February 2, 2011

South East Asia on a shoestring 3: Cambodia Overland

4th  Day – Leaving Vietnam for Cambodia!!
Our bus (SAPACO Tour) leaving at 9AM from Pham Ngu Lao. The journey is so smooth no bumpy, up and down, winding road. If I must say, its quite boring :D. The view is flat no mountain and hill view only paddy fields and local  houses. The weather is hot even I cannot feel the cool air from the bus air-con. Around 30 minutes after departing the guide collects the passport for immigration purpose and he comes back again to us and says that we need Visa On Arrival and would need USD 35.00 for the administration. We know that VOA entering Kingdom Cambodia will cost 20 dollars and the fee for each passport would be around 5 dollars but cheating for 15 dollars is just too much and the fact that our budget is only 25 dollars. We try to bargain but he doesn’t want to listen and ask us to do our own Visa On Arrival. Then after we pass the Vietnam border (Moc Bai) and reach the Cambodia border (Bavet), we are rushing to the Visa On Arrival section. To be honest, I feel panic and a little bit nervous, afraid that we will not be able to get our visa.
After fulfilling the form and give passport photo and I ask Grace and Felis to smile to the 4 immigration officers at their middle 40s with their fierce face and no smile at all :D. On the other side of our locket, the guide also dealing with the passport of the passengers. I don’t know whether this is only my feeling or not but it seems that the guide looks like talking to the officers and looking at us many times. The next  5 minutes, the officer asking for 22 dollars while the board above the locket stated that the VOA cost 20 dollars. Grace tries to argue but I ask her to just pay affraid if we argue he will not grant us the visa. We are just so lucky that they only ask for 2 dollars and we can get the VOA immediately. We are so relieve knowing our passports are back in hand with 30days length of stay in Cambodia. We are rushing for the immigration border and knowing that the guide still hasn’t finish with the other passports :D. After passing  the immigration with body temperature check-up we go to the bus.  

Entering the border, we see lots of beautiful yellow and gold buildings which we find out those are Hotels and Casinos. We stop at the restaurant for resting and to have lunch and then continue the journey for the next 3.5 hours heading Phnom Penh. I never thought Cambodia would be so hot like this. I am sweating inside the air-con bus.

We arrived at the Phnom Penh at 3.30pm with Tuk Tuk driver, Mr. Lung, waiting for us holding our name. Our host, Robert, already arranged a Tuk Tuk with 2 dollars and will take us to the street number 111, Boeng Pralit. Robert stays at an apartment at the 7th floor. And after conversation with him we are going down to have beers with Robert and his friend (forgot his name). The beer is cheap only half dollar but I only drink one because I didn’t have lunch before and I don’t want to take the risk of having tummy problem during my holiday.  Also we meet another couple couchsurfers from Germany Steffi and Juergen. They are staying together with us at Robert’s house.
After beer, we are heading together to have dinner. We walk around 10 minutes through, I am sure this should be, market at noon time because there is so many garbage on the street waiting to be picked up. We are heading The Orussey Market. According to Robert, all the people in Phnom Penh closes their business at 5. So the Orrusey market is dark now and what left behind is the food stalls in front of the building. This is one of the not so famous Tourist Attractions in Phnom Penh. The market is more frequented by the locals than the tourists in the city. The shops in the market generally sell essential items rather than souvenirs. That is why, tourists do not take much interest in visiting this market.

We are having dinner at Orrusey Restaurant right across the market. I have one big bowl of rice noodles with meatball which taste really great and you pay only 6.000 Riel around 1.25 dollar. This restaurant has lots of local menus with affordable price and taste good. After dinner, we are heading back to the house and decide not to go anywhere because we feel tired after the 6 hours journey by bus.

