August 18, 2007
From an old journal on this date:
Was advised against train travel because the tracks are regularly bombed.
Opted for the bus instead.
Bus stuck in mud for 6 hours near Kempong Thum.
Lunch was a surprisingly delicious soup made with an unclassifiable meat, cilantro, and chilis.
At around 8PM the bus stopped and was boarded by 4 masked men carrying guns. Actually one boarded, 3 were outside. One of the gunman, a kid—he couldn't have been more than 16—shouted something and everyone ducked down in their seats or went down to the floor. I was left sitting there like a jackass. He smiled at me and pointed his finger down. I went down to the floor as best I could hugging my backpack. He was looking for someone. Robbed the bus driver. Rattled the hell out of everyone else.
Ended the night very late near Phlouk. No electric. Totally pitch black. Bugs. Sleeping in one of those big platform houses. All the men are on one side women are on the other. We all have little mats on the floor protected with mosquito nets that hang from the rafters. I'm being urged to shut off my flashlight.
4:54am Woke up in the inky dark to a a woman's blood curdling screams. Then everyone started screaming. Men turned on their lighters. Quite a scene with all the yelling and shadows dancing all around.
A giant snake had fallen from the rafters onto a pregnant woman's mosquito net getting itself (and the woman) trapped. The bus driver clubbed the snake to death with a stick. Everyone laughed when they discovered it was just a snake (I was sure the screamer was being murdered...). The snake, conservatively 70 pounds, is being cut up to be eaten for breakfast. Everyone is in an oddly good mood. Even the woman is sort of jolly/teary.
Bus departs at 6 sharp. Wondering if I should have taken the train.