First Miles in Cambodia

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of Cambodia  , Krŏng Phnum Pénh,
Friday, March 18, 2011

Today was a very eventful day where we said goodbye to Vietnam and arrived in Cambodia. It started very early and as we cycled through Chau Doc town at 7am, we got our last glimpses of Vietnamese life. The market was bustling and the town already full of people sitting around on little plastic chairs eating their morning pho.  We reached the boat dock and grabbed a quick breakfast before getting the bikes on board and finding ourselves a very comfortable seat where we could sit back and enjoy the ride for the next four hours.

We left on time but we were the only people on the boat.  Then we stopped and were asked to get off. We were guided to a tourist souvenir shop where a very sweet old man sold us some local handicrafts (trash).  Getting back on the boat we were joined by 8 other tourists, also on their way to Cambodia

It was a gorgeous boat ride, water buffalo were being scrubbed down in the shallows by their farmers and fisherman cast their nets from their bobbing canoes.  We were so relaxed, what a lovely way to arrive in Cambodia.

Even the border crossing was easy.  We got off the boat for the Vietnamese passport check and 15 minutes later we were back on.  Then we stopped 10 minutes later to get off for the Cambodia border control.  Sitting in a leafy courtyard reading our books was a very laid back way of getting a passport stamp.  Again, within 10 minutes we were back on the boat and cruising down on Cambodian waters.  All we had to do now was sit back and enjoy the entry into the capital of Phnom Penh where the boat would drop us in the centre and we could wheel our bikes to the hotel which was 100m from the port.  Oh, if only…

….the boat then moored up on a muddy bank behind some warehouses.  Immediately we smelled a rat.  They asked everyone to get off.  When I started to ask questions as to where we were (I seemed to be the only one to work out that we were nowhere near the capital) the friendly tour guide became quite unfriendly.  To cut a very long story short they had a scam going where they dump you off the boat 40 miles early and put you on a bus, this gives them enough time in the day to do the return journey with a fresh bunch of tourists.  What it means however is that you certainly don't enter the capital by river.  Also there was no way our bikes were going to fit in the tiny 7 seater roof-rack less minibus which had been provided for 9 people and 2 bikes. Other tourists who had been friendly on the bus sat silently in the only seats and watched the drivers laugh in our faces and say they might get a taxi for us that evening.  Our only option was a four hour cycle but we needed a deposit so that we could go to their office later and get a refund, I decided the bus keys would be a safe bet.  The guy laughed and said he had spares so we set off.

It turned out he had been bluffing, and an hour later when a replacement bus had been found they caught us up on our bikes.  A new bus driver jumped out and was very insistent that I should return the keys.  The iron bar he was waving around suggested that maybe we should just do as he said!  The European tourists on the bus were a spineless lot and sat there watching, I guess they were a little annoyed with me as they had to wait an hour for another minibus!  We did give the keys back and off we all went on our way. Enough said, for further details we can talk about it at another time!

The ride into Phnom Penh was beautiful and although the boat would have been more relaxing, we were pleased to get our first taste of Cambodia on bike. All the signs were very good and we were immediately touched by the warmth of the people we met along the way (very different to the early days in Vietnam).  They even let us pay with our last dong so that we could have a cold drink – an icy coke served in a plastic bag for some reason. Coconut candy had to fuel us for the last 30 miles, but the sugar high was pretty powerful.

We checked into a friendly hotel and set out to explore.  There were some nice traveller type cafes to sit in and we really enjoyed watching the community dance gatherings taking place alongside the river (see video).  We had excellent tapas blowing the money we had managed to squeeze out of the dodgy tour company.

We know very little about Cambodia (have just found out they operate with both the US dollar and Cambodian Riel) but after today we are very excited about getting back out there and exploring more of this country.

Miles cycled: 40 unexpected miles
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triciagick on

I almost started booking our trip next year when you began your boat journey to the capital - are there other companys who would take one all the way? It all sound so great though anyway. xxxxxxxx

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