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Phnom Penh (Ah!) - CAMBODIAN ROAD TRAVEL NIGHTMARES

 

D. J. Ken - National Radio Text Service

 

Traveling throughout Cambodia by road is a great way to see the country. The experience connects a traveler more directly with the culture. The bad news is a traveler must be on the alert for theft and rude behavior and dangerous driving as employees are on a learning curve of how to behave and treat passengers with respect

 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

When it comes to traveling to Bangkok from Phnom Penh the game plan is to stop over in Siem Reap to breaks the proposed 14 hour trip up check out the SR scene. The reality is that some 14 hour trips can turn into much longer owing to road, VIP/van or bus repairs and traffic.

Due to an injury I always book my seat two days ahead with to get the seat I want that will take the strain off my back. On this trip the Virak-Buntham Transport assigned a double deck Travel Mart bus that had a different seating chart. My middle of the bus left side seat turned into being on the 2nd level in front of the steps. The major problem was it had the leg room for a five year old and I'm 1.81.

After agonizing for half the said to be nine hour trip I moved to a bench seat on the 1st level. The good news was there was more room to work on my computer and leg room but lack back support. By the time we arrived in Bangkok 7:15 PM after a 8:25 AM departure the trip took five minutes short of 11 hours.

The consequence was back pain for three days and I could hardly walk. The good news is I had an appointment which could reveal any physical problems.

Traveling on road transport in Cambodia has its rough edges. Over the years companies come and go. Many of them fail due to poor safety records and too many accidents causing deaths. Much of the problem stems from paying drivers low wages and having them work long excessive hours.

Virak-Buntham is relatively a new company that was founded by a former moto dupe driver from Koh Kong. His older brother formally worked for me as a fixer. In a span of 10 years the founder now owns a bank and hotel in Koh Kong and well as the transport company.

The strength of the company from my experience is the equipment runs well and is in sound tight condition. The weakness is some of the employees are suspect for lack of character.

Having been in the transport business as a chauffeur for the then largest limousine company in the world, gives me an insight to the source of some problems.

In Koh Kong one employee quoted and charged me 20% more than the trip cost from Koh Kong to Bangkok. When we brought it to her attention on a later trip she sheepishly declined to make amends.

On another trip on the same route the designation was written on the ticket and I was to be met by another employee whose job was to direct travelers to the proper van for transport to their destination. Other destinations included Pattaya and Koh Samet Island.

The employee was rude and had somewhat of a Napoleon complex in focusing on barking out orders and being verbally abusive to his clients. He was a poor communicator and negligent on his job, basically he was on a power trip.

After taking several trips on the companies VIP vans and busses the drivers were excellent. They had good timing moving in traffic and making time. You could tell by their rhythm and decision making that they were capable.

One trip that contradicts that opinion is a trip from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh. The driver was good skill wise but apparently performed as if he was on ICE or speed. He was driving at an excessive speed and playing chicken with approaching trucks and busses in the opposite lane heading in the other direction.

At one point to avoid an oncoming truck that he challenged he drove off the road to a DIRT SHOULDER and the van almost rolled over and down a hill. That was scary.

One other negative event that stands out is last year the Cambodia Daily reported that on an overnight bus from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville an employee molested a female passenger who reported the incident.

As strange as it may seem this company is the best basic transport in the realm. In the past we have experienced theft and the lack of employee integrity with other companies. There are some companies that sell upscale such a Giant Bus BUT the ownership has a lot to be desired therefore we decline to use their service.

Roughly 15 years ago there was an executive bus service Mekong Express, that had polite staff, and their busses had carpeting on the floor, they provided a box snack lunch with beverage and had attractive uniformed hostesses for six US dollars on a trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.

That was then this is now… the company has deteriorated to no carpet, and rude non uniformed staff. On one occasion after booking a trip TWO DAYS IN ADVANCE WITH MY CHOSEN SEAT from Phnom Penh to Saigon an employee ASSIGNED MY SEAT TO SOMEONE ELSE.

After a dispute on the bus the female US military passenger released my seat after showing her my BACK BRACE which is why I book ahead and select my seat to AVOID PAIN.

Basically what this is all about is Cambodians are learning. What they learn depends on their teachers. Bad teachers equate to poor results. There is a lack of integrity and seriousness of purpose therefore the transport you choose is up to you but choose carefully and ASK QUESTIONS.


NATIONAL RADIO PUBLISHED IN 5 LANGUAGES

We are published in five languages, English, Thai, French, Russian and Khmer (Cambodian language). Any of our foreign language material and our Roman Wanderaugh columns are legally available ONLY on our National Radio


© Copyright: National Radio. Any use of these materials, whole or in part, is prohibited unless authorized in writing by National Radio. Contact: nationalradio@yahoo.com ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

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