After a good night rest following an emotionally exhausting day in Phnom Penh, we got up early to pack up and get ready for our trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. This part of the trip was one that I was a bit worried about. According to the tour company that arranged our trip, we were supposed to be picked up by a tuk-tuk that will take us to the van terminal, where we would switch to the van that would take us to Siem Reap. After the false start that happened the day before, I was even more worried that if there is any miscommunication in terms of the pick-up, we might miss our scheduled van and end up having to wait for the next available departure to Siem Reap.
Our passenger van was scheduled to leave its terminal in Phnom Penh at 7:30 am, so our tour company scheduled to have someone picking us up at our hotel at 7 am. We were ready to go few minutes before that. The night before, I had already taken care of the checkout so all we had to do was to leave our room key at the front desk before we left. We also asked for take-out breakfast so we had something to eat in the morning even before the hotel restaurant opened.
Unlike the day before, to my relief this morning everything seemed to work like clockwork. We had our breakfast take out boxes ready to pick up at the hotel restaurant, and before we even finished eating our breakfast, a passenger van showed up and a gentleman asked if we were waiting to go to Siem Reap. I confirmed the name of the van operator, and off we went.
There were already three other passengers on the van when we were picked up. It looked like they went around to various hotels or guest houses to pick up some passengers before we depart for Siem Reap. I overheard the conversation among the passengers on the van. They all spoke English; from the accents I could tell that one person was American, one person was Australian, and the other person was European (not sure what country). This was the first trip to Siem Reap for all of them, and they were all quite excited to go (so did we) given that it’s close to New Year’s Eve. As I listened to their conversation, I figured out that the American girl was teaching English at a school in Phnom Penh. The other two passengers were backpackers. We stopped at another hotel not far from ours to pick up another passenger, a Japanese man who traveled alone. He had his backpack and a camera bag with him — looked like a serious photographer.
We stopped at the van company’s office near Psar Kandal. We got out of the van briefly to sort out which van each passenger would go into; there were apparently two vans that would be going to Siem Reap approximately at the same time. Kristi and I went into one van with the American girl and the Japanese man; the other two passengers went to a separate van. The passenger van had four rows of seats, and ours was almost full to the capacity with eleven people including the driver. Kristi and I sat on the second row with the Japanese man. Once we were seated, a lady came out from the van operator’s office with plastic bags full of snack boxes and bottled water. Each of us got one – that was our ‘in-flight snacks’ for the trip. Nothing fancy, but it’s actually better than what you get in American domestic flights these days.
We left pretty much on time. On the way out of Phnom Penh, we made one more stop at a guest house to pick up the last passenger, a British man, who took the last seat available on the front row next to the driver. After that, off we went on our trip to Siem Reap. So long Phnom Penh…
The photo below was taken from my seat on the second row, as our van was slowly navigating its way through downtown Phnom Penh on the way northeast towards Siem Reap.