The 6-8 hour bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap was unexpectedly pleasant… partly cos when we hopped on the Giant Ibis, there was the smiling face of our driver to start our journey to our next bus terminal, who later also demonstrated his excellent skill in manoeuvring the 41-seater beast through potholes and dirt road, maintaining a punctual schedule and all the while showing courtesy and concern for the passengers. Pretty rad, indeed.
I’ve always been a big fan slower modes of travel – detours, mixtapes, pranks, drunken pitstops, head bumps, eavesdropping on other people’s weird sexual escapades, holding your pee in for the longest time, getting to know the stranger sitting next to you, pothole nightmares… there’s a lot of road trip spontaneity! So when my friends were lamenting the cost of airfare for our Phnom Penh – Siem Reap – Bangkok trip, I happily took the plunge and bought a one-way ticket out.
The ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap took us through agrarian Cambodia – from passing an endless row of brick and mortar to driving by rice fields awash in gold and catching a glimpse of Kampong Cham that borders the provinces of Kampong Chhnang to the west, Kampong Thom and Kratie to the north, Tbong Khmum to the east, and Prey Veng and Kandal to the south.
“The journey is the destination, a road trip is an adventure!”
Living as we do, at the convenience of modern facilities, has the psychological drawback of tending to take the beauty and ecological integrity of our local rural communes for granted… part of me wished I’d taken the detour to explore and get to know the people of Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom – some of the things that really caught my eye were the Cambodian Language School, Kawaguchi School, Toul Ampil Ice Factory, Masjidil Alhjayah, Battheay English School, Musee Museum and a particular Department of Cult and Religion… hmm.
But anyway, I digress…
PHNOM PENH – SIEM REAP VIA GIANT IBIS EXPRESS BUS
I’d chosen to travel overland with Giant Ibis despite it being a little bit more expensive than other bus providers (ie. Mekong Express which is also known for their safety record) for a number of reasons (with safety and comfort being my main concerns), the USD15 ticket does come with a bunch of perks;
- Free WiFi
Variables such as geographic features, weather conditions, temperatures and the number of mobile devices connected to the router may result in differing user experiences or levels of service – but the WiFi was up to speed and kept everyone pacified throughout the journey.
- Electrical outlets
In Cambodia the standard voltage is 230 V. The standard frequency is 50 Hz. The power sockets that are used are of type A / C / G – so don’t forget your travel adapter!
- Free pickup from lodging
I spent my week in Phnom Penh at Mad Monkey Hostel, approx. 12 minutes from the bus station and Giant Ibis kindly provided us a complimentary tuk-tuk transfer.
- Complimentary snacks (bottled water, juice and pastry)
We had tuna sandwich and chocolate croissant, apple and blackcurrant juice – Liyana and I both approved of ’em!
- Online booking, flat rate for both locals and foreigners
- On board entertainment
- Luggage allowance
- Seat belts
- Leg room and reclining seats
- GPS navigation system
- Environmental friendly
- CSR programme
Unlike its competitor(s), Giant Ibis doesn’t make multiple drop-offs and/or pick-ups, so it’s almost always on time. And while there’s no on-board washroom, the driver makes frequent stops for toilet breaks at an average of every 3 hours and in case you’re wondering, Cambodia maintains a clean Western toilet.
We also made quick, obligatory, lunch break at Banyan Tree on Highway 6 near Kampung Thom where I shared a delicious bowl of green curry with my travel buddy, Liyana – I wouldn’t say the restaurant is overpriced, but it’s definitely a little bit more expensive than usual but all’s good.
All in all, I’ve got zilch to complain, really… the bumpy ride was hella funny and everything else was tops! A 6-8 hour bus ride might sound like a treacherous prospect to some, but a wise man once said, “The journey is the destination, a road trip is an adventure!”