Staring Out The Window


This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, February 01, 2005 was originally posted on February 08, 2005.

DAY 472 (one week since last Thailand entry):  “I think that one of my favorite things is staring out the window,” I said, staring out the window of a bus from Phnom Penh to the Cambodian port town of Sihanoukville.  Sihanoukville was just one stop on a long two-day overland journey back to Bangkok that we managed to do in one long 18-hour day.

THE MORNING STARTED bright and early at 6:30 when we took our slow tuk-tuk — the “little tuk-tuk that could” as I called it — to Phnom Penh’s central bus terminal, a fairly organized place where securing two seats on the 7:15 to Sihanoukville was a no brainer.  With bottles of water and a supply of baguettes and Laughing Cow cheese, we rode in the comforts of air conditioning through the southern Cambodian countryside.  My intention was to use this travel time wisely to catch up on my writing since I was behind, but as usual, I mostly ended up just procrastinating by staring out the window, watching the scenery go by.

Four hours later, I had not as much written as I would have wanted when we arrived on the outskirts of Sihanoukville.  It was 11:40, just twenty minutes before the only daily ferry at high noon bound for Koh Kong, the Cambodian border town near Thailand.  Outside the window there was a motorcycle taxi driver holding up an English sign that he obviously had someone write for him.  He was holding it up towards any white person he could see through the glass, and it wasn’t until he saw Noelle in the aisle seat next to me that I got a chance to read the sign when he held it up close:  “If you are taking the ferry to Koh Kong, get off here and come with me.  Hurry!”

“That’s probably true,” I told Noelle while staring out the window, knowing that time was running out — although my mind was thinking another way, wondering if the tout was just being an opportunist.  We stayed on the bus anyway until we arrived at the bus terminal so that we could really explore our options, including just staying in Sihanoukville since an overnight somewhere on the way to Bangkok would be inevitable (or so we thought at the time).

“Can we make the boat at twelve?” I asked a guy at the station at nine minutes to twelve.  I didn’t know how far the ferry port was.  Words were exchanged in Khmer amongst a group of Cambodians.

“Okay,” said a young motorcycle taxi driver.  He and his friend zipped Noelle and I on two bikes, first to a tour agency to buy tickets (for them to most likely get a commission), and then off to the port.  We knew there was no time to lose — in fact we were late — so we sped by pretty fast across town.  I almost fell off the bike, lugging my big bag on my back the entire way. 

I should have remembered that nothing in Cambodia really ran on time, and so when we arrived at 12:10, we still had twenty minutes to spare before the boat took off.  We cruised the tropical turquoise water while lounging out on the sun deck with the other backpackers.  Noelle started reading my copy of Dan Brown’s Deception Point while I tried to focus on my work in my illegible chicken scratch writing that only I can read — but again, I pretty much just spaced out and stared off at the scenery going by.

ABOUT SIX HOURS OF STARING LATER, we arrived into the madness of really aggressive taxi touts trying to get a fare by any means necessary for those needing a lift to the border post.  “Taxi to border?  Taxi to border?  Fifty baht, fifty baht…” and so forth, over and over and over in all directions, by about twenty guys.  Some even grabbed bags without consent to bring to their vehicle for a forced fare; I saw one backpacker start to push and shove.  It was one of the more maddening touts scenes in my global trip; only the time in Lilongwe, Malawi was probably worse.

Noelle befriended a couple that was willing to share a car taxi, and they had befriended others, and eventually we amassed a group of six to go to the border.  Six was too much for one ride so we split off anyway; Noelle and I got our own car for “fifty baht [per person], plus eleven for the bridge toll.”  Our driver started on his way and reiterated “Fifty baht, fifty baht, one hundred bridge.”

“No, you told me eleven!”

“One hundred bridge!”

“No, you said fifty baht for each of us, and eleven for the bridge.”

This went back and forth for some time, going nowhere and the border crossing was soon closing.  The driver insisted on getting the one hundred for the bridge up front. 

“No, I’ll hold it.  Don’t worry, we have it,” Noelle told him, knowing some sort of scam was going on.  “Just go.  I’ll give the money when we get there.”  Sounded like Noelle was getting the handle of independent backpack travel, until the car pulled over before we got on the bridge. 

