Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bus Trip from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh

After exploring Ho Chi Minh for a few days with my wife, it was time for both of us to leave. I hate staying in the same place after my wife has returned back to Manila thus I went to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

I booked my trip through Hoang Hai Long hotel tour desk. I paid, if I am not mistaken, 13 USD for a one-way trip to Phnom Penh.

I was fetched from the hotel lobby by a private vehicle at around 8:45 AM and brought to a tour office in Pham Ngu Lao district where I collected my bus ticket. There were around twenty of us waiting for the same bus. We waited at an ordinary bus stop along the street. Prior to the arrival of the bus, we were told to board the bus quickly since the bus was allowed to stop for a few minutes only. Upon seeing the bus, I have learned that it was a Cambodian bus thus obviously it has no terminal in Ho Chi Minh City.



Shortly after boarding, wet towel and bottled water were provided to us. We were accompanied by a tour guide

After three hours trip, we reached the border at almost 12 noon. Prior to our arrival at the border, the tour guide collected all our passports for stamping at Vietnam immigration. All of us disembarked while the bus waited for us at the back of the building; no need to bring your luggage except your important and valuable things. The tour guide then submitted all our passports to the immigration officer while we waited for our name to be called. Quite chaotic since there was only one immigration officer on-duty and several buses had arrived at the same time. I waited for my name to be called. Upon receiving my passport I went outside the building and boarded the bus and waited for the others.

When everybody have been accounted for, our bus proceeded to nearby Cambodian immigration or border office. It was quite organized in this place. We fell in line and after stamping of my passport and finger-printing I passed the quarantine area where a medical staff was taking our forehead temperature, an old-school quarantine procedure. After this, I boarded the bus again and waited for the others. For those who were not Asean nationals, the tour guide collected their passports and some money as payment for their visa. I could say that it was great for Philippines to be a member of Asean. I learned to appreciate this during my vacation away from home.

Vietnam border office
Cambodia border office

Right after leaving the Cambodian immigration office, our bus proceeded to a nearby restaurant for lunch. Whenever I am travelling, I avoid fancy foods such as curries as much as possible so as to prevent stomach discomfort. I ordered fried fish and rice with hard boiled egg. To further enhance my immune system, I took some alcohol shot as well, lol.



After spending around 30 minutes for lunch, we continued our journey to Phnom Penh. Without the Buddhist temples, the trip reminded me of my province in the Philippines. Cambodia is also an agricultural country.

After some time, our bus reached Neak Leung and boarded a ferry boat to cross Mekong river. I was not expecting this ferry ride, I thought it was a continuous land travel. Nevertheless, the ferry ride was a new experience for me. In addition, I was glad to have a glimpse of famous Mekong river.

After crossing Mekong river, we continued for few more hours until we reached Phnom Penh. After disembarking from the bus, we were greeted by several competing tuk-tuk drivers. I pretended that I knew the place and walked up to the end of the road. Surprisingly, one tuk-tuk driver kept on following and asking me for my destination; this guy knew his trade. Reluctantly, I gave him my hotel booking. He knew Circuit hotel at street 154. I asked about the fare and was ready to haggle with him. Upon hearing that I need to pay 2 USD, I was taken aback for I can't haggle anymore. I would look stupid to haggle for few cents. I agreed in one condition, I asked him to bring me first in any nearby foreign exchange since I don't have smaller USD bills but lots of Vietnamese Dongs. In short, I reached my hotel safely and on time.

It was a great experience if I may say so. The longest land travel I had in my life was when I drove all the way to Baguio from Manila with my family last 2011 holy week. Our trip lasted for almost 9 hours due to traffic and some stop-over; I got lost also in Baguio searching for our hotel/apartment. However, this time, I enjoyed the 6 hours trip (as passenger) especially that I was travelling in an unknown place. Ferry boat ride was an added treat. Moreover, the bus ride was comfortable and it was fascinating to watch on-board Cambodian sing-along or karaoke video.





MY OTHER BUS TRIPS:

Bus Trip 2 - Phnom Penh to Sem Reap
Bus Trip 3 - Siem Reap to Bangkok