We’d spent the last few days exploring Cambodia’s capital city’s eclectic past, including the horrific Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (also known as S21 prison), and after our cultural excursions in the capital, it was time to move on.
We were heading to Sihanoukville, in the south of Cambodia, for a couple of days so we could pay a visit to the islands, but first we needed to get there.
Thankfully, we had our Bayon VIP minivan tickets booked in advance so now all that there was left to do was to make our way to Sihanoukville!
Tuk tuk time
By this stage, we were no strangers to using tuk tuks to get around Southeast Asia and we managed to order one incredibly easily from our Airbnb in Phnom Penh via PassApp (the best way to book cheaper tuk tuks and rickshaws in Cambodia).
As always, we arrived at the Bayon VIP office in Phnom Penh more than half an hour early to ensure that we had plenty of time to check in and board the minivan without a hiccup. I showed the Bayon VIP staff member behind the desk our email confirmation booking reference and then proceeded to sit down inside the office.
We hadn’t eaten breakfast, so my boyfriend, Matt, went on the hunt for some food at nearby shops, but the best he could bring back was two packets of crisps. We presumed there would be at least one stall inside or near the bus station but as it’s only a little office, there was nowhere to find food.
It’s definitely worth bearing in mind that there aren’t an awful lot of places to grab some food near the Bayon VIP office in Phnom Penh so you might want to stock up before you travel.
Don’t judge a bus by its cover
When the minivan pulled up outside the office, I wasn’t filled with confidence that it would be an overly pleasant journey as the van doesn’t really look all that fancy from its exterior.
However, once we’d given our bags to the bus driver, (who was actually pretty rude and would only confirm that the minivan was definitely going to Sihanoukville after we’d asked three times) I noticed just how plush the inside of the van was.
There were enough seats for nineteen people on board, but there were only 9 passengers when we boarded the minivan at 11:30 am, right on schedule. One thing that I wasn’t a big fan of was that all the bags were stacked on top of one another on a seat at the front of the bus. One passenger had to keep leaning over and securing them in place for the entire duration of the journey to ensure that they didn’t topple over.
Despite the air-conditioning not being remarkably cold, the inside of the minivan was very lovely. It was decked out in comfortable, reclining, leather seats and there was plenty of legroom. It’s always a blessing when buses in Southeast Asia have enough legroom – especially for my 6-foot-tall boyfriend!
Once everyone was sat down and ready to go, the driver handed out small bottles of water to everyone and then we were ready to go!
Food for thought
The first couple of hours of the journey were pleasant enough as the roads were still in a respectable condition as we made our way out of Phnom Penh city.
At 1:00 pm, the van stopped at a little shop on the side of the road where you could get out and buy some snacks and drinks. There wasn’t much choice at all in terms of food so we didn’t even bother getting off the bus, and instead hoped that we’d be stopping again before we got to Sihanoukville.
Thankfully, we did, as the bus stopped again at 2:15 pm, only this time at a proper roadside restaurant where you could order dishes such as curries, rice and meat and various other assorted meals. Matt and I went for a simple pain au chocolat as we weren’t sure how long we had to eat and we wanted to be able to take it with us.
The minivan set off again at 2:35 pm and I spent the rest of the journey trying to nap, to no avail. As we approached Sihanoukville, the road conditions were quite possibly some of the worst I’ve ever seen in my life.
The city of Sihanoukville is essentially one giant construction site. In recent years, it’s been taken over by Chinese investors who have stripped the city right down to its roots to make way for casinos and fancy hotel resorts, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.
Unfortunately, this is reflected in the terrible road conditions so don’t expect a smooth journey once you get into Sihanoukville! Due to bad traffic and non-existent tarmac roads, we arrived an hour late in Sihanoukville at 5:30 pm. The road was rough, but it was necessary to get to the paradise that is Koh Rong.