We caught the train from Hue, it was a pretty comfortable ride and only took about 4 hours. We had read that there isn’t much to do or see in Dong Hoi, but we were surprised how nice the river front was. It’s dominated by, what we kept calling the rainbow bridge because of the multicoloured lights flashing away through the night like a disco on acid.
The 17hr bus journey wasn’t really all that bad…except for one Vietnamese guy talking incredibly loud on his phone several times and another guy snoring so loud I had to put in ear plugs. This time we were on the top deck, which meant we got swung about more, feeling every turn. Sometimes it even felt like the bus was going to topple over. We arrived in Hoi An at 7am and within moments there was a woman trying to get us to come to her shop where we could get clothes tailor made. We headed to the local market to try some local delights for breakfast before going to our hotel for a little rest.
From Saigon we caught a bus to Mui He a small coastal beach town about 5hrs drive away. This bus journey was unlike any other, it seems Vietnam have nailed bus traveling…Why? The seats are horizontal! Known as sleeper buses, most private bus journeys are like flying first class. You can stretch your legs out, cover up with a blanket and catch some Z’s with ease. These buses are a million miles from the bus journeys in Cambodia.
HCMC was way bigger than either of us expected for some reason. We arrived overland from Phnom Penh Cambodia. The bus ride all in all was okay, no complaints. It was a bit funny though crossing the border. They made us get on and off the bus at two points and walk across the border. It really made us feel like illegal aliens…except for the fact that we didn’t have to hide and sneak across and we already had our visa permission from the Vietnamese government to enter the country.
We arrived for the first time to a new country on our trip by land. Going through border control was pretty straight forward. The bus from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to HCMC did have one delay and was another first for us – paying the corrupt police to let us pass a stretch of road. Each passenger had to pay the law man a dollar each, we had heard about the corrupt police here but this was first real experience of it.
Another tough bus journey, but thankful we had our own seats from Phnom Penh to Kratie. We realised how we can just get on with things and how our expectations are about right when it comes to bus journeys in Cambodia. As we set off on part two of our bus journey to Kratie, one girl got off the bus as it was to claustrophobic, which actually worked out well for us because she was on our row of seats. Another girl who was quite posh from England was complaining that the conditions were ‘unacceptable’ haha sorry no stretched limos here love.
A very long and bumpy 15hr bus journey to Siem Reap was ahead of us and it lived up to our expectations. On the positives we had our own seat. It did beg the question of which bus journey was worse and it’s a question neither of us can confidently answer. The road infrastructure of Cambodia is is poor, worst we have seen in SE Asia so far. Most journeys involve going back through Phnom Phen and a lot of the roads are glorified dirt tracks riddled with pot holes.
Before leaving Phnom Penh, we were sat in the bar of our guesthouse. An american voice emerged “wanna take a shot?” And it wasn’t Katie’s. It turns out a great way to travel is after 4 shots of Stollis vodka. That stuff is smooth and 4hrs on a bus flew past. I even managed to make my way through a Hannah Montana movie the bus was playing and quite contently I might add.
What can we say, we’ve already fallen in love with Cambodia. We had several people tell us that Cambodia is one of their favourite counties in SE Asia, and we can confirm, the country is living up to the hype. The people are incredibly nice, the cities are very green, easy to walk around, and have more charm in general than other cities we’ve visited. We arrived in Phnom Penh after an overnight sleepless layover in Singapore. We hopped into a tuk-tuk that trekked us into the city centre for $7.00.
We took the slow ferry to Lombok, an island east of Bali. The slow boat option was good for us because it was less than half the price of the fast boat. The touts tried scaring us off buying the cheaper option, quoting times of 7 to 8 hours to arrive on the island. In fact it only took 3.5 hours plus a 45 min shuttle bus to our destination town of Senggigi. One thing you learn when booking travels in SE Asia is you never really understand all the steps of your journey- but generally you will get there…eventually. Because we aren’t in a hurry, the slow option of travel works for us. If you’re limited on time, spending the dough on faster travel is probably worth it.