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 in Saigon, Vietnam 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 office for personal appearance or for any questions that might be asked. 

During this trip, 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 while crossing the border. Such an amazing experience 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 left Manila). We’re confident that the moment we reach Phnom Penh we can find a money changer outlet. We did not have any idea that in Cambodia, business establishments 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 have been 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 buy Cambodian riel. She told us what to do. She also shared to take precautions the moment we reach 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 have been sent by God to help and guide us

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

It was almost six in the evening when we reach Phnom Penh. The place appeared to be more like a sub district than a capital city. It was plain, quiet and very ordinary. No skyscraping buildings and busy streets. The common sight in the street is Tuktuk, a tricycle-like vehicle with extended body and elevated floor. The moment we disembark from the bus, tuktuk drivers flowed to us offering their service. Reychel stepped forward to negotiate our ride with a cheaper rate. We agreed for $6.00 and Reychel 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 already closed as it was half past 8:00 in the evening.

Hungry, wasted, exhausted with numbing feet, we crossed more streets to look for money changers. Our search went into vain. 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 walking with nothing happened. I was on the verge of losing hope. But just before we crossed another street, a miracle happened. 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 some local food, Cambodian style of dining, so we chose a small food stall offering meals. The stall was just located along the road, in a small street that looked like Uyanguren in Davao city.

We started asking the name of the food. But 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 customer, who was in a nearby table, showed us her plate containing the same food that we pointed to the lady. Having a difficult time communicating  in English, the customer just pointed her food without saying anything. My two companions and I 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. 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!