1 July 2011- My 29th birthday. My friend Kim and I embarked on a trip to the ASEAN member nearest to Vietnam. With me are my wife’s Nikon D90, some currency, some clothes and pack curiousity, thrill and excitement. We left on a Mai Linh bus from Bui Vien St.- Saigon’s backpacker’s area at 6.30 am- just 6 hours after my bday party was concluded. At 8:30 am, we were at Vietnam-Cambodia boarder already so I sent my wife a msg that my line might not be reached thereon. The queuing at passport control & immigration took more than half an hour but probably because the spirit of adventure was still at 100%, I didn’t feel it was a hassle. (N.B stepping out of the bus, waiting for my name to be called by the Vietnamese conductor, going thru customs & immigration then back on the bus, stepping out again to repeat the same procedure.)
My first view of Cambodia, just outside the boarder, was the chunking of casinos. Half a dozen of them were proudly erected amidst the dusty, bushy and rather impoverished area. It was at day time so there was not a soul standing outside or entering the “for rich only” establishments. Then the bus stopped at a 50 pax restaurant. Half of the dishes were familiar, the other half must be Cambodian but the good thing was it cost just as cheap as it does in Saigon.
At 9.30 we were on the bus again and this time passengers were louder and the AC could barely work. Alas! We saw The World’s Longest River- Mekong River. This connects China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The bus waited in a queue for few minutes before the barge carried it and other vehicles across the river. I had taken my first shot of a Cambodian woman who I thought was sobbing in the middle of the street but was actually talking on her mobile and covering her face with the hat because of the harsh rays of the sun. I had also seen dozens of vendors selling fruit, drinks, and some exotic food which looked like crickets or roaches from afar.
Back on the road, we braved the feverish heat and dust from the red soil to reach our destination- Phnom Penh. At 2.30, we were at the gate of the city’s Olympic Stadium. A tall, dark and middle-aged tuktuk driver approached us and offered us a ride. We negotitated the hopped on the 4-wheeler vehicle.
First stop? The National Museum.