The Bus Ride From HELL

I’m writing this post from the restaurant/bus station in the middle of nowhere, where we got dropped off at 1 pm.  It’s now 4:17 pm.  We left Don Det Island in the very south of Laos at 8 am, bound for Ban Lung, Cambodia.  The border crossing for a busload of people took a ridiculously long time, then the bus seemed to just wait to be filled with more people.  So we waited.  And waited.

Stu in "no man's land" between Laos and Cambodia

Fahrin at the Cambodian border

We finally got rolling at around noon, and drove for about an hour.  With a moment’s

notice, the guy in charge told us that the 4 people going to Ban Lung are changing buses, and to get out here.  He pointed toward the restaurant and said to wait there for the bus.  Then he was gone.

After awhile we started wondering when the bus would come.  Being in the middle of nowhere, there’s very little English spoken here – except for an eager 15-year-old boy, who informed us that the bus to Ban Lung stops here around 4 pm… or 5 or… or 6 – you see, it’s irregular.  So we hunkered down for a long wait in the scorching heat, in the shade of the restaurant/bus station.

Cambodian version of a high chair

The two others found a minivan headed to Ban Lung and hopped on board – there wouldn’t be enough room for us and our stuff, so we resigned to waiting.  Luckily, there’s now a Korean woman who lives in Ban Lung waiting for the same bus, and she speaks some English.  We’ll just follow her lead.










Meanwhile, the two who left missed out on some lovely conversation with the 15-year-old, and they also didn’t get to see the infant monkey pet being bottle-fed.  Worth the 4-hour wait, no?

We’re still waiting.  I’m going to put my computer away and go to the bathroom – a trick that always seems to summon the bus.  (In case you’re wondering, I wrote this post in Word, since there’s no internet here.  We’re in the middle of nowhere, remember?).

Girl at restaurant/bus stop


The bus finally arrived a little after 5:30 pm.  But it didn’t come to where we were waiting.  It didn’t even pass by there.  If it wasn’t for the Korean woman who waited at another intersection and flagged down the bus, we would’ve missed it entirely.  But it gets better…

The VIP bus we paid for turned out to be jam-packed full of locals.  So jammed that there were no empty seats.  People were standing in the aisle or sitting on little plastic stools.  There was a bunch of yelling in Khmer, then the bus driver made someone in the front seat get up to give Fahrin a seat (which turned out to be only half a seat, because the woman beside her needed half of her seat for her groceries).

Someone got me a stool and I sat down.  A bunch more yelling ensued, then another passenger was forced to give up his seat for me.  I managed to squeeze by all the people clogging the aisle to get to my seat, and sat with my bag on my lap because there was nowhere else to put it.  Luckily, I was sat next to a lovely French woman (one of the only other foreigners) and we chatted in French for the next couple of hours.

We finally arrived in Ban Lung at around 9 pm, four and a half hours after our scheduled arrival time.  Before we even got off the bus, we were surrounded by people trying to get us to stay at their guesthouse – each trying to shout louder than the next.  The quiet place by the lake with wifi won the battle.  For $5 a night, how can you go wrong?

They wanted to take us to the guesthouse on the back of motorbikes with our bags and the guitar, but we declined, opting to walk (it was nice to walk after a whole day of being cooped up).  The guys from the guesthouse insisted on wheeling our bags and carrying the guitar.  They even carried them up the stairs at the guesthouse.  You get a lot of value for your $5 in Cambodia!

The guesthouse is really nice, with dark wood walls, intricately carved wood bed frames and furniture, and super-high ceilings.  It used to be a governor’s house.

In our room at the Lake View Lodge Guesthouse


Just outside our door

The bed is probably the most comfortable one yet.  The meal at the restaurant here really hit the spot (I was starving by the time we got to eat).

I passed out on the bed before my eyes were fully closed.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Matt MacLean on March 21, 2011 at 1:19 am

    Miss you guys. Keep on with the adventures! Big hug


  2. You know French? 🙂

    The baby monkey was cool and scary and wonderful.

    I’m glad you finally made it. It’s fitting you ended up at a Governor’s house after all that craziness!

    Be well. Safe travels!


  3. Posted by sarah p on March 28, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    five bucks a night? sweet!


  4. […] the bus ride from hell, and our fun day in Ban Lung, we made our way to Phnom Penh, the first big city we’d been to in […]


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