The night my mini bus crashed in Cambodia

Where do I even begin with this? Crashes happen, especially out here in Asia, where I have seen some of the craziest driving ever, but whole day was the biggest shitshow to date  and we’ve had some massive shitshows out here (I seem to use the phrase daily now, when someone tells us we’ll be here at such and such time, 2 hours later, you’re still not there due to poor organisation and just stuff going wrong!) I do just laugh now as it’s just such a regular occurrence but boy did I fear for my life at times with the latest one.

So start at the start, where were you heading?

We got a ferry from Don Det (Laos) at 8am, to then get on a bus to head to Phnom Penh (Cambodia). We were told we should be in Phnom Penh for around 8pm that night, so expecting a long 12 hour journey already.

First thing to go wrong?


We waited here for over 2 hours to hopefully see our passports again

A 2 hour wait in 34C heat for our passports to be returned didn’t really help matters, nor did the wait for the bus after this, but probably the first thing that went “truly” wrong was our bus breaking down about 45 minutes into Cambodia. We were all herded off and waited at a petrol station for another bus. The petrol station didn’t have an ATM, nor did the Cambodian border, so I wasn’t exactly flush with cash and able to buy much food.

Second thing to go wrong?

The replacement bus that came was in fact a mini bus. Now mini buses are cramped at the best of times, now imagine some seats with 2 people sat on them and everyone’s big rucksack taking more room up. Oh and the air conditioning was virtually non existent. Now I’m not the tallest of guys but even I was in pain and discomfort. Can’t imagine what some of the other taller guys were like.

Now once you’re packed in like a sardine, you generally just want to get the trip over with. The mini bus we were in suddenly stopped by the side of the road. No communication from the driver and he got out. Had we broken down again?

No. We were taking on an extra passenger. I had to laugh, otherwise my leg would have snapped.

A few hours later we changed mini buses again, this time it was even more of a squeeze. I had one guy sat on my foot, and another guy that squeezed up against me that I couldn’t move my arms.

Our bags don’t fit in the mini bus, so what happens? The driver gets a rope and now straps our bags to the outside of the mini bus! Are we all going to have our baggage when we eventually get to our destination?

We set off once again….

…and then?


Crashed on a single lane bridge

OUR MINI BUS WE CRASHED ON A ONE WAY BRIDGE INTO ANOTHER VEHICLE. Luckily no one was injured (if we were going faster, I’m sure how we were all crammed in, it would have resulted in quite a few injuries).

So we’re now in the middle on nowhere in Cambodia, 211KM from our destination and it’s already 730pm (we were suppose to be at our hostel for 8pm remember?!).  Our mini bus isn’t going anywhere for two reasons, one there’s now a vehicle stuck on the bridge. Two, our mini bus doesn’t seem to be starting. Tonight is going to be a long one and none of us have eaten for quite awhile.

Cambodia still has locals and stalls. Could you not get food from them?

So a few of the group head off to see if there’s anything to eat. They come back a few minutes later. “Yeah there’s some food to eat….locusts and snakes”. No rice. No burgers. No chocolate.


The stall nearest our crash…luckily it had beer

So what What happened next? 

They pulled the damaged vehicle off the bridge, and started attaching our mini bus to another mini bus with a rope. They said they were going to tow us.

What did you guys do?

I hate to be the stereotypical traveller right now, but we got beer. We needed the Dutch courage. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but it was going to be a long night.


I didn’t picture having my first Cambodian beer like this

We then split into two groups so we actually had leg room, one group in the front mini bus, the second group in the broken mini bus being towed by a rope. I drew the short straw. I was in the back mini bus. We then set off.

So let me guess, the rest of journey was a little bit mad to say the least?

Insane. I don’t know how many of you have been towed back home, as that can sometimes be a scary experience on good roads, but imagine 211KM on Cambodian bumpy roads at night, with us so many times nearly crashing into the mini bus in front, or traffic over taking us. The group I was in were amazing, and such a laugh, we joked about death but then realised we shouldn’t as all of us felt death may be very close to us that night.


Rope or a thick bit of string?

And then all of a sudden the brake lights came on on the mini bus in front. Our mini bus slams its brakes on and we narrowly miss hitting each other. We continue and I look out of the window. A motorcyclist is lying on the ground lifeless, sprawled out, almost perfectly for chalk to be drawn around him. However that won’t happen here in South East Asia. We hadn’t hit him, but came very close to rolling over his body.

Our mini buses continue but then stop a few hundred metres down the road. Most of the group on the bus were asleep at this point apart from me and an Austrian. We both can’t believe what we have just seen. Have we just seen a dead body? We both get out of the mini bus and start to head towards the motorcylcist. The traffic ahead of us are slamming on their brakes too as they’re only seeing the body last minute like we did.

The drivers of the mini bus have got out now but aren’t following us. We head back and ask them what they’re doing. They simply reply in broken English “checking on the rope”.

Me and the Austrian look at each other and reply “but what about the motorcyclist?”.

“An ambulance is on its way” they respond. If only they had this foresight with the vehicle we hit I thought. How the hell do they know an ambulance is coming? They gesture for me and the Austrian to get back in the mini bus. I look back at the road, locals have surround the body and lots of traffic has stopped. I reluctantly get back in the vehicle.

We get to Phnom Penh at 230am and we get a tuk tuk to our hostel. Now when you’ve had the journey from hell, one that started with you waking up at 630am, and you’ve nearly been awake for a full day the last thing you want is a tuk tuk driver hassling you. Of course he hassles us. “I take you to a club” he says in broken English. Hell no. Take me to my bloody bed! I finally get in my bed at 3am. Only 7 hours late.

So that was my shitshow of a day. Or should that be shitshow of a morning, day and night? But hey what am I complaining about? At least I reached my destination unlike others that night.



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