Today was our first full day of traveling of our trip. We were on the road for almost 11 hours, from 9:30 AM to around 8 PM, traveling from the 4000 islands area to Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh.
We started the day with a quick breakfast at 7 AM. After checking out, we walked on the main street with a small group of people to get to the longtail boat that would take us back to the mainland. This time we went straight to Nakasong without stopping by Don Det.
On our way, we saw some fishermen but also monks on other longtail boats.
We disembarked and walked to the travel agency to get our bus tickets. One of the guys working there was trying a passport scam on customers. He pretended that if we gave him our passport together with $40 in cash, he would take care of all the immigration process for us at the border and that it would be much faster. He claimed he was not taking any commission even though we knew he was lying.
We boarded the bus around 9:30 AM. It did not look anything like the pictures we saw when we purchased our tickets at the agency. Yet another scam to add to our collection. The bus arrived to the Nongnokkheane international border check point at 10:45 AM.
There all passengers were asked to leave the bus to go through the immigration. The first step was to exit Laos, easy once we each accepted to pay the $2 “mandatory” processing fee, a well known scam taking place in this and other land borders between Laos and some of its neighbors. While we knew the two dollars were directly going into the officials pockets, we also knew that it was a waste of time to try arguing against it. After that we walked for a few meters and were officially outside of Laos. However, we were not in Cambodia just yet!
The actual border was marked by a simple barrier on the road with a very rundown shack next to it.
This is Mimi posing and excited to cross the international border. I really should have taken a picture of Mimi in Cambodia while I was still standing in Laos.
Confusion was total when we arrived to the Cambodian passport control building. Most travelers were backpackers though there was also one couple of French retirees that I talked with. We were told we needed to get our visa first (at another nearby building) before getting our passports stamped for entry.
At the tiny visa service office, the line was pretty short and the process quite smooth. Nothing to do with the nightmare the guy from the bus agency depicted for us. He literally said that if we didn’t hand him our passports together with the money, it would take us four hours to get through the immigration and that the bus may even decide to leave without us. We got our Cambodian visas in minutes…
We then walked back to the passport control building where our passports were stamped and our visa marked as used (since it was a single entry visa). As we walked back, we noticed this tent on the side of the road where fake Cambodian officials pretended to test travelers for malaria for a modest $1 fee. We knew about this other scam ahead of time so just walked past it. Seeing this did however make me wonder why the authorities tolerate these guys to stand right there in front of their eyes!
We waited a little longer for everyone to be done with immigration. On the side of the road, some tourists were having a quick lunch at street restaurants serving cheap food prepared in dubious sanitary conditions. We passed. Less than an hour after getting off the bus to cross the border, we resumed our journey through Cambodia. Some people that were headed to other destinations than Phnom Penh were directed to minivans. We stayed on the same bus.
For the next four hours, we traveled south through Cambodia. We alternated between writing yolomimo posts and napping. Around 3:30 PM, the driver stopped at a local restaurant in the middle of nowhere for passengers to have lunch. I don’t think this place even had a name. It definitely did not have a menu. Customers would order by pointing finger at one of the many pots filled with cooked food. There was no precooked vegetarian option but one of the ladies there told us she could cook something without meat in just a few minutes. We ate and boarded the bus again for a few more hours of the same.
Finally we were dropped in the middle of the capital city around 8 PM after witnessing a pretty violent fight between two tuk tuk drivers from our windows. As we exited the bus, other tuk tuk drivers immediately offered their services. I successfully bargained with one of them to get a reasonable price. We arrived at our hotel, The 252, named after the street it was on. We chose a small boutique hotel that had a swimming pool so we would have the option to cool down at night after a long day of sightseeing. Our room was clean, spacious and with elegant design elements.
We dropped our bags and immediately went for dinner. It was late to have dinner by Cambodian standards so the hotel receptionist recommended we check out restaurants on Street 278, an area with more upscale restaurants popular with expats and tourists. We picked Anise Restaurant, one of the few restaurants that was still opened when we got there after 10 PM.
We were hungry so in addition to our main entrée we ordered fresh summer rolls and fruit shakes.
We were literally the last two guests having dinner there and the staff was actively cleaning behind us, perhaps hinting that we should finish quickly so they could close. I was too obsessed with the latest video of Lulu to notice anything. But seriously now, isn’t she the cutest?
We walked back to our hotel and did some planning for our first full day in the city before going to sleep.