With air tickets from Phnom Penh back to Singapore costing around 4 times the price than that of those departing from Ho Chi Minh City, I opted to take the cheaper option, which also gives me a bonus Vietnam visit. This is turning into a strange yet logical ASEAN cross-border tour involving Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Giant Ibis is one of the more reliable bus operators in Cambodia. Having experienced what it’s like to skimp on a little bit of money for tickets the last time I did the reverse route (and the contrast when using Giant Ibis to Siem Reap), I decided just to top up a little bit more for the bus ticket and cross over to Vietnam without much worries or hassle.
This article was originally published on 19 May 2018 on BusTravel Station.
Before the trip, I received an email from 12Go Asia saying that Giant Ibis has changed their departure point. Instead of the riverfront, Giant Ibis now departs from Chivapol Street 90, behind the National Library. This location so happens to be nearer to the Phnom Penh Railway Station and my hotel, so it wasn’t a great issue for me.
Giant Ibis’s new terminal at Chivapol Street 90 has a fully sheltered area to board the bus in as compared with the basic roadside stop at the old terminal at Street 106 near the night market by the riverfront.
My bus to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) today, operated by a Hyundai Universe Xpress Noble.
A minibus was also at the terminal, but it was on the shorter domestic route to Kampot or Kep.
I walked in to the ticketing counter at the Giant Ibis Bus Terminal to exchange my ticket as stated on the 12Go Asia print-out, but they mentioned that they accept the print-out as it is, or you can even show it to the conductor on your phone.
Once I got that settled, I loaded my bag into the storage compartment. However, this time, there were no bag tags given out and all the luggage was just taken in like a normal bus company. Hmm.
The facilities available on board the Giant Ibis Hyundai Universe Xpress Noble.
Ho Chi Minh City, here I come (for your airport)!
The interior of the Giant Ibis bus.
The conductor comes around to check for tickets (ie. my 12Go Asia booking) and takes my passport away for some paperwork he has to do, possibly for the fast Vietnamese immigration clearance.
The view of the opposing seats.
A power socket is available for each pair of seats, mounted at the side below the window.
The legroom available on the Giant Ibis Hyundai Universe Xpress Noble.
The position of my power socket.
The view of the interior from my seat.
The TV seems to be out of service, with the WiFi details stuck on it instead,
Departing from the Giant Ibis Bus Terminal.
Shortly after departure, the conductor makes a welcome announcement, briefing about the bus journey to Ho Chi Minh City, and distributes a pastry from Blue Pumpkin.
My Blue Pumpkin Chocolate Croissant for breakfast.
A bottle of water was also provided.
Passing by the Independence Monument on the way out of Phnom Penh.
As the junction before the Preah Monivong New Bridge was for a right turn only, the bus had to make a u-turn a short distance ahead, which took up almost the entire both sides of the road. However, all the cars seem to be expecting it and everyone slowed down and stopped without a single horn sounded during the u-turn.
Crossing the Preah Monivong New Bridge over the Bassac River out of Phnom Penh city.
I definitely do not miss the jams when trying to get in to Phnom Penh.
The typical scenery just after crossing the Bassac River.
Approaching the Neak Loeung Bridge.
The Neak Loeung Bridge is a key landmark on National Highway 1 as it crosses the Mekong River, a journey which involved a ferry ride as the only means to get across before the bridge was built. The Neak Loeung Bridge effectively shaved the long waiting time for the ferry and sailing time to just a 5-minute drive over the river.
Unfortunately, this also means that the businesses in the town of Neak Loeung may not get as many passing-through visitors anymore since the highway bypasses it totally.
The bus made a brief stop at Tela Five Star Mart at Kampong Soeng in Ba Phnum District.
The washrooms were available behind the souvenir and snacks shop, which kind of reminded me a little bit of Yong Peng in Johor.
The price of the stuff in the shop were also a little bit higher than the usual Cambodian prices.
