Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Boat Ride - Siem Reap to Phnom Penh

Date: 28th December 2014

Before I start, I just wanted to inform everyone that the boat time is not punctual. Though the ticket said 07:30, the tuk tuk driver finally dropped us at the boat dock close to 09:00 hours. An hour later only the boat leaves the dock. 

There are 2 ways to reach Phnom Penh from Siem Reap, either by bus or an adventurous speedboat ride. As for me, speed boat is a much better choice and Anne just nodded her agreement. Only during the boat ride that I realised, she did not really enjoy the journey at all. She did not move an inch from her seat from the moment we were boarding till the time we dock safe and sound in Sisowath Quay , Phnom Penh. Argh, I’m so deeply thankful for her tolerance and patience to safe our friendship. She is indeed a God sent down from a heaven since He (Allah) knows well ahead of time that Maznah is to rest with Him early.

Bus is said to be much cheaper and faster. The boat journey takes approximately 251 kilometres but road the road distance connecting Siem Reap and Phnom Penh is 314 kilometres. If by bus, the fare is approximately $12, cheapest, most frequent and slightly faster than the boat. As for the speedboat along the Ton Le Sap lakes and rivers, the fare is $35. Please take note that the services is sometimes cancelled depending on the water levels (for example, between March & August). Though slower than the bus, I opined the choice is the most fun and memorable way to travel.

The fact remains, the Phnom Penh to Siem Reap speedboat costs more than the bus, takes a bit longer (delays to start the journey due to late arrival of the passengers) and can be cancelled if water levels are too low or if there aren't enough tourists to support it.  But seeing rural life on the river from the sun-drenched deck of a speeding riverboat is simply amazing, worth for money.  Let my photos shared in this entry assist you in your decision but be mindful, you would need to stay in your seat inside the boat for the whole trip. Bring book or anything to kill time.

The ferry departed from the boat dock at the Chong Kneas floating village, about 11 km south of Siem Reap. The hotel made the necessary arrangement without any extras. Trust them, the tuk tuk shall arrived in the morning at the hotel lobby to bring you to the boat dock. He was even considerate in allowing us to finish our breakfast. The tuk tuk made numerous pick up at other hotels. For those who travelled from Phnom Penh, on arrival at the Chong Kneas boat dock, a tuk tuk driver will be holding a card with your name on, and will take you into central Siem Reap in about 15-20 minutes.

Though it was said that the speedboat will depart at 07:30, it was not the case. The boat started moving close to 10 in the morning. You may see from the photo that inside are bus-like seats. The seat are not enough for all the passengers, so some of them spend the journey outside on the roof or deck, having a sun bathing even when the boat speeding along at 25 knots. I would recommend a sun cream not to burn yourself if you choose to stay outside. It is the perfect viewpoint to watch Cambodian river life at the roof deck.

I spent most of the time reading, whilst Anne slept. On the final part of the journey, I decided to explore the outside to snap quite a lot of photos of the floating village. A friendly passenger help me recorded my photo in it. So, I have a valid evidence on those 6 hours journey in a good Asian weather.

The boat itself is more like a river air-conditioning bus and travels at approximately at 45kph.  It’s best to get there early and booked your seat inside the boat but the air-conditioning inside is too cold. If not you may get a seat on the bow of where you can dangle your legs over the side whilst using the rail to keep you safe.  The roof is curved and although there is a small rail it’s easy for your baggage to roll over the side and into the water never to be seen again if you encounter waves or swell in the Tonie Sap. We stored our luggage at the dedicated storage area at the back of the boat. The passageway on the deck between the seating area and the roof is about 18 inches wide with no handrails for the first couple of metres so to begin with its a bit scary moving about between seating and roof but after a while you get used to it. Its a great way to see the countryside and riverside so the six hours or so pass far faster than a bus or plane journey.

The toilet (flush straight down to the lakes/river) is clean. Please comfortably use them, but bring your wipes and toilet paper.

A photo of me belo as evidence that I was in that adventurous speed boat ride on 28th December 2014.

The couple next to me who slept during the entire journey without enjoying any of the views.. They must be very very exhausted.

We passed through a narrow river side towards the end of our journey where I joined my fellow passengers to enjoy the dock view. It's simply breath taking to see the Cambodian way of life by the river side. 

We arrived at about Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh at around 4pm. So fortunate that Anne found a hotel around the corner of the dock. We just walked across the road in less than 5 minutes.

Below photo is the view from our hotel room balcony, overlooking the dock. We both were very happy that we had the most convenience stay in Phnom Penh, though only for 1 night. It was very pleasant.

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