We rode a van from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, the capital city of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The journey was about six hours. We stayed at the house of a Filipino missionary family in Phnom Penh for two nights.
The first stop was a killing field during the Khmer Rouge regime. It was not far from the city.
I cried when we walked around the field and saw where the people were killed and buried.
We also visited Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. It was a former high school but was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 during the Khmer Rouge regime. We watched a sad documentary before leaving the place.
We then capped off the day with a river cruise on the Mekong River.
If you want to know the rest of our visit in Phnom Penh, visit this page.
Overland travel from Thailand to Cambodia took more than five hours. We took the earliest train that departed from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong train station. The train arrived past 7 o’clock in the morning at Lat Krabang train station, which was the nearest station from where we stayed. We just paid 40 baht for the fare to Aranyaprathet, which was a few kilometers from the Cambodian border town of Poipet. The train that traveled to the border had wooden seats. I thought it would be uncomfortable but I was proven wrong. The green scenery was a sight to behold and the cool breeze blowing in through the open window made it a wonderful journey.
There was a long queue in the immigration, but after an hour we found ourselves walking down the street toward the Cambodian frontier. It was too hot and we were carrying heavy backpacks. After our passports were stamped, we walked toward the bus station where we waited for our ride to Siem Reap. Good thing my Thai sim card still worked in Poipet and I was able to contact the owner of the lodge who arranged our ride from Poipet to Siem Reap.
There was a slight problem. We were not able to contact the driver of the taxi so we decided to go to another bus station where there was a money changer. The ride was free for tourists and it only took less than 10 minutes. After getting our riel, we saw someone holding a paper with my name on it. His name was Mr. Hak, the driver.
We found out later that it was better to use US dollars in Cambodia than riel. If you want to know what we did on our way to Siem Reap, check out this blog entry.
I should say that the highlight of this getaway was spending the night in Halong Bay. Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi were also exciting, but it was my first time to sleep on a boat, and not a moving one this time. I slept on moving ferries during overnight trips in the Philippines.
We rode a van from Hanoi to Ha Long. I couldn’t remember the exact location but we passed a bridge. It was not near. I took several pictures along the way but most of them were lost. There were already many tourists waiting at the wharf. After several minutes, our boat was ready. The cruise was composed of different nationalities.
The bay was calm. That was our first day in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Several isles started to grew bigger from where we were. We then stopped at Bo Hon island to explore caves. Stalagmites and stalactites greeted us once inside. They were lit with multicolored lights. We also explored the other chamber, which was bigger.
Some people stopped at Cat Ba island to spend the night there. Most of us remained on the boat. It was not scary because there were other boats near where we spent the night.
The next day, we saw more limestone isles and karst formations. We also passed by some floating fishing villages. We stopped in one village to kayak. It was quite a foggy day.
Part of the cruise was meeting different people from other parts of the world. It was a great experience. The moment we saw familiar isles on our way back, it was time to bid farewell.
I wrote an entry on my foodie blog before about eating in Hanoi. I would love to eat authentic Vietnamese food again. After our stint in the Museum of Ethnology, we went to the Temple of Literature. I took several pictures inside but most of them were lost. This temple of Confucius was the first national university of Vietnam.
I hope one day to visit the several courtyards of the temple again, take pictures and make sure to store them in a safer place.
It was late in the afternoon when we walked to a park where we found several folks exercising. The place had a relaxing atmosphere with trees and fountains. The picture below that I took before crossing the busy street near the park was also posted on my tumblr blog.
We rode a taxi to the city center where I took a snapshot of a pagoda. We were not able to watch the puppet show, but we capped off the night by eating in a Vietnamese restaurant overlooking a busy Hanoi street. I would definitely visit this city again someday.