Saturday, December 6, 2014

Day 1: Longest Bus Trip. Saigon Direct to Siem Reap

“Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport.”
Fedora Cap Girls arrived in Ho Chi Minh.
For several days I AM A MILLIONAIRE BABY! 
Kuya Rene, his wife and Rene Jr.
Rene shared the Goldilock's polvoron his granny gave him. Such a sweetie!
Ema is not thrilled to see us. Stranger anxiety! 
Crossing the border of Vietnam and Cambodia
The number of motorbikes are overwhelming.
I like how bicycles thrive here. Kids go to school in bikes!
No the cows and the elephant are not real!
The altars in front of the house for blessings from the spirits 
That's us with our friendly and reliable tuktuk driver, Mr. Nakim!
Contact Nakim if you will find yourself in Siem Reap.
Tell him of three fedora cap crazy girls and he will surely giggle. :)
The chill-out zone of  HAPPY GUESTHOUSE! 
Highly recommended place. Affordable. Very friendly staff. Organized info on all transport services.
Even cats know how to chill here! 

We arrived at midnight in Tan Son Nhat International Airport Terminal 2. We have to wait at sunrise to go to the bus terminal going to Siem Reap. It will be a 12-hour grueling travel so we decided to take naps at the bench. It is my first time to sleep on the bench in the airport! We woke up at quarter to 5AM and the Sapaco Bus scheduled trip going to Siem Reap leaves at 6AM! And we can’t see any taxi. I’ve read several travel blogs and they only recommend VinaSun or Mai Linh. I tried calling their call center but it was a disaster. We’ve been talking for 10 minutes, but we can’t understand each other. I hang up when this taxi driver approached us. It is from the Saigon Tourist Taxi and we are quite adamant to take it but time is running fast. In simple English, we told him we need to go to  Sapaco Terminal at 325 Pham Ngu Lao St, District 1. He nodded. Yes he understands.

We were already inside when he kept on talking on the phone, I suspected he was asking for directions. After paying the 1,000 Vietnamese dong (VND)  toll fee, he stopped in a taxi’s line outside the airport. There were a lot of them there waiting! And he turned us over into another driver with a bigger taxi. We couldn’t understand it at first, alarmed when our bags are being transferred. Then the other driver explained that he got a customer waiting downtown so he will take us instead. Phew! It would take 15-20 minutes going to the bus terminal but since it is almost 6AM, the driver assured us he will get us there in time and he truly drove fast. And we’re too amazed he got the latest iPhone 6 at that! Aba sosyal si kuya!  And he’s very helpful, even to a point of teaching me how to count properly the Vietnamese Dong in paying taxis.

We got on the bus terminal on time, purchased tickets and put our luggage. We are on our seats when the bus conductor asked for us passports.  Still sleepy, we’re too slow to get the instructions.  Then the man behind us talked to us in Tagalog. “Tandaan niyo yung conductor ng bus. Siya ang magbibigay niyan sa border.  (Remember the bus conductor. They will be the ones who will give that to the border (patrols)" Holy kamote! Here is Kuya Renato (surname withheld) and his family. I remembered he was also in our flight from Manila. He lives in Phnom Penh for 11 years now and married a Khmer woman and they got an 8-year old son, Rene. His wife paid for our toilet usage since it is cheaper for locals and he helped us in the queue on crossing the border. He explained to us the process in crossing the border. There are bills attached to the passport. Lagay ba. Corruption is rampant. Hindi lang sa atin unique yan! In broad daylight, you can see compromises made in the name of convenience. 

We stopped at one of the eateries after the border and Rene started saying “Kakain!” We laughed. He only knows Tagalog words like “kain”, “Tubig”, “tulog”. Kuya Rene hails from Lucena, Quezon and they went home to the Philippines for a month-long vacation. His son laughed at us when we could not understand the lady at the resto charging us “One dollah!”. He kept on imitating the lady’s voice and laughs. The one dollar is for the cold towel offered to us during lunch and we thought it was a complement from the bus company!

