Crossing borders can be both exciting and tedious, and the journey from Vietnam to Cambodia proved to be no exception.
As we handed over our passports, anxiously awaiting the necessary stamps and visas, I couldn’t help but appreciate the renewed appearance of my passport. It had been renewed just a year ago and had remained largely untouched until now. The exorbitant cost of renewal suddenly seemed justified, as my passport started to bear the marks of my travel adventures.
Luckily, our group had the invaluable presence of Kate, our local guide, who had traversed this border countless times before. Her guidance was clear and helpful, alleviating some of the stress that often accompanies border crossings.
We had been advised to bring our own snacks, as the food at one of the stops along the way had garnered a disappointing “zero stars” rating. So we came prepared, nibbling on our provisions during the thirty-minute wait for the visa processing.
In a conscious effort to utilize my remaining Vietnamese dong, I decided to spend it at one of the cafes flanking the border. I savored a cup of coffee at one establishment and enjoyed a refreshing coke at another.
Little did I know that my next task would be to acquire a new SIM card for Cambodia. Despite reading that my Viet-tel card would work in both Cambodia and Laos, it immediately stopped functioning as soon as we crossed the border.
The language difference was also stark, with a new set of characters replacing the familiar English-style letters seen in Vietnam.
One of the most noticeable changes upon crossing the border was the abundance of beef cattle dotting the landscape. The surroundings became more rural, and the housing took on a more basic appearance.
My observant eyes picked up on the architectural cues that hinted at the prevalence of flooding in the area.
As we approached Phnom Penh, rain greeted our arrival, giving the city a fresh and vibrant atmosphere. Notably, there were more cars and fewer motorbikes on the streets compared to Vietnam.
The skyline revealed numerous high-rise buildings under construction, a testament to the city’s growth and development. We were told the Chinese Government is funding much of the development.
However, a peculiar incident on our first trip woke me from my slumber. An older gentleman requested the bus driver to make an impromptu stop. Anticipating a discreet moment of relief, I was instead treated to an unexpected view of a Vietnamese penis. It seemed that no matter where you go in the world, some things remain the same. The incident became a talking point among those seated on the right side of the bus as we stopped for coffee.
To add to the rich tapestry of life’s surprises, Ross noticed that the man seated in front of him was, at one point, engaging in a rather intimate act. It was a reminder that even on our journeys, the unexpected can catch us off guard.
Another major bus trip awaited us, this time to Siem Reap.
Along the way, two significant images caught my attention: the presence of cattle dotting the landscape and the advertisements for Ganzberg and Anchor beer.
As we continued our journey, we couldn’t help but notice the political posters and signs promoting the forthcoming national election.