P ozens of backpackers have slammed a new "fast" ferry service from Phnom Penh to
Siem Reap, dubbing it "The horror ride to Hell", after the long-tail boat broke
down stranding 60 passengers in the middle of the Tonle Sap for four
Passengers taking the ferry, which left Phnom Penh at 7 am were
told they would arrive 12 later. But it took the bedraggled tourists 24 hours to
reach Siem Reap - and that was only after wading ashore from the stricken boat
and hiring a truck to complete the trip.
Many passengers, who paid $15 a
ticket, did not have seats and endured the ride sitting on small planks of wood,
with pieces of paper stuffed in their ears to drown out the noise of the
"It was just like solitary confinement," said 27-year-old Martin
Lee, from New Zealand, who was traveling to Siem Reap to see Angkor
"You couldn't talk to anyone, the engine was too noisy. The only way
to survive on that trip is to get stoned, take ear plugs, and a
"Organizers should know that most people can't sit in those
cramped conditions for more than two hours - but when they expect passengers to
swim part of the way and sleep out under the stars, and then pay to hire a
truck, it's ridiculous.
"With 60 people who have all paid $15 each, the
organizers must be making a lot of money. It really was a horror ride to
A spokesman for the boat company, Retsmeiy Angkor, was unavailable
for comment but Don Pheem, who sells tickets from The Capitol Hotel, said he
would stop selling tickets if there were any more complaints.
only the second time the boat has run, so we expected a few
"But, it is not right that people are paying $15 for a bad
Pheem said he received a $1 commission for every ticket he
sold, the police in Phnom Penh were given $1 and the rest of the money went to
the boat company.
Our correspondent was one of the passengers who boarded
the boat near the dairy factory, only to be left up the creek without a
For my $15 ticket, bought at The Capitol, I was allocated a small
piece of board to sit on at the back of the boat, right next to the motor.
Although I had to sit with my knees up under my chin and I didn't hear
anything except the roar of the engine for the next 16 hours, I thought I was
lucky. A crowd of Japanese tourists had to huddle together on the nose of the
boat which was not covered by a tarpaulin roof and endure hours under in the
Ten minutes after the boat pulled out of Phnom Penh, rocking
furiously whenever a person moved slightly, I realized there was no toilet, no
water on board, no food, and no chance of stopping until Siem Reap.
many people refrained from drinking, for fear they would have to go to the
toilet by squatting over the side of the boat. One passenger, who got sea sick,
discovered a makeshift toilet astern which had a motorbike acting as an
At 10.30 pm the boat, which had already broken down
twice, ground to a halt in the middle of the lake.
After waiting two hours in the hope that the boat would be repaired or
someone would rescue us, I, along with most of the passengers took the plunge.
With shoes tied around my neck I waded through waist-deep muddy water, following
a passenger navigating by pocket torch.
Ashore, the amazed locals quickly
turned a deaf ear to our pleas for some sort of transport to Siem Reap and
instead raced home to fetch fresh fruit and noodles which they sold to hungry
passengers for 1,000 riel.
Inquiries for a place to stay for the night
were also ignored, and after stashing the night's profits in their pockets, the
locals disappeared into the darkness leaving the group to sleep under the
Once again I struck it lucky and after scanning the mud flaps,
found a wooden market bench covered with a rattan mat and a mosquito net.
Although it was cold I fell asleep, only to be woken by an old man asking me for
2,000 riel for sleeping in his bed.
But it wasn't long before a local man
with business sense rolled up in an old Ford truck and told us he would take all
of us into Siem Reap - for $3 a head. Two hours later 60 tired and angry
packpackers made it to town and headed for the airline office to book tickets
So much for the "fast" boat. I recommend anyone wanting to get to
Siem Reap in a hurry to fly - or catch the slow boat.