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Crossing the Borders and Mekong River

Museum in Ho Chi Minh City
10/07/2010Nowadays there are many buses, night and day, operated between Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Siem Reap (SR). It took 6 hours to go from HCMC to Phnom Penh (PP) and plus 6 hours to SR. We decided to take Mekong Express (in the daytime) based on people’s recommendations on the internet. It is the first bus company that operates the HCMC – SR route, so the buses were considered old but I believe they were more professional and experienced.

Our hotel in HCMC offered this bus ticket for $25 per person, but we could get $20 from a tour agent. We waited in the tour agent’s office, to be picked up at the bus terminal where the bus was waiting. It was just a few blocks away from the office (around the backpacker area), but we brought along some heavy luggage so the picked-up guy took a taxi for us (he paid for the taxi).

They have one steward/stewardess (with uniform) for each bus who’s travelling along. When the bus started moving (around 8 am), she started talking in bilingual, one was English and the other one was a foreign language which we noticed was not Vietnamese. It was the Cambodian language, or they called it Khmer. Most passengers were Cambodian people going home, not tourists. She then gave snacks box, mineral water and wet tissue for each passenger, a Cambodian arrival card for foreigners and then collected our passports. When we reached the Vietnam border Moc Bai, we alighted from the bus by bringing along all our luggage. We were waiting in front of the immigration counters while our stewardess took care of our passports. Once a passport was stamped by the immigration staff, our stewardess called out a name on that passport, and the owner of it could go passing immigration staff back to the bus, without any further checking on our face/body or our luggage. This is the first time I experienced this kind of collective passport stamp at the immigration border, so careless.

Cambodian border Bavet International Check Point seems better, just like other immigration borders where we need to queue and hold passports by ourselves. My friend and I, who are Indonesian passport holders, had already applied for a Cambodian e-visa since May 2010. Well, I just read the news that the Indonesian and Cambodian governments recently signed an agreement on visa exemption for both countries, that is good news! But I still don’t know when it starts. Meanwhile, if you need to apply for a Cambodian visa, better to apply online. Be careful, there are many scam websites out there, do not apply from other websites. It costs $25 for a tourist visa. A few hours after submitting the detailed information plus payment, we will receive our visa by email, so fast and easy. Later just print it out, even in black-white colour is OK 😀

Just after the border, there are A LOT of casinos! Maybe 30? I didn’t know that Cambodian and Vietnamese people like gambling.

After that, the bus stopped in one of the restaurants for early lunch. With so many stops like that, the 6 hours of the journey between HCMC and PP were not so boring. We arrived in PP after crossing the Mekong River where the bus (and other vehicles) boarded a ship for only 10 to 15 minutes. In PP, passengers who continued the journey to other areas, such as SR or Sihanoukville, were transferred to another bus (from the same company, no need to pay more). On this new bus to SR, there were more foreigners than local people. We also got free snacks, mineral water and wet tissue like the previous bus (this time there was a steward). Along the journey, the view was rice fields, trees, and villages. We only stopped in one place for 15 minutes. There I saw fried cockroaches as food. Cambodian people seem to like eating anything: cockroaches, snakes, crocodiles, etc.

Finally, around 7.30 pm we arrived at the bus terminal of SR, which didn’t look like a terminal but someone’s house, very small and dark. Tuk-tuk from our hotel was already arrived there to pick us up. The driver was really nice and spoke English very well. Later on the next 3 days, we would be accompanied by him going around Angkor.

2 thoughts on “Crossing the Borders and Mekong River”

  1. Pingback: Dealing with Visa - Rika Safrina

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