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Cambodia

I got my visa for Cambodia in Saigon at a cost of $35 (including $5 for the café which arranged it for me). The exchange rate was 4000 riel = $1, although most things were priced in dollars anyway

Phnom Penh

October 12th

Until very recently the overland journey to Phonm Penh had been blocked by floods. However a week or so previously a service had opened up which use a 2 buses, 5 boats, a taxi, a motorbike and a bit of walking. This took 12 hours and cost $25 instead of the usual 6 hour, $6 bus trip. I decided to gp for this journey. However when we got on board the bus in Saigon we were informed that plans had changed and we were now doing 3 buses and one boat. The journey was fine to the border where we had to wait while Luke, an Irish guy I had met a couple of days previously, tried to pay bribe because he had overstayed his visa. This was accomplished for $30 or so which is the same as the visa extension fee. His experience shows that you should check the entry stamp when it is issued because he was only given 2 weeks instead of the usual month. My problems came on the Cambodian side. My Vietnamese visa was on a separate sheet that the Vietnamese removed as I left the country. Thus there remained no proof in my passport that I had been in Vietnam, a fact that the Cambodians were none too impressed by. Eventually the supervisor decided that I should be let in - without be even paying a bribe. I did however have to pay $1 for a health certificate after a very thorough health check ('Are you ill ?' 'No' 'Good'). By this time it had started to rain to add to the flooding. The road was initially not too bad but did have a few potholes. During our lunch stop, news came that the bus going the other way had broken down and for some not so obvious reason they were going to take ours, and we would hire a truck. All this took an hour or so to resolve. The roads for the next few miles were rather wet

This is supposed to be a road

Eventually we reached a town where we transferred to a boat. From the boat it was obvious how extensive the flooding was. The river course was just about detectable due to a row of trees growing along the sides, but everywhere was covered in water, even though the floods had gone down over the last week or so. The boat journey lasted 3 hours with a couple of stops by the police. this bought us to a sea of mud called a town. Here we boarded another bus to take us a Phnom Penh. Total journey time, a little over 13 hours. Being my normal lazy self I stayed near where the bus took us at the Hong Phann Guesthouse ($5 for a single, no hot water unlike all of the places in Vietname).

October 13th

A day to explore Phnom Penh. First thing was to change some money. The banks here will happily cash travellers cheques or give advances on credit cards but always give you US Dollars which you must take down the market to change it Riel. Most tourist places quote prices in US Dollars and expect to be paid in dollars anyway.

 

 

 

Wat Phnom. I suppose that I must have been there at 11:15. They charge you $1 to walk up the hill if you are a foreigner

The Royal Palace is worth a visit, although they relieve you of $3 for the privelge and $2 for a camera unless you some how forget to pay

Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

Its free to look at Cambodia - Vietnam Monument

Waterfront looking towards the Royal Palace

I also visited the National Museum, which contains a lot of relics from Angkor, a few of which are very well explained but the vast majority not.

In the evening went for a quiet drink with Luke and Ricjard but somehow managed to stay out until 4:00 a.m. at Howies Bar.

October 14th

Not a particularly early start. I tried to book on a tour to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek from the Capital Guesthouse but since no one else wanted to go I ended up hiring a motorbike taxi instead. This cost me 6500 Riel (for some reason motorcycles are one of the few tourist services negotiated in riel. The Killing Fields are the location of mass graves from the Khmer Rouge era

Memorial to the victims at Choeung Ek

Skulls from victims of the genocide

Went back to the guesthouse where I met Richard and Luke who had at last got up. Richard and I walked down to the Tuol Seng Museum. This was a high school before the Khmer Rouge but was used as one of their main detention / torture centres

 

 

Map of Cambodia made out of bones, Tuol Seng Museum

We then got a motorcycle taxi up to the Boeng Kak Lake where we spent a pleasant few hours on the hammocks of the Riverside Guesthouse. I would recommend staying at one of the places by the lake over those in the Capital Guesthouse area

 

Tomorrow the fast boat to Siem Riep for Angkor

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