As per our friend, Kylie, who was here a week a go, suggestion she mentioned not to exchange the dollar to Riel (1 dollar = Riel 4.000, Riel is Cambodia Currency). Cambodia uses two currencies both USD and Riel. So anytime you can pay using dollar and if it has change they give you back in Riel. Example: if we buy water 0.75 dollar and we give 1 dollar, they will return the money in Riel around Riel 1.500 :D. It's really confusing at the first time, well.. actually the confusion still continues until we leave Cambodia hahahaaha.... :D.
5th Day  – Around Phnom Penh and Heading Siem Reap
We wake up around 6Am and ready to go around the city. Due to some reasons, we decided to leave Phnom Penh today and look for the bus ticket to go to Siem Reap. We bring our carrier to the hostel in front of Robert’s apartment named Spring Guest House and we buy the ticket from there for the price 5 dollars. Our departure is at 3.15pm so we still 6 hours to go around the city. We start booking our tuk tuk with 10 dollars and our first destination is the Royal palace.

The Royal Palace, Phnom Penh is actually a building complex which the residences of the Cambodian Kings. In the Khmer language the Royal Palace is called the "Preah Barom Reachea Vaeng Chaktomuk" built in 1886. The complex is divided by walls into three main areas, on the north side is the Silver Pagoda and to the south-west is the Khemarin Palace and a central compound containing the Throne Hall. The throne hall is the place from where the king's generals and officials performed their duties. The Silver Pagoda is a wonderful temple which is home to bejeweled Buddha statues and lots of national treasure. This Royal palace is absolutely beautiful with gold as its main color on the roof. This complex will absolutely spoil your eyes especially when the sunshine very bright on this day.  The Royal Palace is open to the public from 7:30-11 am and 2-5 pm daily with 6.25 dollar as the entrance fee. Quite expensive but for me its really worth the view ;).

After Royal Palace, we are going to Wat Phnom. But, we didn’t enter this area just to sit in front of the gate and taking some photos. Next, we are going to find lunch because we didn’t have our breakfast. The tuk tuk driver brings us to the riverside of Mekong River. Here we can see an open air park. The parks are the best locations to view the splendid beauty of the rivers especially at the point where they are meeting each other. In front of the park across the street is lined restaurant serving local and international delicacies and shops selling local products.

We finally decided to have lunch nearby the local market at the local restaurant. I eat local fried rice same with Grace while Felis is having meat and veggies. Then we are heading the Central Market of Phnom Penh. Central Market (Phsar Thmei) in Phnom Penh offers a wide variety of shopping products like Cambodian souvenirs, art, silks, handicrafts and curios. The building was built in the shape of a dome in 1937 and is now become the landmark of Phnom Penh. I buy some of the local fabrics from this market. This place has cheap price but compare to the Russian Market, this market is nothing :D.
We are heading to Russian market after visiting Central market. Our main mission is only one, SHOPPING :D. Russian market is on the opposite direction of the Central Market. It takes around 15 minutes to go by tuk tuk. The Russian Market itself is far less architectural interest than the Central Market but has a larger, more varied selection of souvenirs, curios and silks and cheap off course. We buy lots of T-shirts and local fabric called Kramar – a typical of Khmer scarf.
Right on 2.30pm, we are back to Spring Guest House and checking some e-mails on their free internet facility. Ow yeah.. one thing I like from this city is everywhere you go they have Wi-Fi everywhere for free. At the café, restaurants, workshop even at the bus terminal they also have Wi-Fi. No wonder there is only limited internet café in Phnom Penh.  The small van picks us at 3.30pm and they take us to the bus station. By 3.45pm the bus starts to move and slowly leaving the hectic afternoon of Phnom Penh City. We stop only once to have dinner and to take fresh air and we’re moving again the next 30 minutes.
We arrive at 9.30pm at Siem Reap Bus Station, I forgot what’s the name of this bus operator. But we are lucky to find we have tuktuk driver waiting for us to bring us to our guest house. Unfortunately, we have a slight argument with the driver since he forces us to go to the guest house that we don’t choose. I think this misunderstood was made when we were still in Phnom Penh with the reception at The Spring Guest House. We asked him to arrange tuktuk to our chosen guesthouse instead of he appointed the other guest house. So, we finally decide to stay one night at that guest house (forgot the name) and then moving the next day to The Garden Village.
Continue to: South East Asia on a shoestring 4: Amazing Angkor  

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