Travel and Food Living

Life's tastier adventures on the road and flavor

DAY 2: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

By January 10, 2015 ,

Pick up from hotel (this is free): 8:30AM
Time of departure from Saigon: 9:00AM

We crossed Cambodia without any Cambodian currency, we just got in there with nothing but confidence and courage, how we survived? Read this full story.

The night before, we made an arrangement with the hotel receptionist at Lan Lan 2 to book us a ticket for Phnom Penh city, Cambodia. The ticket price includes a free pick up at the hotel. All buses taking a route from Saigon to Phnom Penh and vice versa are equipped with one comfort room and TV, others have wifi on board. They will also provide one free bottled water for each passenger and a wet tissue. Travel time is 8 hours.

We crossed the border via Cu Chi, Tay Ninh and Moc Bai provinces. Vietnamese immigration is at Moc Bai. Bus conductors will collect the passport of each passenger and they will be the one to process it at the immigration, but passengers will have to proceed to the immigration for personal appearance or for any questions that might be asked. We stayed for about two hours due to a huge flow of tourists coming in and out of the border. We saw travelers and backpackers from diverse cultural background, it was so amazing to see lots of foreigners in one place, you will really be proud of your race.

When we arrived at the Cambodian immigration, we showed our passport personally to the officer to have it stamp and took our picture. It was fast, we spent only 30 minutes. But the moment we entered Cambodia, our anxiety began. We did not have any Cambodian currency. So when the bus stopped for lunch, we ate nothing but biscuit (we packed biscuits and candies when we departed Manila). We’re confident that the moment we reach Phnom Penh we could find a money changer outlet. We did not have any idea that in Cambodia, stores and drivers preferred US dollar currency than Cambodian Riel.

Rowie with Reychel Mendoza, the Pinay who guided us on our first day in Phnom Penh, she came from Bulacan and currently worked in Cambodia with her band performing in hotels and resorts. So grateful with her kindness but after this meeting we never heard anything from her although I gave her my email address so that she can search me in FB. 
She must be sent by God to help us.

With Vangie Colaste, having dinner along the street in Phnom Penh

While pondering what to do, we overheard one passenger, a woman, talking someone over the phone in Filipino language! She’s an angel to all of us. The three of us exchanged curious glances, nudging each other to approach the woman who was also heading to Cambodia. We greeted her in Filipino and she smiled, then we started asking her how we could change our money to Cambodian riel and she told us what to do. 

She also shared some precautions when reaching Phnom Penh city. Her name is Reychel Mendoza, she came from Bulacan and had been in Cambodia for a year and worked as a singer with her band. She was so extremely nice, we talked during our long trip to Phnom Penh, she shared lots of stories about a life in Cambodia, the people, customs, traditions. She must be sent by God to help and guide us, without her, we would never know what to do. 

At the terrace of Hotel Luxury World on our last day in Phnom Penh

Reychel accompanied us to a Tuktuk ride (like tricycle in the Philippines) and instructed the driver to bring us to our hotel location, we arrived safely in the hotel.

After putting our bags in the room, we went down to make an arrangement with the receptionists for our bus ticket for Siem Reap city the following morning. Then we’re off to the street to find a money changer outlet. We crossed two main city streets but all money changer outlets were closed as it was already 8:00 in the evening. We could not buy food for our dinner and we did not take lunch.

Hungry, wasted, exhausted with numbing feet, we crossed more streets. With no hope of finding a money changer outlet, we decided to just return to the hotel, sleep with empty stomach or probably just eat another pack of biscuits and drink water.

We turned back, but after crossing several blocks and corners, we knew we’re in great trouble. We could not find the hotel. And the nightmare began. We’re officially lost! We crossed several dark corners without any fear of being robbed. What we had in mind was to locate the hotel, but after several attempts of asking bystanders all hopes went into drain as all of them could not understand English!

We continued walking and just before we crossed another street, I saw a Western Union outlet with a bold streamer of Money Exchange! Closing time is 9:00PM, We checked our watch and it was 8:30PM, God is good!!

After buying dollar currency, we strolled the street to look for a small eatery where we could take our dinner, we wanted to try a Cambodian style of dining so we chose a small food stall offering meals we could not understand haha! It’s just located along the road, in a small street that looked like Uyanguren in Davao city.

We started asking the name of the food. The lady just shut us with a blank stare with no sign that she understood what we meant. But she kept on smiling, signaling us to sit down, naks! One lady, who was in a nearby table, showed us her plate containing the food we pointed to the lady, but she did not say anything. We exchanged glances again, what food was that? I was looking for a rice, but, oh God! They could not understand the word “rice”, so we settled for that order even though we’d no idea what was that. We’re extremely hungry.

Then I blurted another dangerous question (because we’re certain they would never understand it): How much per order? Ohhh no, no, I thought, it sounded so complicated to the lady because she frowned so hard, but I could not find any simple term how to ask a price.

The man came in, he looked like the husband of the lady behind the cooking bin, I blurted my question again, in a slow voice, how…much…is…that (with matching point, point to the food), he smiled and seemed got my point, he pulled a calculator and showed us the amount, it’s US$1.5, okay, game! We started giggling at each other. We’re more than amused with this episode rather than scared.

After this amusing experience of dining, we continued walking the street and finally located the street of the hotel! God is so amazing!


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