The road to Cambodia

By Michael Smith, Thanh Nien News

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The bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh is getting quicker all the time, as work on the road on the Cambodian side nears completion.
It takes about seven hours, sometimes less, depending on how the border checks go.
About an hour out of the Khmer capital there are a few holdups with road work, but compared to a few months ago they are minimal.
The road is quite smooth and comfortable and there is plenty of interesting scenery to look at.
The border crossing at Moc Bai/ Bavet costs about VND400,000 (US$25) for foreigners – VND300,000 ($18.75) for the Cambodian visa and VND100,000 ($6.25) for the bus company – to organize all the passengers and passports in one hit.
Several local money changers work the strip but only offer half the going rate, so it’s better to wait till you get to a bank in Phnom Penh.
For a short stay US dollars are the main currency anyway.
Then the bus passes through the Cambodian border casino paradox, where dirty markets are juxtaposed with rows of large glitzy gambling houses against a backdrop of a fairly desolate landscape.
The roadside lunch restaurant stop has a wide range of excellent Khmer food, the chicken curry is a special favorite.
They accept US dollars, Vietnamese dong or Cambodian riel, whatever you have.
The dish is not particularly cheap, at about US$3.
The next stop is a river ferry crossing at Kandal.
Vendors assail the bus with all sorts of delicacies in trays balanced on their heads.
The bus driver often has to shut the door to keep the passengers in and the vendors out.
Big-bellied fried frogs, baby birds and crickets are the main fare.
God knows how much they cost – I didn’t ask! But there were also some little sweet glutinous rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves – 50 for $1.
A few hours up the road is Phnom Penh. A tuk-tuk can take you from the bus station to your hotel.

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