“Fifty baht, fifty baht,” he said, pointing to each of us for the fare.  He pointed to the bridge.  “One hundred baht.”

“Okay, we know.  Just go.”

“You change taxi.”

Suddenly another taxi pulled up.  Inside was a lone Brit named Adam who had had enough of the tout aggression at the port and just hopped in any old car before the border closed on him.  We were pooled together in one car so only one toll would have to be paid.  The car pulled into the toll plaza behind one car that wasn’t moving, and I expected another to block us from behind in a Godfather sort of way, but nobody went the way of Sonny Corleone.  The only drama was that the driver walked over the pay the toll, keeping the actual price of the toll hidden from us.  When we finally got the border post, the guys started to play the confusion card again to get more money out of us, but we managed to get away without paying anymore.

EXIT STAMP.  ENTRY STAMP.  We were welcomed back to the Kingdom of Thailand, home of 7-11 convenience stores.  None were in site just yet; we still had to make it to the next town of Trat an hour away for any of that.  It was Trat that we were planning on spending the night before continuing to Bangkok, but enough people were around that didn’t mind riding another seven hours in a minivan, and so we hired a minivan to take us all the way to Khaosan Road.  “We’re going to 7-11 tonight!” I exclaimed.

The driver took us on the rural road that turned into a highway towards the capital.  The first hour there was still light out for me to work, but again, I just spaced out by staring out the window.  I caught Noelle doing the same.  “I think that you like staring out the window too.”

It was a long, tiring ride to Bangkok and I was amazed how tiring just sitting in a bus, boat, or car doing nothing can be.  We paced the journey though with numerous pit stops at gas stations, one of which had a little pug waiting in a nearby sports car.  The pug was spacing out and staring out the window (picture above), and I could totally relate.

Whether you are man or mutt, staring out the window is a great, but unproductive way to pass the time.  With the look on that pug’s face, I’m sure he didn’t get much work done that day either.


Next entry: The Fifth And Final Time

Previous entry: Ouch Was An Understatement

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Comments for “Staring Out The Window”

  • what a coincidence….sitting in my cube staring at my computer monitor for 8 hours is also an unproductive way to pass time.  unless, of course, 3 new blog entries are here to read!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/08  at  11:57 AM

  • I couldn’t have said it better scott!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/08  at  12:47 PM

  • that dog is really the taxi driver…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/08  at  01:07 PM

  • looks like we’re all a bunch of procrastinators. it’s nearly 11am and I’ve been doing as little work as possible! damn I’m gonna miss this blog when it’s all over!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/08  at  01:59 PM

  • christy i agree.  once the blog is done i will be flipping through 4 websites instead of 5.

    therefore my inernet productivity rating will fall by 20%

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/08  at  02:43 PM

  • Looks like Frank (the pug) lost his job at MIB headquarters!  And is now sitting shotgun in a cab….....poor dog!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/08  at  07:14 PM

  • I bet lots of those windows were hard to see out of after all the dusty dirt roads you have travelled on!  I wonder what you were thinking the whole time as you stared???

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/08  at  08:07 PM

  • I saw MIB in the dog as well…
    “So now you’re back…. from outer space…”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/08  at  10:31 PM

  • I love staring out the window!  I didn’t do any writing either in China for that reason.  Looking out the window is relaxing and interesting.

    Posted by Liz  on  02/09  at  05:01 AM

  • Rose - we didn’t actually travel on many dirt roads after the initial drive to Siem Reap. It was on purpose that we did it that way. Much better…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/09  at  08:24 AM

  • Scott wrote…“therefore my inernet productivity rating will fall by 20%”

    With TGT done, I’ll actually have to do some WORK!  Thanks a lot, Erik! 

    Anyone for TGT2005?

    Posted by Dave of Sand and Tsunamis  on  02/10  at  10:02 AM

  • TGT2005? absolutely. can we all go this time?

    Posted by Alyson  on  02/12  at  10:33 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today,, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.

Next entry:
The Fifth And Final Time

Previous entry:
Ouch Was An Understatement


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