Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Cambodia: Scenic Train Ride from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville

http://www.blissfulguro.com/2017/09/phnom-penh-to-sihanoukville-train-blog.html

Halfway through our journey from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, I was awoken by a loud honk that signaled our second stopover. By this time, we should’ve arrived on our destination if we've taken the faster four-hour bus ride, but then, we chose to endure the seven-hour train ride. Me and my buddy adore unhurried rides. We never tire of the bucolic countryside scenes and the locals’ way of life through local transportation.

Sihanoukville was our sixth stop during Same Same Summer Trip 2017, our annual two-month backpacking trip, where we explored some of our favorite cities in Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. We just finished a week of exploration at Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and we’re on our way to our next adventure (check here for discounted tours, transportation and activities in Phnom Penh).

Royal Railway Cambodia Train Phnom Penh To Sihanoukville
Train Ride is Love! :)
If I have to choose between traveling on a bus or local train, I'd choose the latter in a heartbeat. Of course, that is if I have the time. In our recent backpacking trip, me and my buddy traveled from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville via Cambodia's newly restored Royal Railway passenger trains. 

We had our fair share of memorable train rides before, such as the ten-hour train ride in Myanmar during their water festival, where every stopover was an opportunity for locals to throw water at us, and riding on one of the most scenic train rides in the world in Sri Lanka.

Royal Railway Cambodia Train Phnom Penh To Sihanoukville
Royal Railway Cambodia
My buddy was originally planning on taking a bus ride going to Sihanoukville, when a friend suggested that we consider riding the train instead. We were thrilled upon knowing that there’s a scheduled train on the day of our planned departure.

We secured our train tickets at Phnom Penh’s Royal Railway Station a day before the scheduled trip for $7.00 per person. We were informed by the ticket seller to arrive at least fifteen minutes before the estimated time of departure. The train from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville is available every Fridays (3:00 pm), Saturdays and Sundays (7:00am and 4:00pm). Travel time is around seven hours.

Royal Railway Cambodia Train Phnom Penh To Sihanoukville
Head-to-Head
The old station, with its beautiful architecture, is a landmark in itself. Built in 1932 during the French colonial administration, the 600-kilometer rail network went as far as Poipet on the north and Sihanoukville to the south; it took 35 months to build. Cambodia’s railway system suffered great damages during the war era and was almost destroyed. Efforts to rebuild the transport infrastructure started in 2010 including the train system. In 2013, Royal Railways opened its door again for freight services. And in April 2017, they reopened its passenger services.

Royal Railway Cambodia Train Phnom Penh To Sihanoukville
Phnom Penh Station
We arrived at around seven in the morning at the train station. The early Sunday scene was so lovely that we wanted nothing but to sit along a roadside hawker to have our morning coffee. But we were rushing to get to the train so we went straight to our assigned platform.

The free seating arrangement let us choose our own spot. We were led by a marshal on the coach indicated on our ticket and settled on our seats.

Royal Railway Cambodia Train Phnom Penh To Sihanoukville
Comfy Cushioned Seats, AC, LED TV, WiFi, and Clean Toilets for Only $7.00
We sat near the window on two cushioned benches facing each other. The cool air from the AC felt like I was inside a movie house as I stretched my legs. Our coach was dominated by locals, aside from three other tourists, who were enjoying a local TV show. They were laughing in unison every time the host mentioned something funny. I couldn't understand a thing though, it was in pure Khmer.

Royal Railway Cambodia Train Phnom Penh To Sihanoukville
Seven-Hour Train Ride from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville
Besides the cushioned seats, the toilet was clean, there's a free WiFi and a TV. You may think that it’s a luxury coach but it isn't. Actually, there are no class distinctions on all the coaches. From all of our train rides in our backpacking trips, the Royal Railway of Cambodia was definitely the most comfortable one.

The trip commenced as a loud honk echoed throughout the station.

