Sawsedei Kampuchea!

Trip Start Dec 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 03, 2011

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Where I stayed
Sunset Bar guesthosue

Flag of Cambodia  ,
Thursday, January 13, 2011

Crossing to the mainland, a humongous VIP bus was waiting at the jetty and I remembered my one km walk in the dust two days ago. Curses! Within the hour we arrived at Voen Kham, Laos-Cambodia border for customs crossing. US$2 to exit Laos Kingdom, walk a 100 metres dirt track to a quarantine hut, pay US$1 to get your temperature checked (mine was 36.5 C) and then check in at Cambodian customs across the street. Accordingly, Singapore passport holders get a fre 30 days visa, owing to ASEAN agreement. Yay! That saved me US$25!
Up ahead, the VIP bus was waiting patiently. Another three hours on this rather comfortable bus, we stopped for a lunch break, only to travel for another thirty minutes to Kratie, my stop. There were only a couple of us getting off. The rest of the bus proceeded to Phnom Penh. On first impression, Cambodia or rather Kratie, looked pretty laid back. Managed to score a US$3 room with cold water shower, two hundred metres south from where I had alighted. The price came with a cost - room was dinky and was sort of a mezzanine converted room, with extremely low ceiling.
Ventured out immediately along the Mekong river promenade of some sort, stoped for a coconut drink and learnt some Khmer language first hand from the stall vendor. Around the corner sat the town's market and it struck me immediately how drastically improvished Kratie is, compared to Laos. The market was in derelict conditions and the entire place strewn with rubbish. Food stalls and butcher stalls co-existed next to each other and it was flies' paradise. On the outskirts, shophouses and slums lined side by side with open sewers so choked that the rubbish hardened to form bridges. On a positive note, facing the mekong river are rows of government buildings ranging from schools to every departments one can think of - agriculture, education, finance, infrastructure...etc. All looking neat and new while the rest of Kratie drowns in her wasteland.
Early dinner at a local coffee shop was the closest I could find of a decent kitchen that have a variety of Khmer cooking. The delicious dish of fried fish and vinegared green mango salad was a simple but interesting combination. The steamboat with meat platter seemed to be popular with the locals and so was Cambodia's favourite beverage - Angkor Beer. And if you missed by one, you will be served Anchor beer at a dearer price.
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