A quick tour of Phnom Penh these days definitely shows signs of the Chinese New Year coming close. Not only do you see SALE signs popping up everywhere – definitely a good time to shop! – but its common to see flashes of red and gold abound. Chinese lanterns are also predominantly decorating the shops around the city.
Fast Facts: Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival in China.
It is the most important holiday in China.
It is split between two important dates: Chinese New Year’s eve and Chinese New Year’s day.
The date is different each year on the Gregorian (internationally-used) calendar, but is always between January 21th and February 20th.
2017 is the Year of the Rooster.
Chinese New Year in Cambodia
Although the Spring Festival is celebrated by Chinese, Cambodians and Vietnamese have been carrying the tradition of celebrating the New Year throughout the generations. In Cambodia, Khmer and Chinese, and even other nationalities do celebrate this as well. However, it is NOT considered an Official holiday in the Kingdom of Wonder.
Many locals treat this holiday with similar observance as Pchum Ben. What can be observed is that the streets would be a little bit quiet, some stores would be closed, and several employees take time off to spend time with their families.
If you have plans for travelling during major holidays, such as the upcoming Chinese New Year celebration, it is important to think ahead and set your expectations. What is it like?
Well, you know how much of a difficulty it is to book plane tickets and hotels during Christmas and New Years? Booking boat or bus tickets is not much different. Just because you plan to travel within the same country that is teeming with bus companies, does not make it any easier. But let us help you make it less difficult.
Editor’s Note: Here’s a fun take on a trip our traveler, Morgane, took on a first solo trip in Cambodia. Morgane recounts that not all trips to Siem Reap have to be perfectly organized from the get-go. All content and images are from the contributor.
My mother is the best trip organizer I know. Unluckily we cannot say the same thing about me.
It has been a few months since I’m living in Phnom Penh. It is a busy and crowded town and after a few weeks, you just feel you got to go out of it.
The thing is I am really busy working on several projects for work. I ended up booking a guesthouse online and since I had the BookMeBus application on my phone, I just took a bus ticket on it.
As I wanted to arrive there on Friday, I took a night bus with Seila Angkor Express. My friends were telling me I wouldn’t be able to sleep on the bus, but I was positively surprised by the bus and enjoy a nice night on it. They even changed drivers after the first half of the ride.
I arrived at 5AM in the morning and just walked to the nearest market to enjoy the early activities there. After a while and arming myself with some hot bananas, I went to the Riverside and sat there a bit, just watching the sunrise turn the sky into an amazing and colorful show.
As I am a coffee lover, I headed towards the first coffee opened, which happened to be Brown Coffee and drank a lovely mocha. The space was great and the staff adorable.
Well, I had a team meeting at 9PM, so I went to The 1961, which is an art gallery and a coworking space in the West Upper Riverside to work for the day. I basically just worked remotely for the day into this nice and spacious environment.
Siem Reap surprised me, I was expecting a bigger city, with a lot of infrastructures and roads, but basically, in comparison to Phnom Penh, it just looks like a huge village to me. But a very peaceful and interesting village. I didn’t borrow a bike and just enjoyed walking for the weekend. The tuktuk drivers were asking me every 5 meters but I still enjoyed the atmosphere there.
On the Friday evening, I went to an event organized by AngkorHUB, another coworking space located next to the Night market to hear Robin Biddulph talk about his experience in Cambodia. I’ve learnt a lot from it and met the Hub’s community.
That is why I decided to go back there on the Saturday morning to work on my programming skills. I lunched with the team and met new people full of projects before heading to a meeting with the game studio Direxplay. They explained me everything I wanted to know about their business and their vision for the future. I walked out of the interview and downloaded their most famous game ‘Sok and Sao’s adventure’.
I went to Wat Bo on my own, walking through the streets and stopping at the Old Market. I took the time to play with a kid and asked for directions before entering the Wat. It was really quiet and there weren’t a lot of tourists there. I took some pictures and admired the architecture and the wall paintings.
Afterwards, I visited to the brand new Biolab Café as a good friend of mine told me to check the place out. I stayed there enough to enjoy some coffee and snacks. Accompanied later with two friends, I discovered the khmer BQQ and spent the dinner talking and laughing. It was then the time to discover the famous Pub Street and the Temple. We have a drink over here and keep on spending the night talking.
My Sunday morning was about waking up smoothly, walking in the quiet streets, discovering new coffee places such New Leaf, doing some writing.
I left Siem Reap in a mini-van with Golden Bayon Express and it was very punctual. I slept during all the ride so I didn’t notice the 5 hours.
It was my first solo trip in Cambodia, and I loved it.
I am living & working in Phnom Penh. I had to go to Bangkok for few days due (or thanks) to some business meeting. As always, I took a bus to reach the Thai border from Cambodia and I arrived to Poipet. First, you have to know that Thai are driving on the left (like British) & Cambodian are driving right side (such as French). Due to that and legacy, most of the bus coming from Cambodia cannot cross the border and continue until Bangkok. Therefore they are in partnership with other bus companies on the other side of the border.
Thus, I am warmly recommend you to ask the bus driver how is it going to be working once arrived at the border. Most of the time, the other company is waiting for you once the bus arrive and follow you until you enter into the bus to reach your final destination. If you don’t want any issue on that point, I will recommend you to take a direct bus but they are only few of them and are more expensive.
Once arrived to Poipet crossing point, you have to check out from Cambodia and walk until checking point of Thailand. Most of the time, the queue is really huge, you have to be patient!! I pass without any problems. As a French citizen I don’t have to pay for Visa in Thailand (and I think that it’s free of charge for most of citizenship – However have a look at your embassy website again!). Once you arrive in Thailand, if you are looking for a bus, a coffee, a guesthouse or whatever, you have to keep going straight and after 5 min walking on your left you will have many buses companies that are going everywhere in Thailand.
I finally reached Bangkok and stayed there for few days meeting. On my way back I just took a bus to the border and stay on the Thai part because I knew that I will be in a hurry if I wanted to pass the border (Poipet crossing point is closed between 9.30 pm until 7 am) as well as I don’t like passing border night time. I finally passed the border on early morning and everything was fine because I had my multiple entry visa for Cambodia. If you arrive without any Visa, please refer to my border story between Vietnam & Cambodia. However, if you are aware of the Visa application it shouldn’t be a problem.
When you arrive in Poipet (Cambodian part), you have many bus companies, just pick up the one you prefer!
I hope my stories helped you!
See you around!!
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