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Published: November 12th 2015
I felt bad for the guys who took us to the boat. Our transportation was three wheeler push bikes with and one small Vietnamese man peddling, aided only with one gear to help him. Add to that that they were not only carrying a larger tourist on the back, but their luggage also. But worse for my guy, he not only had me, but EE and her luggage too! I guess they know what they're doing and Glyn's bike guy was relaxed enough to make a phonecall as he pedalled across a busy junction. It was a small junction afterall, not big enough to warrant taking any notice of the traffic lights, which were on red. The areas of Vietnam that we've seen have been very flat, so the the incline over this junction was barely noticeable, except to me and EE who were anxious about the light jumping. I say jumping, but I mean a painfully slow pedal up as mopeds swooped and swayed around us.
The ferry port was an office with a couple of boats where we held our place at the front so we could get the open area at the back of the boat, sharing
with some Italians and French. There were quite a few other tourists, some with ship sinking size luggage and a suit carrier - who takes a suit on holiday?!
The trip was described as an 'exhilarating' speed boat journey up the River Mekong. Now were were the fastest thing on the river, but exhilarating - well there was a breeze! And it was entertaining seeing the guys in small fishing boats bobbing wildly in our wake.
After 45 mins or so we arrived at Vinh Xuong on the border where our passports and visas were taken and paid for. We disembarked and hung about whilst passports were stamped then returned to our places. Oh the horror - two Americans had purposely barged into the European Union at the back, one of them loudly proclaiming that he was intending to violate the unspoken rules of tourism and not ask the other tourists, they were taking these places whatever. And they spread out, swilling beer (it was 8.30am) and chucked the empties on the floor. Add to that, one of the guys was large and took up the space of two, the Europeans were disgruntled and mumbled to themselves.
A few minutes up the river, we had to get off again at Kaam Samnor for customs into Cambodia. How relaxed was that? Six guys sat outside around a wooden table, processing our visas whilst we hung around in the shade. Our passports were returned and we were anxious to get ours before the obnoxious americans! Andy and Helen got their first and Andy was prepared to get all Scottish, paint himself blue, shout in loud indecipherable scots and headbutt anyone in his way. But first we queued to get lots of stamps on the passports.
Glyn and I were stamped after the Americans, so we were disappointed to see them not try to fight their way on to the boat, I was looking forward to the Scottish carnage! However, the little american did come to the back and politely asked if there was any room, I guess he got the message and decided to be nice. But the Italians it seems were very pissed off by the earlier rudeness and werent budging up and the American left with his tail between his legs. We all looked at each other knowingly, our tutting and grumbling had done the trick,
we are so clever. So we decided to start a Mekong War: Europe versus America - hooray!! Just hope our Americans, Steve and EE are ok about this.
We'd been told the trip would take 4-5 hours and it took 6 hours. As we progressed, there were less buildings on the riverbank and we saw a lot of farmers, crops and white cattle. The small fishing boats were noticeably different to those in Vietnam: Vietnamese boats were usually very open and the occupants protected themselves from the sun using hats, whereas Cambodian boats tended to have semi-cylindrical shelters and/or umbrellas.
Landing at Phnom Penh, which is the capital of Cambodia (population three million) we were met by a new guide named Sokum who directed us to some tuk tuks to take us to our hotel. We noted that it was a lot hotter than Vietnam but we were soon we were hit with refreshing rain. Phnom Penh has a lot of high rise buildings plus a lot of traditional pagoda style architecture. Glyn pointed out the text on shops and billboards and we noted that characters are neither roman or chinese and are very wiggly.
a lot more sedate than that I've witnessed in Vietnam and the ratio of cars to mopeds and bikes was far more equal, plus horn usage was minimal. The bike helmets are far more protective and sturdy although not everyone bothered with them, likewise there was far less people wearing facemasks.
Out hotel had a worrying sign: No drugs, No sexual exploitation, No guns and other weapons, No child abuse, No smoking in the rooms... etc. Depressing that some things needed to be mentioned and not taken as a given. The hotel also had a cat.
The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda were next on the to do list after lunch. Outside were the first disabled beggars I have seen this holiday. The Royal Palace is the official residence of the unmarried 63 year old King. I'm not sure if something was lost in translation, but I got the idea that he's a ballet dancer. The palace is pretty amazing with lots of gilding, carvings pagodas, etc, and as always when I visit famous old buildings, part of it was covered in scaffolding. The bonus being that there were monkeys roaming through the scaffolding, they were totally loose
so I guess they're wild. Gyn also found me a kitten asleep behind a hedge. Inside the treasury were more buddhas than you can shake a stick at.
Next stop was the National Museum, filled with ancient statues of gods with no willies but big smiles. And lots of arms and heads as a display of power, so I do wonder, why not lots of legs too?
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