and sweaty passengers to exit and gulp a few breaths of fresh air.
By the time we got off the stinking furnace passed off by Soriya Company as a bus, my clothes were soaked and I felt faint.
Even the Cambodian guys (who wear long sleeves and sweaters in 90F heat) were taking their shirts off and sitting half naked.
With that awful, uncomfortable morning over, my luck began to improve.
I checked into Balcony Guest House (5$ for a fan room, air con is not needed, plus the electricity shuts off all the time so its pointless anyway), on the advice of the tuktuk driver.
I came to Kratie to do the Mekong Discovery Trail, cycling 50 miles on the trail and staying overnight at a homestay before heading back.
The power went out at Balcony frequently – as is typical for more remote parts of Cambodia and Kratie in particular. I opened my door to see what was up and the manager’s wife made me a can candle for my room 🙂
side note – Kratie is the most vegetarian-friendly place I’ve been in SE Asia (aside from the Little India districts in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur). EVERY menu has special veg options, and the guy at the community tourism even asked if I wanted a veg homestay meal!
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3 Hard Travel Lessons on the Way to Kratie, Cambodia
Have you ever had to learn a travel lesson the hard way?