Planes, trains and automobiles Buses.

We have been getting down with some bus travel, y’all.

This is enjoyable in part because I am a crappy flier; looking out the plane window before takeoff, I will regard the scrubby dry grass beside the runway with intense love. Why have I never appreciated the ground before? If only I could be down on that gritty desiccated grass I would nuzzle it like it was my newborn baby’s hair.

But also, the bus is more entertaining in many ways. I think we had expected to take more trains, but the bus is often faster and cheaper, and we’re traveling with locals, who regard us with weary tolerance. And we’re seeing the countryside: marshy fields of water lilies, dusty little villages, bare-bones rest-stops where families share plates of noodles and we familiarize ourselves with squat toilets.

Like a plane, the bus has a fair amount of climate variability, except that while on a plane one is typically cold, on a southeast Asian bus one would like to be so lucky as to be cold. (Even on a nice bus, one that costs as much as $12 for a six-hour inter-city jaunt, a little light steaming seems to be the norm at this time of year.) Also like a plane, there’s a restroom at the rear of the vehicle, though local custom obliges the driver to do a fair amount of braking and weaving, so maintaining one’s ladylike hover over the toilet seat takes a fair amount of dedication and muscle control.

Some details are unique to the bus experience, however. The playing of karaoke DVDs during the journey: not like a plane, at least any plane I’ve ever been on. Or, for that matter, any bus I’ve ever been on. By our second lengthy journey I was able to nudge Kevin and say “look, it’s the one with the bonnet again.” (One of our favorite videos seemed to have a Little Bo Peep-meets-Liberace theme.)

Other excitements have included cows in the road, extensive honk-based communication between our bus drivers and the drivers of the surrounding vehicles, and, most excitingly, roadside construction. At one point, as the road narrowed to accommodate some maintenance work and the bus tilted sideways to drive partially on the shoulder, I was not able to prevent myself from leaning in the opposite direction, as though my leaning would be the thing that kept us from rolling over the guardrail and down a hill into a marsh. Actually, though, it totally worked, in that we did not roll over the guardrail and down the hill into the marsh. (Relevant: When I say “guardrail,” it would be best if you’d picture more like a fairly thick string, hung from wooden stakes at about thigh height. Sometimes adorned with multi-colored flags — presumably for extra safety — and sometimes not.)

Here was maybe my favorite part, though:

The seat covers. Ride our bus line, and spend the whole six hours with your butt on Slutty Little Mermaid’s face. As my dad would say: Such a deal we have for you!

And, here are some Phnom Penh photos

Kind of a motley bunch, this time around, but here they are.

Now we’re hitting up some more bus action to Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon. In fact in some of these photos, that precious bus journey is memorialized! Here I am eating some lovely chocolate that our friend Emily gave us as part of a pre-flight care package (we are making that shit last), and here is the view from the window of our bus as it appeared to be driving into the Mekong River (but in fact was only driving onto a ferry in order to cross the Mekong River). Finally, do you know what you see when you leave Cambodia and enter Vietnam? A cat’s ass. Cambodia is like, pffff, whatever. We’ll show you what we think of your departure. (Or maybe that’s a Vietnamese welcome? Unclear.)

Dear fellow American traveler (You so sexxy)

Dear fellow American traveler,

You: A wiry sixtysomething white dude traveling alone. Me: A non-wiry thirtysomething white lady traveling with my husband. Our paths, which crossed so briefly on the sweltering three-hour van ride from the Thai-Cambodian border to Siem Reap, have now diverged permanently, I fear. I can only write my heart here, in the privacy of the Internet.

It was so awesome the way you put our drivers at ease by asking them if it was easy to score drugs in Siem Reap during Khmer New Year. They may have laughed hollowly as you mimed injecting something into your arm, but I know that in their hearts they appreciated your humor.

Almost as good was your repeated carping about the van’s weak air conditioning. I think all twelve of your fellow passengers felt solidarity with your harshly barked commands and accompanying “turn it up” gestures. And telling the drivers that you were the guest and they were the employees undoubtedly clarified matters for everyone.

I think my favorite part, though, was when you told that group of little Cambodian girls to get a job. Thinking about the dusty and remote village where we encountered them, with its palm-and-bamboo shacks, flock of filthy geese, and a cat glaring out balefully from its perch in a pile of garbage, I’m surprised those seven-year-olds didn’t think of job-hunting sooner. You really told them what was what.

Ah, well, that’s all from me for now, fellow traveler. Just a note of appreciation from deep in my heart. I hope that whatever you were looking for in Cambodia, you found it. I hope that whichever guest house you ended up selecting ripped you off mercilessly. I love your shorts.

Sincerely,
Page, fellow sanctimonious American at large

Happy birthday to Kevin!

Hey blog nation! Join me in wishing Kevin a very happy 31st birthday. He did it! He is celebrating by cavorting around our little Bangkok motel room wearing only a money belt. Big love to the dude I publicly refer to as Earth’s Perfect Man.

This birthday is definitely going to rock: We are spending most of it on a bus to Cambodia. He insists he doesn’t mind. I am now going to feed him a celebratory breakfast of a digestive biscuit that’s been stored for a week in an airplane sock. Paaaaaar-tay!