A Long Bus Ride To Saigon.

 

Another long holiday. 

The Water Festival (or Bon Om Touk) was a three days celebration to mark the end of the rainy season in Tonle Sap. It also meant a long weekend for everyone here and the city would be crowded with people. Those from the province would drive out to Phnom Penh and stay for the holidays, visiting the mall, having picnics at the Riverside or going on a boat ride.

It was a good time to go.

While waiting at the Giant Ibis office, I noticed that a few groups of Cambodians were waiting for the bus, leaving to either Sihanoukville, Kampot or Siem Reap. They had a lot of carry-on with them, including a crate of beer. My guess is there’s going to be a party wherever they’re heading to.

We could also spot the type of travelers who will be joining us on this long bus ride. There’s the travelers with their large covered backpacks, and the weekend getaway people with their mini luggage (that’s us by the way).

Leaving the city landmarks behind for the weekend.

Leaving the city landmarks behind for the weekend.

 

Hi and welcome to Giant Ibis bus!

We found our seats and settled down while the bus attendant started introducing the company, followed by a short briefing of our journey. Looks like there will be 3 stops along the way and lucky for us, the next stop was for a toilet break. We each got our breakfast set which was a croissant from Blue Pumpkin, 2 bottles of water and a cold towel. There’s also free wifi and plug point to charge our phones. No wonder tourists, expats and travelers prefer the Giant Ibis bus.

I fell asleep an hour after we left Phnom Penh city, and woke up in time to see the new bridge in Pray Veng which looks like the San Francisco bridge. This country never cease to surprise me. I didn’t expect to see such a modern architecture in a province but there it was, tall, mighty looking and study. Before this bridge existed, all vehicles had to go on a ferry to cross the river, which resulted in long queues.

Now that the bridge is up, the ride is smoother. It was strange to see locals parking their motorbikes or cars on the bridge, taking photos before going on their way.

Breakfast is served. Croissants and coffee awaits us in the bus.

Breakfast is served. Croissants and coffee awaits us in the bus.

We're not in Kansas anymore Dorothy. - The modern bridge in Prey Veng is such a contrast to the lush green of this Province.

We’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy. – The modern bridge in Prey Veng is such a contrast to the lush green of this Province.

 

Three hours later in Bavet. 

We’re still in Cambodia, well the border to be exact. I hadn’t realize there were casinos around this area, attracting foreign tourists (mostly Chinese). For your information, the locals are not permitted to enter the casinos in the city or around the country as these were only targeted to the foreigners. I thought to myself “Why would anyone drive 3 hours out to a quiet, sleepy town to play Russian roulette or machines for that matter?”

It’s a question that has yet to be answered until today.

Yes we made it through customs, on this side. 

The bus conductor had collected our passport earlier and return it to us when we got off at the customs check point. We then went to the counters which were outdoors, and waited for our turn to have our passports stamped. There weren’t many people so we were quite lucky.

After that we got on the bus again, and had a lunch break in a restaurant between both borders. It was also a duty free area which sold liquor, chocolates, watches, cigarette and snacks. We had an hour here and then it’s back to the customs on Vietnam side.

Since it was a long holiday, many buses were seen at the border, resulting in a long waiting line for all of us. The bus conductor took all the passports and went down to the counter inside the building to have them stamped while we waited in our seats. An hour later, we went down and followed him to the counter, walked through and showed our stamped passports. That was it. This special service was really appreciated as we didn’t have to queue up and wait like everyone else.

Duty free shop at the border between Cambodia and Vietnam.

Duty free shop at the border between Cambodia and Vietnam.

Waited in the bus while our passports were sorted out at the Vietnam border.

Waited in the bus while our passports were sorted out at the Vietnam border.

 

Another 3 hours to go before Saigon.

The final leg of the journey was through Vietnam with view of the provinces before the city skyline appears. At this point I wonder how much Ho Chi Minh has changed since my last visit. Are the people still friendly? Is the city more modern? Are there more hipsters cafe now?

I know that their coffee will be the main highlight of this trip as it’s the top 5 in the world. Besides this, I’m looking forward to do a few tours, some random discovery by walking and good food.

Small shops in sleepy towns.

Small shops in sleepy towns.

Passing by another bridge in a Vietnam province as we headed towards the city.

Passing by another bridge in a Vietnam province as we headed towards the city.

About Yafieda Jamil

A Malaysian girl currently working abroad in Phnom Penh city. I love a good road trip, hot cappuccinos, spicy food and staring at old buildings. My mission is to inspire people to see the world differently before we all get any older. Oh and giraffes are the most beautiful creatures on earth.

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