I arrived a day earlier in Ho Chi Minh and spent the whole day walking around the city, getting myself immersed in a new place which hurriedly became familiar to me. From crossing the street with the engines of motorcycles revving up and whose drivers will never slow down, I've become an expert in not getting ran over in just a few tries. I've also politely rejected motorcycle drivers and rickshaw operators' offer of ride, as I just told them "I'm just walking around". Which I did before retiring to the guest house and waited for my brother who arrived early morning the next day. After a short nap, we went out to the then awakening city of Saigon and had a quick breakfast in order to catch the 6:30 AM bus going to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A day earlier, I already purchased two one way tickets to Phnom Penh which costs $10.00 per person at the Sihn Tourist located at De Tham street - which is just beside both Buy Vien and Pham Ngu Lao.
I've taken a million bus rides in my life, but this one is very special as it will be my first time to cross a border into another country. There was a little apprehension as I am worried that the immigration process at the border will be strict and paranoia of being a Filipino, who is always suspected of overstaying clouded my worry bubble of thought for a few seconds. However, the process was a walk in the park as fellow member of the ASEAN nations, we do not need a visa to enter Cambodia and all we did was lined up and waited for our passports to be stamped by the both Vietnamese and Cambodian immigration officers.
|still in Saigon where motorcycles are the ride of choice|
The trip from Saigon to the border took around 2 and a half hours. So for the first couple of hours we passed by the ensuing towns and cities of Saigon where I saw more motorcycles driven around as the ride of choice for people going to work. If you think the streets of Manila is already filled with motorcycles, then think again as the ratio would probably fall into less than 1 is to 10 when compared with that of Vietnam.
|Entry point for Vietnam is "Moc Bai" while for Cambodia is "Bavet"|
The Bavet / Moc Bai border is just one of the many borders that travelers pass through to enter Cambodia. This though, is the most popular one as many tourists from Saigon takes this route, thanks to the many Saigon - Phnom Penh and Siem Reap bus trips offerings from the many ticketing outlets in Ho Chi Minh.
|at a rest stop near the border. Cambodian territory now, its 1US $ from here on|
After the border stop, the bus then parked at a nearby cafeteria for a quick lunch and all of a sudden one will feel the change of countries emphatically because you can't use your Vietnamese Dong anymore, rather they will accept US dollars. My brother bought a can of Pringles at US $2.00 and two Pepsi's in can for $1.00 each. Like Filipinos in other parts of the globe, we did a quick mind Peso conversion. 42.00 pesos for a can of soda, hmm a bit expensive yeah, compared to 25-30.00 sold here.
After a short while, we were back on the bus again and rolling along the countryside of Cambodia. I saw large mass of rice fields and wonder how much of this green lands have a landmine still planted and left un-exploded. A long stretch of the field are engulfed with water, probably the remnants of the flood that besieged Cambodia two weeks earlier.
|a short ferry ride for the bus from Saigon to Phnom Penh|
Then after another hour, the bus rolled into a barge at the Neak Leoung Ferry terminal for a short ride across Mekong. The river crossing took around 10 minutes, the transition was done smoothly as our bus and other vehicles rolled out, the awaiting passengers, motorcycles and other vehicles rolled in and the barge went back to the other side after a few minutes.
Then its more countryside again and pockets of small towns in between. The sight was nothing peculiar as it easily mirrors the countryside we have here in the Philippines. Rice paddies, small houses, people walking at the side of the streets, people waving at the bus. However, there are more kids riding the bicycles going to school and its nice to see some of them grouped together wearing their shimmery white colored uniforms pedaling in unison at the side of the road.
|Yummy. Fried bugs and other insects|
Tuk-tuks or the Auto rickshaw started to appear at towns we passed by. In the Philippines we have our own version which we called as "tricycles", while in Cambodia it is a motorcycle with a passenger cabin (can fit in 4 people) with a roof attached in its rear. It offers a convenient ride as I would found out later one, if you're only two passengers you can sit side by side and stretch out your legs over to the opposite seats and you're like riding a smooth ass car.
|First sight of TukTuk, in a town near Phnom Penh|
Finally at around 2:00 PM, after a trip that lasted over 7 hours we rolled into the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. At the bus stop, we bumped into a friendly tuktuk driver named Prahn, who eventually became our tuktuk driver for the rest of the day and the other time when we went back to Phnom Penh after spending 3 days in Siem Reap.
|Prahn is a huge Manny Pacquiao fan|
"Where you from" Prahn would ask us. My brother said "We're from the Philippines". "Oh (he motions punching his two fists) Manny Pacquiao, I love Manny Pacquiao". It turns out he watches Pacquiao's fights which is shown in Phnom Penh on a cable channel a few days every time he fights.
|At Phnom Penh now, with the Independence tower at the b/g|
Finally at around 3:00 PM we settled in this lovely guesthouse which Roomorama provided for me, called the You Khin House located near the Russian Embassy and is only a walking distance from the city's main attraction. After getting a short rest we took a walk and introduced ourselves to the city of Phnom Penh. After all the hours, the butt numbing bus ride and the border crossing - the trip was worth doing and all the things I saw and experience between transporting from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh was everything that makes traveling truly addicting.