Cambodia/Vietnam so far: the good, the bad and the ugly (and the funny)

In Cambodia, Travel, Vietnam by Cassie & CédricLeave a Comment

A few random notes about our last two weeks:
– landing in Beijing: If you wonder why the plane is preparing to land…but you have no idea neither where it is going to be nor what could possibly be your altitude, it just means you are a surfing a gigantic pollution cloud. Until the last minute we were not able to see the ground, although in perfect weather conditions. It feels really weird to have a 20m inhabitants city completely invisible due to the smog.
– buses in Cambodia: Having experienced many bus networks around the world, the one in Cambodia is likely to be one of the less efficient one (apart from western countries were buses are usually suspicious…). All buses in Cambodia seem to make only one route per day with a departure at 930. And apparently always take around 6h (+-1h). To ease things there are no central bus station but small “shops” around towns for each company. Some small lines thus use their shop only once in the day. Connections seem to imply waiting for next day’s bus. 930 + 6h usually implies that you are spending your day in the bus. The solution: Talk to as many people as possible, believe few of them and you may get an access for a bargained taxi or a minivan. Commissions not helping, most of hotels and English speaking people will direct you to the snail-buses.
– Phnom Penh: Considering the GDP per capita, a surprisingly clean and pleasant city, with well maintained monuments, parks, not too noisy, few trashes around or weird smells, some varied restaurants, it feels safe (okay it’s probably not Singapore but tourists with their backpacks in front and focusing on running to wherever following the guidebooks are very amusing – and seem like perfect scamming targets)
– Phnom Penh (the back window): We had booked a really great hotel in the touristic center. Street 130, near the riverfront – also age difference inappropriate dating neighborhood because prostitution is forbidden. During the day lots of restaurants and nice shops. However starting at 6pm some other shops start to open: Small entrance bars. While Cassie was in bed remembering her last week(s) meals, I spent an hour observing the rodeo from the terrace of a restaurant: Apparently Phnom Penh is also the Mecca of weird old (and/or creepy looking) guys from western countries. The kind of person that would look perfect in serial killer c-movies. Apparently the game is to find a very young Asian girl in the evening – the rate first depends on the price of drinks – and then keep her acting as your (granddaughter’s friend) girlfriend for up to several day if you also go shopping with her during the day. Very weird, creepy, and definitely not the best image of westerners… For the girls, the alternative is often a t-shirt factory for 2$/day. Apparently Cambodia is also the refuge of many pedophilias networks and other mafias related. In the ugly part of Cambodia, I could also enumerate the capital becoming a central drug trade center in Asia and an important use of child labor.
– Vietnam: So far very lively, very friendly people, approaching us to simply help when their neighbors seem to have a cult for tuktuks referring to the number of occurrences per day. The food (also applies to Cambodia) is also very varied and also far from the clichés in Europe. No, it’s not spicy, it’s full of vegetables, not just fried noodles, it’s cheap and many possibilities (never had the same dish twice so far) and “relatively” (Cassie will disagree after the last days) clean.
– crossing the borders: Entering china -> should be easy for one day (special conditions) but it looks like the custom officers are not all aware of visa rules.
Entering Cambodia, very simple and straightforward with a small fair fee.
Entering Vietnam: First you need some sort of recommendation letter from a company “governmentish” doing nothing but cashing cash, and then a second expensive 50$ real visa at the first entry, for at the airport. Total an expensive stamp. However crossing from Cambodia with a bus is literally a joke. It seems like waiting long enough makes you cross the border. We went through without handling the passports a single time, a smile at the infrared camera and an xray of whatever you present to whoever is present gives you entry to Vietnam. Literally nobody verified if the number of people in the bus was correct, if the passports were available, etc. Next time I’ll try with a Disneyland passport…
– wifi and cellphone: Even in the most remote place so far, a sandwich street food stand kilometers from a town…you may have a free wifi hotspot and no issue whatsoever to get a 4g signal. Germany, wake up: I’m fed up to lose signal in downtown Augsburg !!!
– saying words in Cambodian: We tried, we failed
– in Vietnamese: We tried and people are amused…second check with hands though (or English)
– gesture “come”: It seems like asking someone to get closer is like a sign “Go away” or “I’m not interested”. That brings situations were Cassie goes away instead of coming on a boat and the people making even more signs more expressively, and Cassie even more confused 🙂
– silk: I so didn’t get a fake silk mao shirt that so didn’t break after 5 days.

Probably more random stuff some other day!

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