We said a very sad goodbye to ABC Bakery (by stuffing our faces with bready goodness) and the rest of Ho Chi Minh City and made our way by, you guessed it, a bus, to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. This was a bit of a special border crossing for me as it marked the 10th country I’ve been to.
We had to get visas when we got to the border which can sometimes be an interesting experience but we knew that as long as we had a new crisp $20 USD bill, we should be fine. Luckily most tour buses crossing the border will sort the visa out for you so that’s what we ended up doing (cost us $5 more but they didn’t really give us a choice). Poor Matt was the last waiting at every checkpoint of the process. Particularly when he was waiting for his passport to be returned with the visa inside – maybe they have special screening requirements for Kiwis? Either way, there was a lot of me waving goodbye to him wondering how long it would take for him to come through as well.
Besides that though, the process was pretty smooth and the immigration officials were much more relaxed than Matt had me thinking they were going to be. My guy just chatted on his cell phone while processing my passport and fingerprints!
After crossing the border into Cambodia, our tour bus stopped for a lunch break. Most tours will have a deal with a restaurant and staff of the bus company will get a commission or free meal (or something along those lines). Unfortunately for us foreigners, this usually means stopping at the dodgiest stall on the street, full of bugs and inedible food. This one was particularly bad so Matt and I ended up buying Pringles for our lunch. Not the most nutritious but it was far better than food poisoning.
We arrived at our destination of Phnom Penh about an hour later than scheduled for no good reason, really. I was just happy to check off another bus ride knowing that I only had one more left after this. We checked into our hotel (that ended up being quite nice) with enough time to have a quick Skype catch up with Matt’s Mom and Allan before heading to FCC for happy hour.
FCC (Foreign Correspondence Club) is a pretty famous bar in Phnom Penh for expats. It’s right by the river and has a great view from the rooftop bar.
Most of you know that we lived with Cath and Jono in Wellington for the past 4 years and they’re also moving to the UK. They’ve done a similar trip to us on the way over and our paths crossed in Phnom Penh.
We got to hang out with them for 2 days, talking about our travels and exploring the city. It was really nice to have people around that we knew and could talk to about all the things we’d both done. We’re going to where they’ve already been and vice versa so were also able to give each other tips on where to stay and what to eat. We stayed in the same hotel and they even booked the same place we did in HCM based on what we told them. Love sharing travel tips! Is there a job in the UK for me to do that? Cause that would be so much fun!
We had a cute little girl trying to sell us books at dinner. She was so tiny and could barely lift her box of books, we all felt so bad for her. When Matt said to her that she’d get big muscles from carrying her books, she flexed her little arm…and then I died from the cute.
Seriously, Cambodia wins the Cutest Children award and I want to adopt them all.
Matt drank a bit more than the rest of us thanks to a happy hour beer deal he thought was awesome (2 big jugs of beer for $3) so he wasn’t feeling so hot the next morning. Lucky for him, at the convenience store we found this drink and apparently it actually works!
After that, we headed to the Russian Markets. Upon reading Wikipedia, it’s called that because of Vietnamese occupation at the time it started (and we all know how much Vietnam loves Russia). We know it because it’s featured on our favourite TV show, The Amazing Race, a few times. There are hundreds of stalls and quite a few of them sell the same things but it was pretty fun to walk around looking at all the silk scarves, t-shirts, etc. We went in the morning as we read that it gets very crowded and hot later on so not all the stalls were opened. I still managed to buy a couple silk scarves and ‘Giorgio Armani’ sunglasses for a grand total of $7.
Matt’s been here before and went to the Killing Fields and The Royal Palace but to be honest I didn’t really feel like going to them. The Palace seems like a place that would leave me pissed off – I don’t want to see your gold statues and walls and silver floor when right outside the gate are people living on less than a dollar a day. Share the wealth!
As for the Killing fields, I’m really sensitive to places like that. I know that’s not a really good excuse to not go but I know myself and I have to be really careful with places where horrible things have happened because of the effect it has on me. I’ve watched very powerful documentaries on the brutal killings and torture of the Cambodian people under the Khmer Rouge and just looking and being around the people here is enough for me to feel the pain they’ve been through. I also have a problem with the fact that the bones and skulls of the millions of people that were killed are on display for people like me to see. Maybe one day I’ll change my mind.
So, I spent the afternoon in the hotel room watching the A-Team and editing photos while Matt went exploring for 3 hours in the pouring rain in search of a massage place. The things that boy will do for a massage.
We met with Cath and Jono again and went in search of dinner. We went down to one end of the river only to realise the place we were looking for was in the complete opposite direction. After about 25 minutes of walking we found the place…only for it to be closed. So we walked BACK the way we came and found a random place that ended up having yummy food and cheap margaritas.
And then it was time for our 11th and final bus trip. This time to Siem Reap.