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Joe and Sarah's Adventures

Crossing to Cambodia

VIETNAM | Tuesday, 26 June 2012 | Views [646]

After Vung Tao we had to decide whether to go north along the coast of Vietnam, stopping along all the beach villages as we go or to head back west to Ho Chi Minh City and from there on to Cambodia. Our debate about which to choose went a little bit like this:

Joe: "Well, would you like to stay in Vietnam and explore the beaches?"
Sarah: "Yes, but I would also love to see Angkor Wat sooner rather than later"
Joe: "I want to see it too. Then we can go back to the beaches"
Sarah: "Ok"

So that was that. We headed back to the ferry station in Vung Tao, caught a hydrofoil back into Ho Chi Minh, stayed there overnight, then caught an 8:30am bus that would drive us the 6 hour trip across the border to the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. Let us just say, the road situation in Cambodia is quite a contrast from that of Vietnam, or anywhere else we've ever been. Highways consist of enough pavement to form 1 central "lane", with usually enough dirt on either side for passing "lanes". There are no street lights, stop lights, real lanes, or guard rails, and "bumpy" does not really begin to describe it. Honking is used as both a defensive means "I'm here! Don't hit me!" and as a way for bigger vehicles to let the smaller ones know they are coming for them. With all the motorbikes and the improvised vehicles (usually random assortments of wood or metal combined with wheels and some sort of motor) this meant our bus was using its horn a LOT. Funnily enough, we also saw quite a few fancy SUVs out here- BMWs, Mercedes, and Hummers!? Either rich tourists are deciding to visit the Cambodian countryside or a very small percentage of Cambodians are starting to get very rich (the amount corruption in this country is supposedly one of the worst in the world).

The journey itself was interesting as it provided us with some views of Vietnamese and Cambodian countryside, glimpses of different villages (including one known for its specialty dish- fried tarantulas), the opportunity to ride a ferry across a muddy river since there's no bridge yet, and of course, the border crossing between the two. We crossed at the Moc Bai/Bavet crossing, where the road turns into Cambodia's National Highway 1. It appears that they only have 7 highways total but this is the main drag since it links Ho Chi Minh with Phnom Penh. We hit crazy traffic on the Vietnam side just before the crossing and were interested to see that the second you're on the Cambodian side, all there is for several miles are giant casinos. It looks like a smaller, sleepier version of the Las Vegas strip. Since the Socialist government in Vietnam cracks down on gambling, we're guessing these casinos are doing quite well.

Traffic Jam

The exit/entry process consisted of us pre-paying the bus company for arranging our Cambodian visas (they over-charged us by $5 but we didn't feel like putting up a fight). When we got to the exit point of Vietnam we all had to get off the bus and our driver took all of our passports to the Vietnamese security to get them checked. They called us one by one and we were allowed to pass through the gates. Then back on the bus to drive the 30 seconds to the Cambodian entry point. Off the bus again, same process again. They issued us our 30-day tourist visas, stamped our passports, and we walked right out to get back on the bus. There was no other security besides the 1 guard checking our passports. No one examined any luggage, no metal detectors, nothing. This whole process still took about 1 hour for the entire bus, even though we were luckily the only ones crossing the border at that time. It was strangely easy. The only thing was we were not allowed to take pictures (which is why this post is a little lacking in images).

Next up, Phnom Penh!

Tags: beaches, border, bus, cambodia, countryside, phnom penh, vietnam, vung tao

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