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Published: July 13th 2012
Our coach collected us soon after 8am and it wasn't too shabby for the cheapest we could find! Again no backpackers in sight but we had reclining leather seats with a foot rest and free water, home for the next six hours on our journey to Cambodia. We stopped a few times on the way out of the city to collect more passengers and eventually set into a roll about 10.30am the time at which we were told by the ever mis-trusted LP guide we would arrive at the border! We saw huge numbers of rice paddies and the city turned into acres of countryside but blurred with the rain that started to hammer our home! When we did arrive at the border we were instructed to hand over our passport and $25 to the coach assistant. The visa costs $20 and we were aware that the companies often overcharge you as they fastback you through immigration and if you try to do it alone they will leave you stranded without your luggage! So we begrudgingly handed over the extra $10 our days allowance disappeared!
You got off the coach to enter the Vietnamese side visa hall collected your passport when your name was called "Ben-j-a-meen k-anney" and then handed the passport back to the coach worker, you got back on to The coach 200m later you were off and ushered into the Cambodia hall where you had finger prints taken electronically - the first time since we set out- collected your passport then handed it to someone else who checked it and cleared you back on the coach. It was then another 200m and we stopped for lunch at a road side shack. These were becoming all too familiar and with no menu and just point to old boiled food and no English we got some Oreos which were also becoming a bit too familiar. At least they didn't taste of dust as they did in Laos! What we noticed was the number of casinos as we drove into Cambodia, we think it must be illegal to gamble in Vietnam and this is the nearest retreat!
We were then driven a further 3 and half hours till we arrived on a main road in Phnom Penh about 4pm. Only an hour later than predicted so pretty good really! We got a bit of a treat as we crossed the Mekong River by ferry port for a few minutes, where even in the sanctuary of the coach beggars came on and hawkers selling things that looked like green flowers which locals were eating. We stuck to the diminishing pack of Oreos. No we haven't been brave with food but we had thus far escaped travellers diarrhoea and wished to keep it this way! We also passed hours of countryside with the occasional village peppering on the horizon, shops again were huts that had an open front with a bench of items that arrived before the war. Amongst the fields were starved cows and horses, the malnourished animals ate what was left of the mud, all grass eaten before, their udders sagged like 80 year old ladies and you could count every bone of their rib cages, we also saw starved chickens eating the rubbish that plagued the streets, yeah think we will remain vegi!
We were, as usual, accosted upon stepping out of the coach but had passed somewhere that was in the LP guide a few blocks back so we politely told them no and set about the ten minute walk with our heavy packs. We checked in and surprisingly the price quoted in LP was the same $12 a night for air con double room and tv. Lauren was trying to warn Ben not to keep expecting tv's but we had had one since we left the first hostel back in Chiang Mai! We also had free wifi which the LP guide said it would cost! We booked our coach to Siem Reap at the front desk for an early 7am bus which means being picked up at 6.15am!
We headed to get some food before getting an early night and walked the twenty or so minutes to the river front. The issue we faced was that we had no riel, the currency for Cambodia, as we were told everywhere took dollar, we could have changed dong if we had any left at the border but we had carefully ensured we didn't take out extra from the ATM. So we had two options find some money exchange that would give change for our $100 bills and only a small amount of riel or find a bigger establishment that could give change. The first couple of places we stumbled across judged the note as fake and asked us to move on! But we found one that would give us $10 riel and $90 back in dollars, with that sorted we actually found a gem of a place. An Indian where we had poppadoms, two curries, rice, chips, naan, a bottle of water, a cocktail and 2 Angkor beers for Ben for $16! We had been aware that Phnom Penh can be dangerous at night so we bartered a tuk tuk home for $3 and then driven by a ten year old who rode the motorbike at the front as we sat in a mini horse cart of sorts attached at the back! We got back safely though and tried to fall asleep quickly.
We are now pretty shattered as Lauren doesn't tend to sleep the night before we have transport booked and thinks its a good time to chat to Ben, as we are driven in a not quite so luxurious bus to Siem Reap the gateway to Angkor Wat. We realise just how poor Cambodia is as we pass many a field unlaboured as a large proportion of the ethnic majority fled in the late 70's under the terrifying Khmer Rouge or suffered their fate at their hands (more on that when we return to the capital in a few days). We passed more shacks of shops and shacks of houses plus some very wealthy looking properties. Cambodia is known as one of the most corrupt countries in the world and it isn't hard to see why. The separation between rich and poor is so evident while there are a few stunning homes the main buildings in towns that are of sound structure are the banks. There is rubbish all over the ground, in people's back yards and front yards, it seems they have no respect or no option, perhaps bin men don't come out far from town. You also see children rummaging through trying to find scrap and plastic that they can trade for money at bigger recycling of sorts depots scattered every 30km or so. It is very sad to see the amount of children performing theses types of acts, nowhere near the schools you would hope they attend. We do pass schools that had children in their white shirts and blue shorts playing games looking happy but you know this is a very small proportion of the children living in Cambodia and thus in poverty. One slogan was "school is necessary, work is not for a child".
We stopped again at a bigger shack for food and the horrible squat toilets full of Mosquitos where you can only pray not to pee on yourself! At least they had some plain banquettes here so we shared one hoping we were over half way. We have accommodation booked at this place with the luxury of a swimming pool, and a free shuttle to town and from the out of town bus stop that we were assured we would be dropped off. So here is to hoping it is a nice place and as we enter the eight wonder of the world we reach some enlightenment.
Things of note:
As in Laos every restaurant/hotel is sponsored by one of two beers, anchor beer with a picture of anchors, not too dissimilar to the butter at home which is a pilsner and Angkor beer named after the proudest monument for Cambodians
The huge amount of countryside with nothing but malnourished cows for miles then an impending village springs up from nowhere
There are still lots of bikes as the choice of transport but they wear full helmets
The tuk tuks are back in full force thesse taking 4-6 people as a front and back facing in (like a train) rather than facing each other horizontally in Laos)
Things we would do differently:
Nothing as we will be back in a few days! Just wish we didn't have to do such a return trip but we have to fly to Thailand to get our 30 day visa as crossing the border by land only gives 15 days and we need longer, but flying from Siem Reap was way too expensive and through Kuala Lumpur.
There are no pictures due to returning on Monday and we were rushing about and forgot to take it with us!
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