After our last breakfast in Bich Duyen, we were picked up by the Mekong Express staff around 7:00 am and were led to the bus parked across the other side of Pham Ngu Lao. They handed us a copy of the receipt ($22 per head) and we boarded the bus.
There was nothing fancy about the bus except that it has its own toilet (W.C. as in water closet as it is commonly called in Vietnam and Cambodia). While waiting for other passengers, we were handed arrival/departure cards to fill out. The staff collected (I think) $20-$25 and ID photos from tourists who require visa on arrival (VOA). Being Filipinos and members of ASEAN, we can enter Cambodia without visa and stay for a maximum of 30 days.
As soon as everybody was onboard, the bus left. Shortly after, the staff started distributing bottled water, cold towels, and snacks.
Each box contained a slice of strawberry chiffon cake and some kind of meat pie.
Since it was still early, I took a nap knowing that the border was still 3 hours away. Before we reached the border, the staff collected our passports with the accomplished arrival card. Upon reaching Moc Bai Immigration, everyone was asked to proceed to the immigration building. Take note that you have to bring your bags. It has to pass through the scanner.
After the security check, we waited for the Mekong Express staff to call out our names and hand us back our stamped passports. Before exiting the building, there will be another immigration staff that’s going to check your passport. Then it’s time to head back to the bus.
Anybody know what this ‘monument’ is for?
Rear view of the Moc Bai Immigration building I took from the bus. For some strange reason, it reminds me of the Sky Terrace in Victoria Peak, Hong Kong.
Faster than I can say ‘Cambodia’, we were already in Bavet Immigration. It was literally just a stone’s throw away but we still boarded the bus going there.
Welcome to Cambodia!
Unlike earlier where we had to bring our bags, this time we just went inside the building, lined up, and waited for our turn in the immigration. I was surprised they had biometric scanners here. First they will scan your right hand, right thumb, left hand, then left thumb before they hand your stamped passport.
Officially in Cambodia
After passing the immigration and numerous casinos, we stopped by a Khmer restaurant for lunch then we’re off to Phnom Penh – another 3 hour bus ride and a river crossing.
Vendors aboard the ‘ferry’
Short river crossing
Upon reaching Phnom Penh, others were dropped off the market while those heading straight to Siem Reap stayed in the bus until we reached the Mekong Express office.
First glimpse of Phnom Penh
We arrived at their office past 2:00 PM and had to wait for another bus that will take us to Siem Reap. Too bad our second bus seemed older and had very poor air conditioning. I think we left their office past 3:00 PM and, again, were served with bottled water, cold towels, and snacks.
Another meat pie and ‘chewy’ bun with toasted sesame seeds. It was not much but enough to fill our tummies for another 6 hour ride
In those six hours I just slept, listened to my iPod, slept, listened to my iPod *repeat cycle*. While the view might be something new for Westerners, really I just felt like I traveled from Laguna to Baguio passing by Tarlac and other provinces in between. LOL The scenery is almost the same except for the temples of course and that I’m heading somewhere hotter.
Final stopover was at Kampong Thom. It was already dark and I overheard another passenger say that the travel time took a bit longer than usual. Anyway, we stopped by this restaurant but we decided to just have dinner when we get to our guesthouse. After more than 30 minutes, we left the restaurant along with new passengers. It was a bit scary from this point because the road to Siem Reap was really dark.
Don’t be misled by the word ‘limousine’
If you don’t have reservations in Siem Reap and have not arranged for a pickup service, Mekong Express can also get you a tuk-tuk for $2. In our case, I have already pre-arranged pick-up service from our guesthouse so our tuk-tuk was already waiting for us when we arrived at the Mekong Express terminal in Siem Reap.
How I was able to endure a 13-hour bus ride — well that, my friends, is the advantage of having a sedentary lifestyle. LOL It wasn’t as butt-numbing as I thought. :p And unless you have a penchant for Khmer music videos, then better make sure that your gadgets are fully charged.
Good news for Filipinos planning to visit Cambodia, you might not have to endure the half day bus ride after all because there are direct flights from Manila to Cambodia.