This week, I spent 5 hours sat on an express bus/van travelling down from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh.åÊ ItÛªs 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 rideÛ_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 everywhereÛ_.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 phewÛ_. 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 thatÛªs 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 windÛ_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 itÛªs 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 donÛªt 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 cityÛ_Ûtuk 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!