19 January 2013
We were fortunate that the Mekong Express public bus started its journey immediately across the street from our Pink Blessings Hotel. We set off at 8.30 for a long trip across the border into Cambodia. We complete the requisite visa and other documentation and our bus guide takes all our passports, documents and money to get our visas and then we all troop through waiting for some version of our name to be called. Mine is the usual Su San and I’m pleased to use all except 1000 dong of my Vietnamese currency.
Then we all get back on the bus for about a minute for the drive to the Cambodian side and all troop off again to go through immigration control and have our fingerprints taken. We all get back on the bus again for 3 minutes to a basic restaurant for lunch and then back on the bus for another hour or so before we get to the ferry across the Mekong river. We have to get off the bus and all tourists are given life jackets. This marks us even more clearly for local hawkers who try to sell us crickets and what look like giant cockroaches but Kom assures us that they are aquatic creatures. These delicacies are a legacy of the Pol Pot era.
Another 1.5 hours on the bus brings us to the bus station in Phnom Penh where we transfer to another bus to our hotel which is thankfully not far away.
After time for a shower we set off for a walking tour on which the first stop was for the Cambodian equivalent of KFC: a local street stall where we sit on plastic kindergarten stools doubled up for tourists and sample battered whole frogs (quite nice) and deep fried duck eggs complete with embryos (not so nice) washed down with a local energy drink called stingers (which had a sweet artificial strawberry flavour).
We are lucky then to see the Palace and a brand new magnificent burial complex for the king who died in Sept and will be buried at the beginning of Feb. These buildings were only started after his death so must have thousands of people working on them. They look amazing all lit up at night time and as it is the weekend many locals are visiting to pay their respects and it feels that all that is missing is a Ferris wheel.
We walk along the riverfront seeing all the various temples and pagodas and then on to the restaurant and bar area where we get our first real taste of Cambodian food which is delicious and not so hot as Thai or Vietnamese along with Angkor beer. We walk home the long route to get a feel for what we might do in the morning free time. The lift at the hotel is very confusing because they have a mezzanine floor but the lift doesn’t reflect this so you have to allow for an extra floor when trying to go to your room.
Currency: Cambodian Riel which is pegged at $4000 to 1USD regardless of what the USD does. For all practical purposes you use the USD but get Riel when change for $1 is required. Useful for buying water or visiting public toilets.
Thank you (very much) Aw gohn (juh rarn)
For this and other similar tours see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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