The Ride to Phnom Penh

The day started early as we emarked on our journey to Cambodia. At 8:15 we were picked up from our hotel to go to the meeting point for our bus. The first bus, a three hours ride, took us to the Moc Bai-Bavet border between Vietnam and Cambodia. After waiting to exit Vietnam for over an hour (to get our passports stamped), we walked through the no-mans land to a temple-styled immigration center for Cambodia.

At the border, we bought visas to Cambodia for $20 USD/pax, walked over to another counter to get the passport stamped, then over to another to clear immigration. All this was out in the open, any intrepid soul could have walked through it and not caught the attention of an offical. We, on the other hand, went thru the whole process and emerged in Cambodia in Bavet. We had been instructed to look for another bus on the Cambodia side, and for a moment thought we’d lost the bus since we couldn’t find any that fit the description. It turns out it was just hiding, so after walking around lost is the middle of 95F, 85% humidity, deforested Cambodia we found shelter in the bus.

The ride from Bavet to Phnom Penh was another 5 hours or so. We stopped for a little at a ferry crossing in order to get over a river (not sure which, perhaps the Tonle Sap?). The little area in which the cars and motos queued was full of poor beggar children asking for alms, women selling sodas and water, men selling dried birds and shrimp, etc, etc. I handed off a bunch of the spare food that we had packed to the beggars. While we crossed the river, a downpour started, so I’m not sure where they ended up.

The road on the other side of the river was even more bumpy, chaotic and pot-hole-full than the others I’ve been on in this trip. We made it to Phnom Penh around 6pm and found a moto(rcycle guy) to take us to our hotel, the Flamingo. He tried to pull the now-standard trick in the area. “Oh, that hotel? It’s full, my friend say so. I’ll take you to other place.” The hotel is fine and it has one of those showers that are in the same room as the sink and toilet (e.g. no shower over tub). Reminds me of India.

On that point, a lot of Cambodia reminds me of India. The facial features of the Khmer are a lot closer to Indian features than to north-Asian (e.g. Chinese or Japanese). It’s stands out even compared to the Vietnamese. I’ve had a few people think I was Cambodian. The streets also remind me quite a bit of India, with random folks hanging out in metal-roofed lean-tos, piles of garbage sitting around with kids playing in it and adults collecting, etc. It feels a bit like a cross of what I remember of Nagpur and Bombay, but of course it’s been a while since I’ve been in either.

Tomorrow we head to Siem Reap to start three nights in the Angor Wat region. The bus departs at 7:30am for another six hour treck.