Buses run regularly from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and our minibus arrived on time to take us to the station. We had a short wait (I’m learning to tack on at least half an hour of standing around a bus station before any sort of travel is actually accomplished), in which the most exciting part was the guy with the 6ft+ snake that he’d killed and was showing off to his buddies before grilling it. It was a big deal. One guy even got out of the shower and came over in his towel to see.
It’s a good six hour ride to Phnom Penh and while it wasn’t terrible, the roads weren’t great and the bus, even with aircon, was hot. We were a bit road weary when we arrived, but we made it to the Goldie Boutique guesthouse and crashed.
I took off for a wander to do some research about obtaining a Vietnamese visa. We already knew that it was cheaper to apply for the visa in Cambodia and many travelers claim that it’s easier to get a travel agent to get the visa for you versus going to the embassy yourself. I talked to four different travel agents, including the front desk at our guesthouse, and received three different prices for obtaining the visa, ranging from $37-$47 to receive it the next evening at 5 pm if we dropped off our passports by 5 pm.
It was not a comfortable thing to give up our passports, and I knew that Brian and Heather were nervous, but we took them in and crossed our fingers. On the plus side, we agreed to pay when we picked them up the next day.
The area where we stayed is really up-and-coming with lots of restaurants, coffee shops and NGO workers. We had some great meals there, including dinner at Samaky and Khmer Surin. Brown Cafe is a great place for breakfast and coffee, with great croissants. Many have free wi-fi so we were able to get out of the room and plan our next steps, down to Kep.
While waiting for our visas, we wanted to see the sights of Phnom Penh so we headed to Tuol
Slang, the site of many atrocities by the Khmer Rouge and now a genocide museum. It was hard…necessary to see, and understand, but so hard. The weight of the place is unyielding and while there are signs asking people to maintain a respectful silence and not yell or laugh, I don’t think that they’re really necessary. Laughing was the last thing I wanted to do.
We continued on to the Royal Palace that, while impressive with its grandeur, was a bit of a letdown as many areas are off limits to the public. We were able to stroll around and peek into some of the areas, but it’s not a place that I need to visit again.
After a tasty happy hour cocktail at the FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club), which we thoroughly deserved, we went to pick up our passports. Everything was in order, we settled up with the nice gentleman and he gave us directions to the local bus station to buy our tickets to Kep. Easy Peasy.
It was a short visit in Phnom Penh, and while there is definitely more of the city to see and explore (I would love to try out the random aerobics class that was taking place near the Independence Monument), I was happy to be heading out to the countryside again. We booked into an Eco-lodge in the jungle, so I have visions of monkeys swinging around the treehouse, a cross between The Jungle Book and Swiss Family Robinson.
Just call me Mowgli.