Cambodia – Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, 29 December 2004

Half the day was spent on the bus journey taking me from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. My guesthouse (Royal) booked me onto a local bus, with only 4 foreigners on the bus, with the rest of the seats packed with locals carying lots of barang-barang like food products. Sitting beside me was a pleasant Cambodian girl who offered me her sweet potato chips. It makes me feel rather ashamed that I didn’t bother to learn a word of Khmer or two to communicate with them, and to express my gratitude.

Between sleep and wake, I managed to take in the picture of the countryside, which involved fields upon fields of gold, with wooden houses on stilts lining the roadside, and the occasional heap of hay (okay, I don’t know what it is, it’s just yellow in colour) piled high. This is a totally new landscape, different from the green paid fields and concrete houses of Vietnam.

Arriving at Siem Reap was quite a shocking experience, because as the bus pulled into the ‘bus station’ (basically just a sandy open space), a swamp of Cambodians flocked to the bus and surrounded the bus. Was I thankful that the lady at the guesthouse called her affliate guesthouse in Siem Reap to pick me up!

Siem Reap is as ignoble as Phnom Penh, and what marks it as a town is probably the fact that the buildings here are made of concrete rather than wood. Also, Siem Reap is a tourist enclave, with bars, restaurants, guesthouses, supermarts etc. But well, it’s probably the safest town in the world with police guarding EVERY establishment with foreigners.

Deadfish Tower Pub.jpg


Some of the touristy restaurants in Siem Reap


Cambodia – Phnom Penh, 28 December 2004

Day started with a walk of Sisowath Quay, where riverside cafes selling “Happy Herb Pizza” (pizza with marijuana) dot the place, alongside grand colonial hotels, not to mention the royal place.

Afternoon was a futile stroll through large Phnom Penh towards the Russian Market. Halfway, I gave up, and simply hired a moto to send me there. The Russian market feels familiar, it feels like People’s Park when I was still a young child, with cloth shops, butchers all found within one complex. What drew me most, however, was the legendary pirated books store, where they basically copy books. Of course, the guy managed to earn US 34 out of me, as I stocked up on academic titles.

Late afternoon/evening was a long wait at the guesthouse for my room to be cleaned up. As a result, I ended up not being able to se the Silver Pagoda. Oh well. Bought the ticket out of Phnom Penh, towards Siem Reap. There goes my plan to visit Sambor Prei Kuk as well. *shrugs*

Vietnam – Saigon to Cambodia – Phnom Penh, 27 December 2004

The day involved a journey across countries. I also had my first taste of corruption with Vietnamese authorities. As my bag was stored at the bus compartment, it was wheeled away in a cart. I didn’t think much about it, but when I tried to retrieve it after the Vietnamese border, the immigration official demanded money before allowing me to retrieve my packs. What irked me most was how he smugly pointed to his batch, indicating his right to the money. As if extortion was something to be proud about! Out of sheer annoyance and disgust, I just left a minimal amount, grabbed my packs and left without turning around.

The transition between the two countries is great. In Vietnam, concrete houses lined the roads, but in Cambodia, wooden houses lined the roads. And perhaps due to the slightly different climates, there were fields upon fields of golden harvest.

Phnom Penh, being the capital city is not exactly built up. It resembles a backwater town in Malaysia more than a capital city of a country. However, having said that, no effort is spared with regards to ornamenting religious sites!

Typical Countryside View.jpg

Vietnam – Cambodia, 14 December 2004 – 01 January 2005


14 December 2004: Hanoi

15 December 2004: Hanoi

16 December 2004: Hanoi – Halong Bay – Cat Ba Island (Bus, Boat)

17 December 2004: Halong Bay – Hanoi – Sapa (Boat, Bus, Overnight train)

18 December 2004: Sapa

19 December 2004: Sapa

20 December 2004: Sapa – Hanoi (Overnight train)

21 December 2004: Hanoi – Hue (Overnight bus)

22 December 2004: Hue

23 December 2004: Hue – Hoi An (Bus)

24 December 2004: Hoi An – My Son – Hoi An (Bus, Boat)

25 December 2004: Hoi An – Nha Trang – Ho Chi Minh City (Bus)

26 December 2004: Ho Chi Minh City

27 December 2004: Ho Chi Minh City – Phnom Penh

28 December 2004: Phnom Penh

29 December 2004: Phnom Penh – Siem Reap

30 December 2004: Siem Reap

31 December 2004: Siem Reap

01 January 2004: Siem Reap