Day 8: HCMC -> Phnom Penh
It’s our last few hours in Saigon and it was pretty chill. We just did some shopping at Taka Plaza. I was able to buy phin (Vietnamese drip filter) which I am still using up to now. All you need is ground coffee and condensed milk. I was also able to buy coffee, matcha tea and some snacks. Then we went around the tiangge area, I think twice cause some shops were still closed the first time around. I was able to buy a watermelon terno! Hahaha! We also bought some bread from ABC Bakery, just to burn off the rest of Vietnamese dongs we have. It’s funny thought cause the snacks from the bus were also bought from the same place. Hahaha.
That’s basically our only activity in the morning before our scheduled bus trip to Phnom Penh at 12:30pm. The terminal is not too far from our hotel so we checked out at exactly noon and just walked there. Our afternoon was pretty uneventful since we spent 6 hours on the bus. The only interesting part was when we got to No Man’s Land. It’s a 1,000m land between the two borders, which is neither claimed by Vietnam nor Cambodia. Although there has been a lot of disputes over the years of course. There’s a duty free store in No Man’s Land, where we took a rest.
Oh lemme talk briefly about crossing the border by land! It was my first time to experience it so I was a little worried. Good thing, Celine decided to come cause I was really close to booking a flight from Saigon to Siem Reap if she didn’t go on this trip with us. But it was actually pretty easy cause the conductor from Giant Ibis. He explained everything right after boarding and he let us fill out the immigration card. He then collected our passports, which he kept until we got to the Vietnamese boarders. For people who are from ASEAN countries, there’s no need for a visa. But if you need a visa, you need to get it beforehand or do visa on arrival. You can give the payment to the conductor as well and he’ll take care of it. You still need to go to the IO personally though before he stamps your passport. It was a breeze though and there’s nothing to be nervous about. Just book through Giant Ibis. Hahaha.
What’s noticeable once you have crossed the Bavet border is that there are a lot of casinos. I read that Vietnam has a strict gambling law so they actually cross the border and go to Cambodia if they want to gamble.
Anyway, so we reached Phnom Penh at around 7pm and I was surprised. I dunno, but it was just not what I was expecting. But I mean, it’s the capital after all. Spending just a few hours in the evening in Phnom Penh made me realize that it was a mistake to not have allotted more time to go around the area. After leaving our bags at the Giant Ibis office (since our bus to Siem Reap will be at 11:30pm), we had a quick supper at Phnom Penh Market. It was a Monday so a lot of stalls were closed. After eating, we started walking towards the Royal Palace. We got to cover most of the riverside and got to take a peek at the nightlife in Phnom Penh. There are definitely a lot of bars, restaurants and hotels facing the Tonle Sap River.
It’s a bummer that the Royal Palace was under construction when we went there, so we just took some photos and went to hang at Blue Pumpkin to kill time. I seriously love this place! It has comfy beds – could be a little bit cleaner though. I think the place in Siem Reap was so much better. We had cake and tea, and just read newspapers. We stayed there for at least 2 hours I think. It was also my birthday on this day – no big celebrations, just cake and tea are enough. ^^
We started walking back a few minutes before 11pm and when we reached the Giant Ibis office, they were already boarding. So we just took our bags, settled in our double bed on the bus (my first time on a double bed in a sleeper bus!) and slept as soon as the bus moved. Hahahaha. I woke up when we were already in Siem Reap.
Day 9: Phnom Penh -> Siem Reap
Our hotel booking includes a free tuktuk pickup so we just waited for him to pick us up from the bus station. The bus station is actually not in the city centre, so we were really thankful for the free pickup. We arrived at the King Boutique Hotel really early in the morning and our booking is not until 2pm. Unfortunately, they couldn’t give us a room that early so we decided we’ll start our tour early. Good thing, they have a common washroom so we were able to freshen up before going out.
We actually didn’t have much planned in Siem Reap except to go to Angkor Wat so we just relied on the guidebook we got from Blue Pumpkin. It was so early so we had to look for a breakfast place that’s already open at 8am. We found Butterflies Garden Restaurant cause we thought it would be interesting to also see butterflies after breakfast. I enjoyed my huge glass of Vietnamese iced coffee and Celine enjoyed her pot of tea. The restaurant has a small garden where there are butterflies. We were the first customers that morning so we got to enjoy the place all to ourselves.
After breakfast, we just walked around the area and went to some tourist spots that we saw on the map that are close to where we are. Some of the places we went to where the Siem Reap River, Wat Preah Prom Rath and Wat Bo. It’s actually nice to walk around Siem Reap, it reminds me a little bit of Vang Vieng but looks a little more like a city. I just wish it’s cleaner, especially the area around Siem Reap River. We stayed there for a while to rest and there was a guy who was playing the guitar.
Wat Preah Prom Rath
We then went back to the hotel, hoping that they already have a room available. And they did! It’s also just located on the ground floor so it was perfect. I actually really liked our hotel. They have a pool, where they have lounges and they serve drinks. We definitely took advantage. The room is also really huge. We each had our own bed and since we didn’t really have a hotel room the night prior, we took a nap right after checking in. I definitely spent a lot of time on that bed cause our 3 days in Siem Reap was pretty chill.
We only went out again in the afternoon cause we wanted to see Angkor Wat during sunset. See, if you buy your ticket after 5pm, you get to use it for sunset on that day and for the whole day the next day. We originally wanted to book at the hotel but realized we wanted flexibility. Celine has been to Siem Reap before and she said that a lot has changed. Now, you need to decide which circuits you wanna do and you pay the corresponding amount to the driver, also depending if it’s via a tuktuk or you join a group in a van. The only way to make your own route is if you go there yourself by biking or motorbike. It is really far, so our original plan of biking on one of our 3 days would definitely not be feasible. So we walked out going to the market and hailed a random tuktuk driver and negotiated. We were only able to get a small discount but it’s fine. I think we got lucky cause our driver was super nice and he was doubling as a tour guide as well. The prices of the tickets to Angkor Wat went up very recently. It’s mostly due to the fact that they moved the ticket counter to a different area and is definitely a lot better now. The tuktuk driver took us to the ticket counter and waited for us before taking us to Angkor Wat. The counter opens exactly at 5pm. They get your passport and your payment, then take your photo. I love the personalized tickets! We went to find our tuktuk driver and off we went to Angkor Wat. He left us to pick up his wife and came back for us past 6pm.
Ok, I have no words. Angkor Wat is definitely worth all the hype. The sunset here is just super stunning. We definitely went crazy taking photos here. Let the photos speak for themselves. Brace yourselves for tons of photos!
We discovered this cheap place that’s very close to our hotel. It’s Buntha! I think we are here twice or thrice during our stay in Siem Reap.