One of best ways of discovering another country is by local transportation. Buy a ticket and get on the bus, train, minivan, tuk tuk, bemo.....
Asia presents its own particular problems though - the size of the thighs.
Philly and I are not small. We are generously proportioned Western women. And bus seats, particularly, are a challenge not to be taken lightly.
One lovely Phnom Penh morning, leaving for Siem Reap, we were the last pick up for our transport. We'd chosen a middle of the range choice for the 6 - 8 hour trip to the northern city. It was costing us around $13 for our luxury ride on the Mekong Express.
What we didn't anticipate was that the bus that arrived was a mini van. And to our bemused and very concerned eyes, it was already full. Overloaded in fact. Our tiny Khmer hostess took it in her stride, stuck her head in the door, looked around and then made a two handed pushing motion to the girls in the back seat - indicating that they should shift over to allow us in. They looked rather taken aback, but slid sideways, freeing up just enough room for one middle aged buttock. Philly took one stricken look and dived for the seat next to the driver and settled in contentedly (leaving me squeezed in next to the Dutch giantesses. Our small Khmer hostess, retreating from her bus re-arrangement duties found her seat already occupied....by Phil. She shot a look at Philly and resigned herself to the pull out seat in back.
In the back, pretended I hadn't seen the looks on the faces of the young Dutch girls whose seats were now considerably less comfortable than they'd been.
Then they told us that the six hour trip we had anticipated was going to be closer to eight due to extensive road works along the highway. Eight hours in this bus and I was definitely going to pull Philly out of that comfy front seat somewhere along the way.
However as luck would have it the minivan was transport to the transport. After a trip through the back streets of Phnom Penh we ended up at the bus terminal to board the Mekong Express. Joy, a 40 seater with ornate curtains.
We made our way onto the bus to settle in and try out our seats for comfort.
Bring back the minivan! These seats are not made for us. Two Cambodians, yes. Two Australians with excellent eating habits? No.
The Mekong Express got us to Siem Reap eventually and were very pleased to have had this special and close time together. (We especially liked our young (male this time) host who gave us a most eloquent introduction to the luxury of our transport and rhapsodised about the cleanliness of the toilet and the comfort of the seats - before noting most humbly that we couldn't use the toilet on board but there was a toilet three hours down the road.
The size of the thighs is a "huge" consideration when travelling.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!