Holiday in Kampuchea
Sidenote: Slackage has struck with regard to my beloved travel blog. Though I took these photos and visited these places a while ago, I intend to play some catch up and get the blog’s chronology more or less back to present time. I actually visited Cambodia at the end of February of 2011.
I left Saigon early in the morning, having a little ice coffee before hitting the road to fight the already sweltering heat and sharpen my senses a little for the treacherous ride ahead. When you ride in the country in Vietnam things are somewhat predictable, as well as in the core of the cities. The main arteries leading in and out of the city, however, are deadly circuses of multi-lane traffic on roads that usually only have two lanes. The right of strongest prevails, and my Minsk is no match for a big bus or truck barreling down on me on the last bit of road left — better to run off into the ditch and take your chances there.
My only goal for the day was to cross into Cambodia (Kampuchea in Khmer). I read some conflicting accounts online that crossing the border was anywhere from impossible to “a breeze”, so with all my gear strapped on(including the kites and board) I rode straight to the border in the most optimistic of mindsets. The Vietnamese border was a breeze to cross with the only harassment a chatty border official asking me about my Minsk (“Min-car goood. How much you pay? $250? Ooooh that’s very expensive…”). The Cambodian official smiled a little when I already knew the correct fee ahead of time — they are infamous for making up the fees to whatever sucker price they can get, and other than a minor extortion attempt with exchange rate on the Vietnamese Dong they were correct and whisked me through. I realized I had enough time to make Phnom Penh by daylight — a reason for excitement, for there is not much in the way of towns with lodging between the Vietnam border at Bavet and Phnom Penh city.
A few things struck me immediately after entering Cambodia — the traffic went to virtually non-existant, and Bavet is a full-on mini-Vegas of the region including its own Winn Casino (yes, spelled like that), but without the glamour and bling of the real Las Vegas. My ride took me to the banks of the mighty Mekong river, the last barrier to cross before a leisurely 60 km to Phnom Penh. The crossing was quite simply amazing — I was huddled next to a bunch of other scooters and motorcycles bringing whose owners were bringing their wares into the capital to sell. The boat was a seaworthy-enough looking ferry and the ride was swift. My main concern was the three live sows strapped to the scooter next to me, the largest of which had grown quite ornery and her bottom parts were facing me…