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Aug 05

The Road to Cambodia

I’m currently sitting in a cafe called The Blue Pumpkin. They make a great fruit shake. They also provide free WiFi net access, so I’ve availed myself of this freebie and am typing out this post on my laptop which miraculously survived the bus trip up from Ho Chi Minh City. Siem Reap is a rich city by Cambodian standards, fueled by tourist dollars stemming from Angkor and overpriced food, so the availability of wireless net access should be not all that surprising, but it is somewhat bizarre to log on to World of Warcraft for five minutes just to be able to say “I played WoW in Cambodia”.

The journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh was a tiring one. Getting to Bavet, the border crossing town, was fine, but once we cleared Vietnamese immigration, things went downhill from there. Things are chaotic on the Cambodian side. It appeared that we had arrived a few months too early to make use of the new immigration facility Cambodia was in the process of building. Instead, there were a few wood huts off the side of a dirt pathway in which immigration officials check off visas. As we were wondering where to line up, we were told just to stick our passports on a large pile of them and they would be processed momentarily. There were no border guards, police or security of any sort. No one asked to check my passport. In fact, it would have been quite simple to walk straight through and illegally enter the country. It wasn’t even clear at which point we had actually entered the Kingdom of Cambodia. The road to Phnom Penh is in fairly bad shape. It’s filled with potholes and bumps, which our minibus driver took at speed. Every few seconds the minibus would fly over a bump, go airborne for a split second and then return to earth with a spine-jarring jolt.

The primary reason for visiting Siem Reap for tourists is, of course, to see Angkor Wat and the other myriad of temples in the Angkor region. Impressions in a later post.