After Angkor Wat, the 3 ladies headed for Phnom Phenh via the river (Ton Le Sap) route. Below are excerpts from their journal entries.
Moi’s so happy we took the river cruise to Phnom Phenh instead of the bus! The cruise was more expensive, but it was totally worth it. A once in a life-time experience! The journey from town to the ferry was already worth all the money spent -we passed by beautiful green fields and caught a glimpse of the rural lifestyle of the locals. So very good for the eyes!
Then, because the water level was so very low, we needed to take a tourist boat to the jetty to board our cruise boat. Interesting! We had fun traipsing through the river to get in board the tourist boat which then took us to the jetty. The jetty was actually a very big pontoon that likely doubled up as living quarters. There, we were transferred to our cosy cruise boat with our backpacks and all. Moi almost dropped moi’s backpack into the river. Phew!!! (ok and moi got some dark looks from you-know-who). There were some other tourists in our boat – all foreigners. But it was spacious enough for all of us to be comfortably nestled for short naps if we wanted.
From the jetty all the way to Phnom Phenh, it was all so very picturesque! Moi was so completely bowled over! The river, the green river banks, the little brown huts, the buffaloes and the frolicking children made very pretty postcard pictures. Moi was so reluctant to leave the deck with all the beauty around moi! There was even a mini floating marketing when we reached the confluence and our cruise boat paused to top up on its fuel. Amazing! We reached Phnom Phenh pretty fast – early afternoon. Quite disappointing. But well, good things always end quickly. Sigh.
I couldn’t believe I actually agreed to take stupid boat ride! USD23 per pax vs USD5 per pax if we had taken bus! The worst thing was it absolutely did not live up to the hype. Nil. Zero. Zilch! First, we got stuck in the middle of some mud rut just before reaching the jetty. I was so afraid it was a ruse by the locals to rob us. There we were, standing bewilderedly next to the so-called ‘river’ (more like stream) with our big bag packs dunno waiting for what? Perfect targets for the numerous touts trying to sell us things like bananas and bandanas!
Then they sent some dingy tourist boats to fetch us ‘to the jetty’. And those boats kept getting stuck cos there wasn’t much water in the muddy river in the first place! And when we were getting up the boat (after having to wade through slickly black and yellow mud and squalid waters), the boy on the boat exhorted us for USD1 for helping us hoist our backpacks from outside the boat to inside the boat? Gosh! USD1 so easy to make meh? I told him I got no money for him.
The cruise boat itself was nothing to shout about. Small and stuffy. And totally claustrophobic. And then there were some long-legged ang moh tourists with us. And their long legs occupied so much of the tiny corridor space in the cabin in the already cramped space. Anyway, I realised we only met ang moh tourists at the jetty. Only they will find this kinda of travel interesting. And be willing to pay for it! Oh ya, and us as well!
All the way, the river was shallow and narrow and yellow. The air was dead. There’s really nothing much to see except some indolent buffaloes and those little scruffy kids who could always be found in places like this. Even sleep was disrupted cos it was so bloody hot and stuffy so was I glad it ended! This was definitely the worst cruise I had ever taken and I really regret caving in to some ditzy girl!
Why would they spend half a day in front of the tour office arguing about whether to take the ferry or the bus? Sigh. I wish we’d spent those time exploring the streets and taking photographs instead. There’s still so much of Siem Reap to explore. Anyway, both ways took the same amount of time, so it made not much of a difference to me.
The cruise was actually not too bad though the weather was very hot. Super hot in fact. But at least it was not dusty like in town. The buffaloes we saw made good subjects against the backdrop of green and brown grasses by the river bank. Except the sky wasn’t blue enough since it was scorching. And, we saw many huts and houses along the shore. They also made quite a cute picture! Sometimes, the boat would be so close to the bank that I could zoom in on the children real close. Great! I love photographing children. They are so real.
Along the way, the boat picked up some locals. There was a young girl with 2 even younger sisters (1 was still a baby in the older girls’ arms). They were so shy yet so curious (about us). Maybe because we were girls too so they din mind sitting near to us and letting us photograph them. When I showed them the digital images, they were so amazed and full of glee.
A child’s smile can be so precious. 3 of them – that was really divine.