Kuya Rene gave us the number of Ate Grace, one of his friends in Siem Reap who is also from Davao and now works as a teacher there. 

When we arrived in Phnom Penh, we have to transfer into a local bus company. We arranged earlier to meet Marj and her adorable baby Ema Ayeesha. Several of our friends and her sister sent padalas of clothes and vitamins.  Marj is my college housemate and after- college roommate and she now lives   in Phomn Penh with her chuwariwap. Goddamn this woman, how can she give birth to a child and still look like a teen-ager? Aside from the chatter on motherhood, she's still the good 'ol crazy roommate I knew. Ema was shocked probably by the onslaught of kisses from strangers that she wailed. Later Marj texted me that Ema was so anxious and also very hungry. We will be staying with them after two days and surely, Ema will see our awesome tita yaya skills. 

We bade goodbye to Kuya Renato and his family. Also to Marj and her crying princess. We still have another 6 hours ride to Siem Reap  and we were running late for an hour. We didn’t give some extra cash in the border so our passports were processed late. We are passing the countryside full of dark brown earth and thick dust that resembles the roads when you pass the towns of Carrascal and Claver in Surigao del Sur. Do they have mining also here?

Then we stopped in another eatery for merienda and hygienic needs. I noticed they got this altar in front of their houses and businesses. It is like our own tambara and there is an offering for the spirits for good luck.

We arrived in Siem Reap at half past 9pm. We already booked our accommodation with Happy Guesthouse with the help of Marj. She texted me that the bus terminal address where we will be arriving was incomplete so I need to call the hostel in order for them to gie instructions to the tuktuk driver who will fetch us. My cheapskate self is already worried of the several roaming texts I’ve been sending earlier and I’ve been scolding myself for not buying a local sim first thing at the border. 

We’re beaten tired and everyone is rearing to get off the bus when a young man  alongside other drivers holds a bond paper with my name on it. Oh Thank you God! Our tuktuk driver’s name is Mr. Nakim and his female friend Sophie tagged along. Sophie is trying to practice her English and we tried to make conversations with her. It  is just a short ride from the Old Market to Happy Guesthouse, a homey hostel nestled at the center of a backpacker’s area! We arranged the next day’s tour that will start at 5AM with Nakim then checked in at the hostel.  

After washing up, we decided to walk around. It’s a countdown to midnight for Nina’s birthday. We found a Hawaiian Pizza House and meet Ah Ti Juju. It is a family-owned business and he happily took our orders of noodles, tea, coconut shake (as recommended by another diner). There is no available cake so we ordered their house delight pizza and requested for candles. Ah Ti apologized since they only got one large candle.  We told him it's okay; we will even accept vigil candle. After eating, they took out the pizza and the other local diners joined us in singing Happy Birthday. Ah Ti made us a generous helping of pizza and put some effort making a flower-shaped tomato on top and he managed to find more candles.


Nina is beaming, happy despite the lost Tab along the way (she can’t still figure out how and where she lost it). We just consoled her that probably the spirits wanted an offering. I lost my cellphone pouch and Xyza lost their office logbook.  In life, we need to lose something in order to know its value (or non-value) and to be able to regain something better. I hope I can easily say this is also applicable to our love lives. #H U G O T!  Eeeeeek! :D 

Let’s choose to be happy instead of what we have. We can replace material things but not the memories and stories

We hope to create great memories here. And we're looking forward for the sunrise.  ♥ 


Ninya :) said...

Indeed! Sometimes we have to lose something in order to appreciate its value (or non-value). I actually don't feel bad losing my tablet. Haha! Or well, maybe, I just have this "cope-immediately mechanism" so that our trip won't be ruined. But its was indeed a very long ride, gladly we survived. Tired, but at the end of the day, satisfied and happy. :)


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