Hi guys, sorry it's been a while! This blog writing really takes some time and effort. I'm writing this very late to when we actually did things, but I didn't want to leave anything out...
Today we catch the bus to Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon as the Vietnamese say... we're picked up at our hostel at 6.50am (far too early to be up), half way through my muslea and banana I gobble it down quickly, grab our rucksacks and hop into the minibus.
Once again, we were the only westerners on board the bus - everyone else locals, going about their regular journeys to and from small villages. The minibus will only take us as far as Phnom Penh where we pick up a VIP bus into Vietnam. The route takes us along bumpy, unsurfaced dusty roads through the remote Cambodia. Passing motos carrying whole pigs tied to the moto, families squeezed next to each other on the back seat. I've seen it so many times now, but still, it amazes me at their ability to fit so many onto one small vehicle!
For the whole journey we have to put up with bloomin Cambodian kareoke videos again...all of which are just so silly. The videos that go with them are so funny, all surrounding the theme of good old 'love'..one particular song that has been playing on repeat throughout Cambodia and Thailand since we've been here has the lyrics " I'm sorry "...the video is ridiculous. A guy is having his birthday and his girlfriend decides to bake him a cake to surprise him when he gets in from work. She leaves the cake in the oven, when he comes in, he goes to the kitchen and opens the oven. Next thing, the whole house goes up in fire, along with his face! The next scene we see him lying in hospitol with bandages all over his face, and then the girlfriend is sat singing...you've guessed it... " I'm Sorry ". Strange!
We travel for 4 hours along the bumpy roads into Phnom Penh. Tuk tuks all over the place, manic and tiring. We get off the minibus and walk over to our VIP bus. On board, the seats are luxurious and spacious - SO much better than the regular Cambodian transport we had so far! Me and Luce we're so happy! We settled ourselves in all comfy, the bus attendent comes up to give us all departure forms and take our passports. As Lucy hands over hers, the guy looks a bit worried - suddenly me and Luce think 'crap, are our visa's fake...did the TAT office in Bangkok scam us?? '..No no, the visa's don't start until the 21st and today is the 19th! Oops, didn't even think to look at that before we left Cambodia! We tried to see if we could just buy a couple of extra days on our visa's, but no luck! So, all we could do was hop off the bus and stay another 2 nights in Phnom Penh then leave again on the 21st.
Ahhh...what idiots! Oh well, got to laugh it off! We collected our bags etc and were quickly forced off the coach..everyone staring at us like we were some criminals or something. The bus had already pulled out of the station and down the main road, so we had to catch a tuk tuk back to the bus station to change our tickets. Luckily with a bit of pleading and obvious embarassment, we were able to change the dates of our bus tickets for free! We're now due to leave Phnom Penh at 6.45am on the 21st!
We book ourselves into a hostel in the central area and chill out for the afternoon writing our journals and laughing at eachother at the stupid thing we'd just done!
That evening we go for dinner across the road from the guesthouse. I ate a Thai green curry...yum!! Met a Cambodian guy who wanted to practise his english on us, so we asked him some questions about what he did etc. He was in his mid 30's and had fought as a child in the Khmer Rouge. When we asked him about the fighting and what happened, he became really defensive and didn't want to talk about it. He said it was such a devistating thing to have happened that he found it extremely hard to talk about the memories. I really wanted to ask more, he seemed like such an interesting person but I just couldn't push it.
We had a lazy lye in, seeing as we had done pretty much all that Phnom Penh had to offer in our first visit, we decided we didn't need to rush up for anything. We had a nice breakie in the hostel and then walked out to the Russian Market. Determined to not spend much whilst in Phnom Penh we managed this quite well, Lucy bought a lovely silver bracelet from the market but I managed to keep my money in my purse. Besides a nice dinner at the guesthouse that evening. Whilst eating we witnessed a rat crawl from under the fridge by our table, one of the guys who worked at the hostel tried to stamp on the rat, which ended up in the most high pitched squeeling....poor thing. Pretty disgusting though, and put us off our food a bit.
We woke at 5am to pack our bags and have some breakkie before going to the bus station. Settled up at the hostel, $18 each for the 2 nights, not too bad. We're dropped off at the bus...but to our utter disapointment, It's NOT a VIP bus!! Very annoyed. Just another regular local, tatty bus. Although, this time we're not the only westerners - this will be our first trip through Cambodia with others besides cambodians. A woman is sat a couple of rows behind us with a young boy and a Vietnamese baby, possible adoption we think. The women sat opposite us pull out some smelly food, some sort of meat and rice..hmm not such a nice smell at 7 in the morning!
I wrote down some reflections from Cambodia whilst we drive out of the area across the border to Vietnam. Might not make such sense, but hopefully will sum up Cambodia as a place for you all...things I've seen or feel.
Driving out of Cambodia, leaving the sights behind. Early morning routines, passing people's lives - maybe they will never leave their 'bubble', knowing nothing different. Kids riding on their dad's laps on the moto, cheeks pink and hair flying back.
Men off on their daily delivery business - women selling freshly made baguettes on the corner of the street, writing in books, counting their money.
Groups socialising over food in a cafe, sat around tables in the morning sun. Trying to make their daily wage, daydreaming in the heat. Lushcious green rice fields glistening in the sun.
The bus attendent sits on a pale blue plastic chair - child size, next to the driver. Sorting through our passports, hoping that our visa's will be valid this time round.
Crooked houses resting on stilts, rising above the land below, a man sat cooking his breakfast over a small coal fire.
Cambodians balancing their posessions on the back of motos - where is their destination? Stray dogs wandering solo along the road side, scavenging to find whatever food they can eat. Fresh colourful fruit, neatly stacked high on wooden tables, shaded under the umbrella.
Washing hung out to dry, kids daydreaming on their door steps. Empty pepsi bottles filled with petrol stacked in lines by the roadside, Sat next to them a patiently waiting woman dressed in a beautifully colourful 'onesy' pj's set. How much will she make today, along with every other seller along the Cambodian roadside?
Girls on their way to school, sharing a bicycle - neatly dressed in their white shirts and navy blue skirts drinking from a plastic cup through a straw. Elderly women, brushing the dust off their steps - sweeping with their wicker broom - their own magic broom...would it take them off to a magical land far away?
A journey like this through the UK would never be so interesting, all of this just looking out the window. So many new things to see. Different ways of life - different modes of transport and houses. As we drive along - we catch a small glimpse into people's lives, their neighbors lives and whole villages.
We stop off before the water crossing, I look out the window to see a group of sellers by the side trying to make us come out and buy something. One women is wearing a 'Cheroke' hat (tesco)...all the way over in Cambodia! As we cruise along the water in the ferry, young boys run around along the windows and ask for money or food. One small boy points at the 2 baguettes tucked into the front of my seat, it's so sad to see!
The border crossing goes well, very well organised we walk through a security area with our bags and passport, come out the other end and meet the coach again. As we leave the Cambodian border and enter Vietnam there is nothing for a mile or so except rice fields and the odd house. We stop off at the first small village and a few people hop on board, one guy who had been on the coach from the beginning but suddenly disappeared just before we went acorss the border, he came back on board and pulled an air signal of 'Oh yeah!'...blatently dodgy border crossing...hmm! So, we're in Vietnam! We arrive into Saigon that afternoon, hot and sticky from the long journey....