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Published: December 2nd 2012
View from Kep National Park
That's Cambodia's south coast in the distance, and the Gulf of Thailand.
So it's farewell Vietnam, but not being one final *mini* scam!
I'd bought my minibus ride to cross the border, and in the process joined a group of a dozen or so Westerners who were also heading to Cambodia. As we approached the Vietnamese side of the border, led by our guide, it seemed we were not obliged to stop to have our documents checked. It felt rather odd to me, but I just thought it was another one of those things. Only after we'd reached the Cambodian side of the border did the guide turn to me and exclaim, "Oh yes, Singapore!" It turned out the others didn't need to have their passports stamped at the exit, because they'd previously submitted it to the guide for their Cambodian visas to be processed. However, I didn't need a visa, so still needed to get the usual stamps, and the guide had forgotten about this.
Anyway, it turned out she needed to take my passport (on motorcycle) back to the Vietnamese border for stamping. I wanted to go with her, but she told me to wait at the Cambodian border instead. I didn't insist, but it felt like a long
Old Colonial Villa
Apparently there are dozens of these scattered around. Many of them used to be holiday villas for the wealthy (and royal!), during Kep's heyday as a holiday resort in the 1960s. These days many of them are disused and abandoned. This particular one was doubling as a "nursery" though.
wait as I saw her scooting away in the distance with my passport, hoping she'd return soon. Thankfully she did, but guess what, the pen that I'd clipped with my passport was gone! The Vietnamese immigration officials decided to pocket that as my last gift to them! I couldn't believe it. I didn't think it would happen, as it wasn't really worth anything, and surely didn't look like it was worth much. The irony also was that during my entire stay in the country, everytime I handed over my passport to the guesthouses for safekeeping, they would tell me to remove the pen first. So the one time I didn't bother, it disappeared! I asked the guide about it, and she replied, ironically with the exact same words and tone as the previous scam I'd encountered with the bus conductor at My Tho, "I don't know!" I just sighed.
And we received another scam also to welcome us to Cambodia. The official collecting the health declaration forms asked for USD1 "processing fee" from each of us. We all had our suspicions, but most of us paid, except for a French couple who insisted that they'd already paid through the
tour agent. A quick check with Wikitravel later revealed this was indeed a scam, and no fee was really required. So any Cambodia-bound readers, remember this!
Anyway, before long I'd arrived in the beach town of Kep, perhaps the quietest of the three on the south coast that I intended to check out before heading to Phnom Penh. Kep used to be a popular beach getaway for the locals back in its heyday in the 60s. These days it's looking a little ragged, but otherwise still retains a certain charm. Though quite crowded in the afternoons with visiting domestic day-trippers, the nights are quiet, and the surrounding countryside and limestone karsts sublime. Time definitely passes slower here than Vietnam, and notwithstanding the border "health form scam", the people do seem friendlier, and less aggressive and mercenary, contributing to a generally more relaxed vibe. Hope it stays this way, as I could certainly use a break from constantly having to be on my toes in Vietnam!
Stayed at Brise de Kep Guesthouse.
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