Oct 15, 2010

Getting to Siem Reap

Oct 19, 2009

When traveling Vietnam and Cambodia, the recommended route would be Ho Chi Minh City – Phnom Penh – Siem Reap, based on the geographical locations. However, we had to put Phnom Penh last because we had booked ticket back to KL (and then to Jakarta), because that’s what we got a great deal on the price. So from HCMC we took the bus to Siem Reap for 12 hrs long via Phnom Penh.

Our loosely packed bags :D

We left HCMC at around 7ish AM. We expected the bus to be a good one like our Mekong and Cuchi Tunnel tour buses, but we had to settle for something much less. But the toilet was clean, though I didn’t use it.

To enter Cambodia, Indonesia passport holders have to make a visa, but it can be a visa on arrival. After asking around the travel agents in HCMC, we found out that we only needed US$ 25 for a visa. And the travel agent promised us that their man would take care of it all in the immigration. And they kept their promise well.

Me and my Cambodia visa in front of the Immigration desk

All we did at the border was get off the bus, wait in the waiting area for the immigration staff to call our names. The bus staff collected our passports and money and then submit them to the immigration desk, and voila, we legally entered Cambodia.

Cambodia's Immigration office at the border with Vietnam

It takes 6 hours from HCMC to Phnom Penh, and then another 6 hours to Siem Reap. Twelve freakin’ hours we just sat there in the bus. But to me it wasn’t boring at all. I was excited with this ride. I’m not one who likes to sit and be idle for too long, but somehow this trip amazed me. Sure, of course I slept for hours, woke up, slept again, woke up again, slept again, and was mostly entertained by my iPod. But I also beheld so many things along the way.

I saw that the natural scenery in Cambodia resembled the one in my country so much, like the paddy fields, traditional tall houses, the locals with brown skin and short noses. Also the different and surprising things like roaches as fried snacks, cows standing freely in the middle of a bus terminal, and monks in our bus.

Everything that I experienced in those 12 hours ride came down to one realization: I loved being on the road. I felt like I didn’t ever want to get off of the road. It’s funny I could feel that cos I can be a pretty spoiled brat at times, but maybe being spoiled is the reason why I needed and wanted this kind of new excitement in my life. Or maybe I shouldn’t even bother to think why and just do it.

Anyhoo, we had to change buses in Phnom Penh. We kinda panicked because that bus staff, the one who took care of our visa and the only local who spoke decent English, had got off before we got to the bus terminal, leaving us with a puzzle of which buy we should continue the trip with, in the middle of the rain! Fortunately, the information was stated clearly on our tickets. Phew! The bus number and time arrival were there. And the good thing is, the bus came and left on time. Something that I didn’t really expect of Cambodia :D

Waiting for our next bus in the rain, on our way to Siem Reap

One thing that also surprised me was that I didn’t like Cambodia’s coffee. As soon as we past the border between Cambodia and Vietnam, we were served with bad coffee at a transit restaurant. But the food was okay, and there's a lot of Indian influence with all the curry and stuff.

At 7 PM we arrived safe and sound at the Siem Reap’s bus terminal. A man was holding up my name on a piece of paper, meaning he picked us up from the hotel that we had booked, the Golden Temple Villa. He took us outside of terminal through this door on a wall, and it was pitch dark out there. It was sorta scary and felt mysterious. The man took us to a tuktuk, arranged our seating and our bags there, and then rode the tuktuk.

About half an hour later we arrived at this uniquely decorated hotel. I fell in love with the hotel instantly! I heard that the hotel is owned by a foreigner, a westerner I think, but they sure decorate it in Asian (if not Cambodian) style. It’s modern, but it’s got a lot of traditional and natural touch to it.

Take of your shoes before getting in the hotel.
It's a common (unwritten) rules when entering homes in Asia.
Just to keep the floors clean.
Our lovely room :-)
Private bathroom

And also a lot of features that will let you relax and unwind.. like the hammocks, the free 20-minute massage (which we topped up to 1 hr and paid some money). The Khmer massage was very similar to Thai massage, but less contorting.

Walk all the way down the corridor, turn left, and...massage room!

Me, relaxing while waiting for the others getting ready

Options of chair types to relax at the porch

And if you like to play pool, the green table is available in the dining area, and you can play with those Buddhas watching your back.

Just like most of hostels / hotels, here you can also book for your transportations to other cities/neighboring countries, as well as your guided tours to the nearby touristy places. That’s what we did when we just arrived, we booked a tour to see the world famous Angkor Wat.

The prices can change from time to time, but you get the idea :)

More about our “tours” in Cambodia, next post!


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