Thursday, 12 January 2012

Can Tho to Cambodia - Rough Roads Again

We were on the up swing of the travel yo yo when we finished our Mekong river tour but as we have noted before what goes up does come down and it didn’t take long.  When we got back from our time on the river we started to try to figure out the best strategy to get us to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  We thought that there would be lots of options as there were loads of busses travelling from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh.  Turns out we were wrong.  We could only find information on one bus making the trip.  We were a little bit skeptical but the travel information office assured us it was a full sized, air conditioned, tourist bus that travelled through the border crossing that we had read was the best one to cross at so we booked our seats for the next day.

The kids were not too impressed with yet another 5:00 AM wake up call but they dragged themselves out of bed and we shuffled off to the designated “bus” station that was actually a little hole in the wall with no busses around.  There were a few folks mulling about but no one that could speak English.  The folks who seemed official looked at our tickets and communicated with nods that we were in deed in the right place.  Soon enough a small 16 seater showed up that was our full sized air conditioned bus.  Every seat except for ours was filled with Vietnamese people who did not really look like tourists.

As soon as we left we knew we were in for another fairly uncomfortable ride.  The windows were shaking so much I was a bit worried that they were going to fall in on us.  The rattling made it impossible to hear much of anything and our seats were moving so much that it seemed like an amusement park ride.  So much for reading or even watching a movie on the laptop!  It was a long time to the Vietnam/ Cambodia border but we made it in one piece.   It was not however, the border that the agent had claimed we would be crossing at.  The border was one that our Lonely Planet travel guide suggested was best to avoid!  Anyway, the crossing was rather interesting.  The bus driver took all of the other passengers’ passports and handled their paper work while we shuffled through the Vietnam border and walked over the dusty road to enter Cambodia.  It turned out to be a pretty smooth process (certainly smoother than the ride) with no problem exiting or getting our entry visas for Cambodia and no outrages sums of money requested.  As we stood waiting for our visas we could tell right away that Cambodia would be quite different from Vietnam.  The roads were noticeably much quieter and there were quite a few horse drawn carts passing by.  We had not seen that on any major road in Vietnam.

Every day we continue to be stunned at how much is carried on and behind motor bikes.  Judging from below, our amazement will continue in Cambodia....

During one of the bus pit stops as we made our way to the bathroom down the corridor below we had to again chuckle at how our comfort level for going where ever we have to go has increased.  We really should have kept a picture log of all the various bathroom stops we have made!

The scenery between the border and Phnom Penh was beautiful and as we jiggled along we had good feelings about the country we were ready to explore.  We arrived in Phnom Penh in daylight hours and found it pretty easy to find a tuk tuk driver to deliver us to our hotel.  We had a quick check in and headed out for lunch and exploration.  As we were on our way out we started to chat to a family who were also staying at the hotel.  It turned out they were from Canada as well and were also on an extended trip with their kids who were pretty similar ages to our own.  We decided to meet for dinner later and the kids were delighted to take in a movie together… for 4 (Mission Impossible), large soft drinks and popcorn for everyone, grand total, less than 15$!  We love the movie and popcorn prices in Asia.  It was a treat for everyone to connect with such a like minded fun family. 

We had done an awful lot of sites in the last couple of weeks and the boys were a little burnt out so we decided to take a wee break in Phnom Penh.  We enjoyed just wandering around with no where in particular to visit in mind.  Our hotel was just across from an amazing city park and the kids had a blast with their new friends playing grounders and tag for the morning.   Rob and I had a delightful run in the park and along the banks of the Mekong on the lovely riverfront boardwalk.  We even found a very good bookstore with the added pleasure of delicious ice cream upstairs.  

We stayed in a very nice part of the city where it seemed there were peaks of beautiful monuments and buildings everywhere.  It was easy to understand why the city was once referred to as the Pearl of Asia.

 The Buddhist influence is of course visible all over the city.  The colours of the monks never seem to get   boring.  They are everywhere and seem to add a wonderfully peaceful ambiance to the city scape.

One of the main things we wanted to do in Phnom Penh was to connect with the school/orphanage, The Center for Children’s Happiness (CCH). We had intended to do some volunteer work with this organization.  I had contacted them before leaving on our trip and again a couple of times not long ago but had not heard anything back.  This was the place where a student who had stayed with friends of ours in Victoria while he was at Pearson College had grown up.  We had heard amazing things about the place and we wanted to see how we might be able to help.  I had let them know when we would be in Phnom Penh but I had still not heard from them.  Our new friends had gone to Siem Reap and so rather than wait around to hear from the CCH we decided it would be fun to go to Siem Reap while they were still there and return to PP later.  So next update…..stay tuned for Siem Reap…….

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