We have been in Phnom Penh and we are ready to head to the crown jewel of Cambodia… Angkor Wat! We had a few ways we could do this in deciding How to get from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. We could fly there and be there quickly but it’s costs too much. We could ride our motorbikes up there? This would take an entire day and on a busy road in Cambodia. We have had plenty of hours already on crowded, dangerous, Cambodian highways with buses rushing by at high speed. We could take a 5-6 hour bus ride. We would have to keep our bikes in Phnom Penh at the hotel we booked there? Or there is another option! How about a high speed ferry on the Tonle Sap River?
High Speed Ferry - Tonle Sap
The High Speed Ferry On the Tonle Sap
We checked into the particulars, read some blogs in favor of the boat and some against it, and decided it was the best way to get our bikes to Siem Reap without riding them. The tickets were booked through our Hotel and cost us $50.00 each. $35 for the ferry ride and $15 for the bikes and “commission” for the hotel. We’re not sure how much of the 15 was for each charge.
The high speed ferry on the Tonle Sap takes off twice a day at 7:30am and 2:00pm from the Sisowath Quay. The quay is situated along the junction of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap River and is situated near the Royal Palace of Cambodia. Just look for the really long boat that is fully enclosed and kind of looks like a torpedo.
High Speed Ferry - Tonle Sap
Missing The Boat
We were supposed to get to the boat landing at 7am to take off at 7:30. We didn’t leave our hotel until about 7:10am. We were tired as we hadn’t slept well the previous night. We packed up the bikes and headed to the port of Phnom Penh. We couldn’t find the dock that had our speedboat and our tickets didn’t show which it was either. Through charades and broken English we found our dock. We were a little skeptical upon arriving if they were even going to let us on the boat since we were so late and if our bikes would be an issue. It was 7:25 and within 15 minutes we were on the boat, bikes secured in the back and on our way to Siem Reap. Again the people here in Asia can do just about anything they put their mind to.
Speedboat Ride On The Tonle Sap
Amazing Boat Ride
The boat ride was amazing! We were so glad that we took this option of how to get from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. It was better than flying or taking a bus and keeping the bikes at our hotel which would have been risky for theft. When the boat began to go, I was shocked at how quickly it went. We must have been going about 50 mph or more. The boat was huge sits about 80 people! Some people sat on the roof of the boat and some were inside where it was air-conditioned. I spent my time from sitting inside to going outside and hanging out on the walk-way around the boat. Sitting in an enclosed boat was reminiscent of the Vomit Coffin in Utila and I spend most of my time outside.
It was great to pass the river life on the TonleSap at a high rate of speed. The Tonle Sap is a major river that runs from the Tonele Sap Lake (biggest in Cambodia) and is one of the major transportation and shipping arteries in Cambodia. As we zoomed along fishing village to fishing village, I took pictures, spoke with some others on the boat and thoroughly enjoyed the 6 1/2hour boat ride to Siem Reap. The boat doesn’t actually go to Siem Reap, it goes to Chong Kneas about 15km outside of Siem Reap.
This is real Cambodia!
I sometimes feel as if I have a mental picture what Cambodia and other places in the world would look like and often times it is not how I had imagined. This boat trip however is exactly how I would have imagined Cambodia. The boat was smooth and fast and the staff was great. As we sped the 250km up the river and lake with our bikes securely tied up in the back of the boat, I couldn’t help but think it was a bargain we paid for the ride. The simple freedom to get out of your air-conditioned seat to go stand outside of the boat for a smoke as the boat rushed by the countryside and villages was priceless. In a bus, you are crammed in shoulder to shoulder with only too infrequent stops. Getting up to stretch your legs and roam about the boat was reminiscent of train rides to me.
River Life On The Tonle Sap
Floating Villages Of The Tonlé Sap
There were varying sizes of floating villages along the river. Some were about 2km long and others were small villages of no more than a hundred people. They keep their homes floating on 50 gallon drums and 100 gallon barrels. They tie them together below the house which rise and fall with the river. Many of the actual homes although 30 feet above the river banks, also were on stilts that were up to 20 feet in height. It appears that the river is lower than normal due to the dry season. Another interesting point was that the floating villages also had a (ship/boat/house)foundation building yard, where they build their homes. These people literally live on the river and I doubt they hardly ever get off to dry land often. It seems they have everything they need on the river and I can’t imagine the life they must live.
Getting To Siem Reap - Chong Kneas Dock
Siem Reap, Cambodia
We arrived at the port 15km outside of Siem Reap, packed up the bikes and I remembered that my steering was a little lose when I rode to the dock in the morning. I found a guy on the dusty road away from the docks who charged me about a dollar to fix it, and we were on our way into town. We arrived and found a nice French café called Le Grand Café and had coffee and hamburgers and got on their free internet to find a hotel in the area. The town of Siem Reap has a lot of charm. A good mix of Cambodian and Western life. We booked a hotel at the Tan Kang Angkor Hotelright in town. A really great hotel and in the heart of the action. For a price under 16USD per night a real bargain!
The Pub Street - Siem Reap
The Pub Street, Siem Reap
We took a dip in the pool and left our room with a balcony for the town for some dinner. We took Buddha with us as well. We walked around the old market where trinkets and touristy crap are sold and we were hawked aggressively until we made it to the Pub Street. The pub street is a walking street of bars and restaurants and discos. Shelly decided to stop off and try the Dr. Fish pedicure.
We have seen a fish pedicure a few times in Asia and Shelly has been meaning to try it. It’s a big fish aquarium where you put your feet in the water and the fish nibble on your feet and supposedly take off the dead skin and make your feet smooth. While Shelly was getting her feet wet, I was street performing with Buddha. Nowhere we have been, have the people been so amazed with Buddha.
Cambodians in general are absolutely fascinated with the tricks he can do. I went through the gamut of walking, dancing, sitting, laying, speaking, and stay. We had a group of about 20 people standing around Buddha and I, cheering and clapping. It was fun! We got dinner and went back to the room to get up the next day for Angkor Wat. We were up for a great day.
Change In Perspective
So what have I taken away from the boat ride up the Tonle Sap? That life goes on in un-imaginable ways. As I sat on the roof of the boat gazing out on the banks of the river, I wondered what it must be like living a life so simple and rustic. It is impossible to put my own frame of mind that has been littered with the western philosophy and luxuries of life to ever appreciate or imagine life like this. Some might say it’s just destitute poverty. Sure, there is one getting rich fishing the Tonle Sap. However, in some ways their life is even richer than mine.
It’s really not about the money, it’s about self sufficiency and self-reliance. If all civilization fell apart and I had to live on a river fishing and floating in a house I made myself, I can’t imagine I would have the resources, mental faculty nor personal ability to do it. It’s admirable in a way. I felt like an outsider looking into their world like a voyeur. A world I will never understand. There is something humbling in the ability to witness something like this and feel the way I did about it. All this being said, I am not ready to live on the banks of a river in a floating village…