Tuesday, February 21

Into Cambodia

I realized that it's taking WAY longer to blog about our trip than to actully go on it, so I decided to get off my ass and write a little.

We came back into Saigon from the Mekong and started planning our escape to Cambodia. We were ready to move on. Vientnam was good, but we were searching for the sun, and word on the street was that Cambodia had it.

We decided to head out for our last dinner in Vietnam, which honestly I don't remember. What I do remember is we ended up at a Frenchman's bar eating delicious crepes for dessert, and having a few drinks. Or maybe a few more than a few drinks... still can't remember. Come on, we were kinda celebrating leaving Vietnam.

Yup, a Black Russian with a straw... that's how they roll in Vietnam.

And even though we had had a few drinks we still weren't as bad as this guy.
(WARNING: that's a 3MB video file for those of you with slow connections, or low patience)

So, it was a good last night in Vietnam. We decided we'd take a bus trip to the border the next day, cross the border into Cambodia, and start our adventure there.

We took a bus from Saigon to Phnom Penh, crossing the border at Moc Bai.

We were ready to be somewhere different... try something new. It was kind of nice getting on the bus. We had plenty of room and the trip to the border wasn't bad at all. We met this really nice couple from New Zealand, and this really nice (although a little clingy) man from Canada. They all made it a much nicer trip, we had good conversations and generally joked around. We were actually a little surprised at how well it was going. But, of course, Vietnam didn't disappoint... or I guess it did, depending on how you look at it.

While crossing the border into Cambodia we had to go through several Vietnamese checkpoints: Checking our bags, checking our passports, clearing customs, etc... at the last Vietnamese checkpoint, the guard took our Vietnamese visas out of our passports and kept the visas. We really wanted them as souvenirs, so we asked repeatedly if we could have them back. He kept saying, "NO, just go!" and waving his hand...

There comes a point when you think, "Is it worth getting shot at the Vietnamese border for a souvenier?" Obviously the answer is, "No," so we moved on disappointedly. When we arrived at the Cambodian border, it was all smiles. The guards were very nice and helpful, and they even taught us some Khmer.

The best thing they told us was, "You can't come into Cambodia without an exit visa stamp on a Vietnamese visa." Oh, shit. When we told them that a Vietnamese guard had taken our visas, they all kinda chuckled, looked at each other knowingly, and sent us back towards Vietnam.

Now we were pissed, and a little worried. The prospect of spending the rest of our lives in the buffer zone between Vietnam and Cambodia wasn't exciting. We sped back over to the guard, afraid he might not still be there, and said, "They won't let us into Cambodia without our visas!" At which point he reached into his pocket, pulled them out, gave them to us with a pissed look on his face and dismissed us with a grunt and a wave. He was gonna steal our visas and sell them on the black market!! Ah, Vietnam!

On the other side of the border we caught up with our group and awaited the bus ride to Phnom Penh. We had a nice little lunch at a street side cafe, and told our border crossing story to our new friends.

Me, the Canadian, and the Kiwi couple enjoying some lunch.

Not too much later a guide came up and told us the bus had arrived, so we hoisted our packs and wandered over to board the bus. When we got on the bus, it was already almost full. Luckily, the five of us got some of the last seats on the bus. And, of course, everyone's luggage was piled up in the aisle.

But then more people started getting on the bus...with more luggage. Turns out, there are several tour busses that get you from Saigon to the Vietnamese border, but only one that takes you from the border to Phnom Penh. So this bus was crammed with like 4 different tour groups. And, of course no one had thought far enough ahead to realize there wasn't gonna be enough room for everyone. So they got creative...

That's right... plastic kiddy chairs in the aisle.

We couldn't believe it. We thought it was gonna be Vietnam all over again... Especially since part of the trip involved stopping to wait for a ferry. When the bus stopped, these ladies approached the bus.

Peddling their wares to the bus riders...

But the touts weren't really aggressive. It was refreshing. The ladies just stood there with smiles on their faces. If they caught your eye, they'd offer something up... but there was no yelling or begging, and everything was done with a smile. Ah, Cambodia. After about a 10 minute wait we loaded onto the ferry. Keep in mind, these ferries aren't quite Washington State Ferries...

A view out of the bus on the ferry. Look closely at the back of the motorcycle (click to enlarge).

Hanging out on the ferry

Soon after we drove off the ferry, we pulled off to the side of the road. At first I wasn't quite sure why. But our Kiwi friends were on the other side of the bus and told us we were "filling up." I didn't understand, we were just at the side of some dusty road. They said, "Give us your camera..."

Texaco - Cambodian style.

After the refueling operations were complete, it was an uneventful journey into Phnom Penh.
So nice to be out of Vietnam and into Cambodia!



At 3:24 PM, Blogger mytos said...

Tanks for the story of your holiday trip.
I'm traveling with you, reading your storyes.

At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are you so surprised at what the guy on the ferry was carrying on the back of his motorcycle. Obviously, he was riding a HOG and wanted to advertise it.



At 5:45 AM, Anonymous Nate said...

I hope that that guy doesn't HOG all that food for himself!

Ha, ha! I'm hilarious!


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