Backpacking Southeast Asia: Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, Cambodia by bus

After 6 hours of bus trip from Ho Chi Minh, we stayed in Phnom Penh for a quick sight seeing. We arrived after lunch and left the next day early in the morning, quick isn’t it? Our itinerary was really tight, we needed to finish the trip before our budget drains. It was exhausting, but backpacking Southeast Asia and conquering the tri-country by bus was one on my bucket list.


We had a pleasant experience taking the Mekong Express bus, we were thinking of taking the same bus to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh but the bus schedule that day didn’t fit our itinerary. This time we booked Virak Buntham Express through I was quite hesitant about the bus service because of its negative reviews online. As I got on the bus, it was quite disturbing. The bus was too crowded and kids next to my seat were crying. The bus attendant turned on the TV and played a Cambodian karaoke though the rest of the trip was tolerable. We paid $17 for the ticket. No complimentary water, no snacks but I was so glad the AC was working. It was another 6 hours long distance bus ride, but seeing the country side and locals way of living, I forgot how exhausted I was.


There were few stops in between the trip. We stopped for lunch in one of the restaurants along the way and the next stop was in a bus terminal near a local market. I wasn’t very interested in Cambodian local food that time not because I am not into Cambodian dishes but because market vendors were offering their local delicacy “deep fried critters “. Cambodians love to eat, tarantulas, beetles, wild crickets, silk worm pupae and other insects. Small snakes and frogs are also included in the platter. It is cooked deep fried with salt, garlic, flour, sugar and special seasoning in a hot wok with vegetable oil.



I got lucky and found a Cambodian who speaks English;  it gave me the chance to ask questions on how they managed to catch the insects and why it became one of their local favorite snack. The guy told me that insects in Cambodia are plentiful and eating insects is nothing new. It’s a good source of protein and other micronutrients. It was labeled as the huger food during the great depression in the late 70’s during the Khmer Rouge regime. The insects were caught using a shining blue fluorescent light attached on a plastic sheet and a bamboo stick used as a handle. They get attracted to the blue light, fly towards it, hit the plastic and drops to a tub of water. Cold water keeps the insects fresh until it is ready for deep frying the next day.


The bus trip continued to the city of Siem Reap after 15 minutes of break. The trip went smoothly and reached our destination early evening. The hotel were we stayed had an option of pick-up service for free. So our driver was waiting for us when you arrived at the drop off area.


Where to Stay:

Here are few affordable hostels available near the city center.

Siem Reap Pub Hostel

House 169, Group 4, Steung Thmey, Village, Svay Dangkhum Commune, Siem Reap, Siem Reap, 1752 Cambodia

  • 0.1 miles to City center
  • 4.0 miles to Angkor Wat

Oops Hostel

No. B01, Sivutha Blvd, Mondul I Village, Svaydangkum Commune, Siem Reap, Siem Reap, 17252 Cambodia

  • 0.1 miles to City center
  • 4.1 miles to Angkor Wat

Koh Rong Hostel Siem Reap

Samdach Tepvong, Mondol I, Preah Sangreach Tep Vong St, Siem Reap, Siem Reap Province, 17252 Cambodia

  • 0.2 miles to City center
  • 3.9 miles to Angkor Wat

Travel Tips:

  1. Double check your drop off point once in Siem Reap. There are different drop off areas depending on which bus company you will take.
  2. Never compromise comfort for a cheap bus ticket (though it’s up to you) but I think you would agree with me that you don’t want to sit next to a stranger who has a baby screaming in your ears during a 6-hour bus ride. L
  3. The bus entertainment is either Jet Li’s karate movies or Cambodian karaoke and local music. Stuff your tablet or phone with interesting movies or music during the trip or sleep your exhaustion to recharge.
  4. Don’t forget to double check your belongings. Bring comfort food and bottled water.


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