This week, I spent 5 hours sat on an express bus/van travelling down from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh.åÊ It‰Ûªs a journey I have done many times now and whilst it is 5 hours crammed in a small van on a white knuckle ride, it never ceases to stir my emotions as I speed through the countryside and towns lining the route.åÊ I go through the whole range of emotions ‰ÛÒ sadness, joy, resignation, laughter, surprise and everything else in between. So I thought I would try to give you a taste of what I saw and what passed through my brain during those 5 hours ‰ÛÒ sorry no pictures (its difficult at the speeds we were reaching at times and I always find it is better to savour the moment rather than struggle to take a snap shot and miss the full depth of the image messing around with camera buttons!)åÊ I hope these words help to conjure up in your mind the full depth of experience and sights along the way ‰ÛÒ and I recommend you travel this route at least once in your life.åÊ Sit back and enjoy the ride‰Û_‰Û_ Pigs strapped on backs of motor bikes, upside down, and wedged into the back of pick ups ‰ÛÒ surely not comfortable! Two cattle lying on their sides on a trailer ‰ÛÒ again not looking overly comfortable!åÊ How do they make the cattle lie down in the first place? Flat and open as far as the eye can see ‰ÛÒ the land does not rises more than a metre except for the road ‰ÛÒ all padi fields, dry, brown and withered with the occasional tree far off in the distance. Maybe 40 chickens strung by their legs to the back of a moped like saddle bags ‰ÛÒ they look dead but on closer inspection still alive ‰ÛÒ absolutely no way this is comfortable! Plastic bags everywhere, littering the town and the countryside. Kids playing right by the side of the road ‰ÛÒ young kids ‰ÛÒ surely this is very dangerous given the speed and quality of Cambodian driving. 50 plus chickens strapped to the roof of a minivan ‰ÛÒ almost ike they are just perched there – how are they held in place?åÊ Definitely more comfortable than hanging by their feet off the back of a motorbike ‰ÛÒ feathers ruffling ‰ÛÒ I wonder what they are thinking? Little kids on massive upright bikes, only just reaching the pedals. Minivans wedged with wood, from roof to floor and hanging out the back, but very well stacked and arranged. The state of some of the small houses in which people live is beyond belief ‰ÛÒ so small, walls thin or disintegrated, gaping holes in the roof ‰ÛÒ heart-wrenching poverty. Minivans wedged with everything including the kitchen sink, mopeds, cooking pots, rice and of course people, hanging out the back, smiling or stoic faced. More plastic absolutely everywhere‰Û_.there must be something we can do with discarded plastic bags?åÊ Need to investigate further. How do they pile those huge bags of rice in the back of that truck so high ‰ÛÒ talk about overloaded! Horse towing a cart stacked to breaking point with wood. How close was that bus to hitting us? Closing speed of circa 200 kph and literally less an inch between us ‰ÛÒ phew‰Û_. Minivan so wedged with people (only) the driver is sharing his seat with another man, literally sat behind him breathing in his ear ‰ÛÒ cosy ‰ÛÒ I hope they are related or are good friends! Ducks ‰ÛÒ by the hundred, farmed and in a pond ‰ÛÒ why do they not fly away? What do they eat? Huge stone statues of horses, Buddhas, elephants and heads ‰ÛÒ massive and being carved with hand held chisels and tools ‰ÛÒ impressive craftsmanship ‰ÛÒ åÊonly in 200 m stretch of the road, maybe 10 shops doing it, then no more. Ducks ‰ÛÒ plucked, dead and hanging naked by the side of the road for sale ‰ÛÒ not very appetising and particularly skinny! Ox and cart, crawling along, off to the fields. Horrible cheap plastic looking cats for sale ‰ÛÒ again a 200m stretch only! ‰ÛÒ who buys this junk? Naked little kids playing in a pond.åÊ Laughing and enjoying themselves. Pineapples, mangos, jack fruit, bananas, all fresh and ready to eat Deep fried tarantula spiders, all fresh and ready to eat! (been there, done it, not recommended!) School kids disgorging from the school gates on bikes or foot ‰ÛÒ all in school uniform ‰ÛÒ how do they keep their shirts so white and pristine in these dusty and hard conditions? Overturned articulated lorry lying in the ditch ‰ÛÒ that‰Ûªs going to take some work getting it up out of there! Again a small stretch of 200m or so along the road, palm tree trunks being cut and processed ‰ÛÒ what for? Wonder if they use them for building like we do in Borneo? More plastic bags blowing in the wind‰Û_‰Û_ Brick works with rows of bricks curing in the sun ‰ÛÒ huge piles of wood obviously used for their kilns, but where is this wood coming from ‰ÛÒ not much left in the surrounding countryside ‰ÛÒ it‰Ûªs all flat open padi fields. Huge piles of hay across the road ‰ÛÒ a trailer towed by a moped has overturned and spread its load everywhere ‰ÛÒ 2 smiling lads with pitch forks laughing as they try and fork it out of the way of the oncoming traffic. Massive, and I mean massive, pagodas with gold leaf paint glimmering in the sun, ornate pointed roofs, and sat in the middle of no-where ‰ÛÒ who is funding these ‰ÛÒ surely these are not cheap to build?åÊ Would the money be better spent elsewhere? Padi fields now verdant and deep varying shades of green ‰ÛÒ stunning. Rotavators ‰ÛÒ (for those that don‰Ûªt know these are a cross between a small tractor and a moped) ‰ÛÒ used to plough the land and drive along the road at 3 mph. Water ponds outside houses filled with water lilies ‰ÛÒ I know households use these ponds to get them through the dry months of the year but surely they are not using this water for drinking? Water buffalo lurching across the road, braking hard to avoid colliding ‰ÛÒ who would come off worse? Sticky rice sold in bamboo ‰ÛÒ 30 or more stalls, 200m stretch of road and no where else. Huge meandering rivers, boats plying their trade, fishermen with nets by the side. Rubbish, dumped and piling up, festering stench right next to houses ‰ÛÒ this is a growing problem here ‰ÛÒ where does it all go? New petrol stations, new buildings, new roads ‰ÛÒ the money and the development is starting to come into the country, slowly but surely, but even I can see the change in the few years I have been coming here. Rotavators towing huge trailers loaded high with bed ends, chairs and household furniture and huge containers full of varnish ‰ÛÒ 4 or 5 of them trundling along within a few kms of each other ‰ÛÒ are they working together?åÊ Seems like husband and wife team on each vehicle. Suddenly more people, more bikes, more mopeds, from all directions converge on a huge bridge across the river and into the city ‰ÛÒ almost there. No traffic laws, huge roundabout, all coming from different directions, how do they avoid collision (its Saigon all over again ‰ÛÒ åÊchaos theory) Oh hang on, we have broken a traffic law and the police pick us out from the hundreds of vehicles on the roundabout and flag us down ‰ÛÒ the driver tries to drive round him but no luck, there are 3 of them, over we go.åÊ Round the back of the van money changes hands and the driver jumps back in grumbling under his breath ‰ÛÒ everyone else on the bus smiles knowingly, part of life here! And finally we are into the centre of the throbbing beating centre of Phnom Penh, out of the aircon van and into the heat, dust and noise of the city‰Û_‰Ûtuk tuk sir?‰Û ‰ÛÏWhere you need to go sir?‰Û ‰ÛÏOnly $5 sir?‰Û Where did my bag go? Hello again Phnom Penh, nice to be back!