Also parked here was a Danh Danh Express Bus on the same route from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City, except that this had a 2+1 seating configuration. Hmm, maybe I should try this next time.
My Giabt Ibis bus at Tela Five Star Mart.
There was also a Sapaco Limousine minibus taking a break here. Maybe I might also consider this instead of the Sapaco Tourist bus.
After the break, the conductor comes around to return everyone their passports to clear Cambodian immigration individually.
Crossing the Tonle Wai Kou after Svay Rieng.
Entering Bavet, the border town.
Passing by the Sapaco Tourist restaurant near the border.
Hmm, I don’t recall seeing casinos around here before.
Lots of American-style trucks hauling containers are seen coming into Cambodia from Vietnam as well.
A lot more casinos are situated closer to the border.
Entering the Bavet International Checkpoint.
The bus stops just before the building for everyone to disembark for individual immigration clearance.
Just approach the nearest available counter at Bavet International Checkpoint, or follow the instructions by the bus conductor to move ahead to another counter.
Once done with immigration, continue walking straight ahead on the road to the far end.
The bus will drive ahead to the far end of the checkpoint.
Before boarding, the staff collects back everyone’s passport for Vietnamese immigration.
Departing from Bavet International Checkpoint.
Vietnam is just up ahead.
However, after dropping off the conductor holding everyone’s passports, the bus made a right turn to Prestige Duty Free for a lunch stop.
The Giant Ibis bus at Prestige Duty Free.
You could buy the wide array of duty free products available if you wish…
… but the main purpose for this 30-minute stop was for lunch.
Here’s the menu of the PSI Restaurant at Prestige Duty Free:
I ordered the Beef Lok Lak for lunch.
Hmm… Looks a little different than the one featured on the picture. Oh well, still edible anyway.
Once done with your meal, pay over at the cashier counter.
Once most passengers are done with lunch, the staff will call for boarding.
… and hello again, Vietnam.
Entering Moc Bai Border Checkpoint.
Here, you have to take all your belongings with you for them to be scanned by Vietnamese customs.
Enter the air-conditioned building through the middle entrance.
Inside, washrooms are available just at the entrance before immigration.
Find your conductor who will already be at the immigration counter, and wait for your name or country to be called out. This happens when the immigration officer has stamped your passport and skillfully tossed it over to the bus conductor. You will then receive your stamped passport from the conductor. Proceed to have your bags scanned, and head back out to reboard the bus.
I like this express immigration service by Giant Ibis already.
The whole immigration process took probably just under 20 minutes.
For the other bus companies, seems like there was a lot more waiting to be done.
Exiting the Moc Bai Border Checkpoint, looking at the former temporary site which felt like a warehouse, which is in fact a legit warehouse today.
Heading onwards to Ho Chi Minh City.
Seems like a new highway is taking shape. Hopefully this would make for a faster journey to Ho Chi Minh City in future.
As the bus approached Ho Chi Minh City, it started to rain pretty heavily.
Passing by Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
Driving by the Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe Canal.
Passing by the railway bridge over Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe Canal.
Shortly before arrival, the conductor once again makes a pre-arrival announcement and thanks everyone for choosing Giant Ibis for the journey.
The bus stops at the Ho Chi Minh City Giant Ibis office at 237, Pham Ngu Lao Street, District 1.
Retrieving my bag from the luggage compartment.
Once everyone has collected their bags, the bus departed from the drop-off point.
From here, I continued on by foot to my hostel.
If you need a return ticket or any further assistance, you can contact the Giant Ibis staff here at their office.
Overall, Giant Ibis remains to be a comfortable way to travel based on their soft product of English-speaking staff, friendliness and the express immigration service at Vietnam, but with newer buses of other bus companies offering a 2+1 seating configuration or smaller limousine vans with a 1+1 seating configuration, the once-typical 2+2 seating configuration of Giant Ibis may not be sustainable in the long run. However, for now, I think I might stick with Giant Ibis for bus travel around Cambodia.