When I travelled by Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia by bus, I unearthed a new scam at the Cambodian land border, but yesterday when I traveled by bus from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, the journey was nearly perfect except for a slight delay at the immigration counter at Vietnam.
The planning for the day began a week back when I got my Vietnam visa at the Embassy of Vietnam in Phnom Penh and booked my tickets by Mekong Express. It was quite an experience to get to the Mekong Express bus station as the entire river side was barricaded due to the former' king’s funeral function. A lot of people seemed to have trouble getting to the bus station as Mekong Express had moved their bus station to another place to accommodate for the king’s funeral event. I also had a minor headache finding the place, but thankfully Mekong Express had given me a map with the correct location and thus I ended up finding the place quickly.
At the Mekong Express bus station, the bus crew checked our passports and visas and noted them down. The air-conditioned bus was decently comfortable and the wi-fi gave me good company as long as we were in Cambodia. In the first three hours of the journey (i.e. in Cambodia), the most interesting experience was crossing the mighty Mekong river. But, the catch is that I was sitting in a bus and the bus was sitting on a ferry along with other buses and vehicles and all together we were crossing the Mekong river. There is still no road bridge over the Mekong on this route.
During the initial part of our bus journey, the bus crew had asked us to fill out our departure cards and then collected the cards and our passports. While we stopped before the Cambodian border for lunch, one of the crew members took all the passports and got the exit stamp applied on them. When we finished our lunch all we had to do was go through the Cambodia exit immigration formalities where they took our photograph and fingerprints.
Once we had finished going through the Cambodian immigration, we entered the Vietnam immigration, which was very well maintained and air-conditioned. Before entering the Vietnam immigration, we had to pick up all our baggage as the baggage would need to go through X-Ray and the buses would go through an inspection. At the Vietnam immigration counter, there were two immigration officers who were handed all the passports by the crew of different bus companies. Hence, while we stood in line, somebody would call our names, hand over our passport to us and off we would go to put our baggage through the X-ray machine. The process was fairly hassle free, though I would have liked a lesser standing time.
Once we had cleared immigration at the Vietnam center, we loaded our baggage to the bus, got back to our respective seats and reached Ho Chi Minh City in about 90 minutes. The Mekong Express crew were kind enough to drop me near the airport coz that is close to the place where my friend lives.
The bus experience from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City is a piece of cake when compared to traveling from Cambodia to Vietnam. I paid USD 13 for the bus trip, did not have to change buses as both Cambodia and Vietnam follow the American system of driving and had no trouble with the immigration. I used Mekong Express for my travel as I was very happy with them when I traveled with them in Cambodia. But, there are other bus operators who are good too. You can choose any one that works for you.