Royal Railway Cambodia Train Phnom Penh To Sihanoukville
Stopover at Takeo Station
We had a breakfast pack prepared by our lodging, Billabong Hotel and Hostel. Taking pleasure on our simple meal, we finally left the city. Urban morning scenes quickly changed to rustic rural landscape. I was into it for the first hour, but then got lulled to sleep afterwards. A thing my buddy predicted early on.

My side of the bench suited my fetal form well. I grabbed my good old aqua blue sarong, which I got from Bali years ago, and snoozed right away. Getting used to the train's rocking motion, its rhythm cradled me to sleep. Sleeping on trains, planes, or even boats isn't a problem for me at all. I could transport myself to dreamland whenever, wherever.

Royal Railway Cambodia Train Phnom Penh To Sihanoukville
Freight Services
I was in a state of complete trance when I felt the train move into a complete stop. It was the first of our two stopovers.

Me and my buddy did some stretching exercises as we dismounted from the train. The rest of the passengers took this time in getting foodstuff from the peddlers at the Takeo Station. My buddy motioned on getting something to munch on onboard, so we grabbed a couple of huge green Cambodian mangoes and a handful of salt and chili dip. It was the best snack combo in the country for my buddy.

Royal Railway Cambodia Train Phnom Penh To Sihanoukville
Snacks at Takeo Station
He continued working on his laptop afterwards, while I joined the crowd as they watched a local TV show. I still couldn't fathom what it was about. I went back to my train musings at the window and watched as Cambodia's countryside unfolds itself; kids who were enjoying their midnoon swim on a swamp, waving as we passed, and farmers busily tending their farms.

Royal Railway Cambodia Train Phnom Penh To Sihanoukville
Bucolic Countryside Scene
Another stop was made at Kampot Station. This time, passengers rushed outside and bought lunch meals. We decided to join the mayhem and got our own pack which we consumed in the train together with the rest of the passengers.

Royal Railway Cambodia Train Phnom Penh To Sihanoukville
Our Lunch Pack Bought at Kampot Station
I slept again right after the meal and was awoken by a slow tapping motion on my shoulder. My buddy said that we have arrived in Sihanoukville, laughing while saying that I slept more than half the time.

Royal Railway Cambodia Train Phnom Penh To Sihanoukville
Coach Link | Smoking Area
Slowly coming back to consciousness, I grabbed my stuff and went out from the train coach. The afternoon heat seared us while we searched for our tuk tuk ride provided by our hotel (you may want to share a ride to the city center with other passengers to cut the cost).


I love train rides. It’s the only ride that I always look forward to during our backpacking trips. Aside from seeing a different side of the country, the chance of experiencing the locals' way of life is priceless; the bumpy motion of the train coach, the loud noise from the honk, the occasional vendors selling what-nots inside the train, and the lovely smiles from locals when your eyes meet theirs. It was definitely one of the highlights of our Cambodia trip.


Check here for discounted hotels in Phnom Penh



Royal Railway Head Office
Central Railway Station, Sangkat Sras Chork,
Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Contact Number: (+855) 23.992.379
Email Address: sreytouch.ly@trrcambodia.com
Website






4 comments:

  1. salamat sa post na'to, blissfulguro! 'di pa ito operational when i was in cambodia for six months back in 2015, so this is really something worth returning for. and it's nice to finally hear your speaking voice! bigla ka lang naming nakita sa isang vlog ng isang Filiino vlogger. At ang una mo talagang sinabi ay, "Kamusta na bakla?" hahaha, ang saya mo sigurong kasama!! Wishing you more awesome travels, deserve mo 'yan! Excited to see what countries you guys will visit next next year. sana matuloy na kayo sa morocco, ISRAEL or egypt!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there ANCD! Wow. Saang vlog yun and sinong vlogger? Panood! Hehe. I'm also excited sa backpacking trip namin. Kahit saan pa yan. Hihi. Salamat sa suporta :)

      Delete