We were glad to leave Siem Riep and take some time away from the tour groups and the many backpackers and so opted to go to Banlung in the Ratanakiri province in the NE of the country with its famous red soil. Riding on the bus, I sat next to a man who had converted to Islam from Buddhism and lived for 6 years in Saudi Arabia and owns a Rubber tree plantation. He spoke better Arabic than English. The facts learned from him were quite revealing as he told us that Cambodia has 1 million Muslims, pretty significant for a country with only 15 million people and lots of mosques. We saw Muslims in Siem Riep, heard the azan and would later hear the azan again in Banlung. I shared a few snacks with him and chatted the whole way about family and life in the country.
After riding on many buses, we still are sometimes surprised at how many people get packed on them, so on this ride, plastic chairs were brought out so that people could sit in the cramped bus. I also almost got peed on by a kid who just barely missed me. He was cute and his grandmother laughed, so all ended in laughter and I just rolled up my pants and sat inches from the puddle.
Arriving into town, we were met by some motorcycle touts offering free rides to hotels as they get commission for bringing in tourists, so hopped on and found a place nearby.