AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Goodbye Vietnam, Hello Cambodia

It is 7 weeks since we left the UK and  today we left Vietnam exactly three weeks to the day since we entered. We have reached Cambodia and country number 10.

Vietnam was a huge surprise. When we entered in the north it was cold and wet and didn’t feel much different to the UK. They have four seasons and could only grow one crop of rice per year. By the south of the country (over 2000km if you follow the curve of the country) the weather had changed to a tropical two season climate consisting of a wet season and a dry season and they achieve three crops of rice per year. The temperatures in the south hit a low of 21 and a high of 30 in December.

Vietnam was far more developed than we had expected and far busier with Westerners too. In China (once outside Beijing) seeing a westerner (or someone who spoke good English) was a rare event so Vietnam where everyone spoke English and hoards of American and Australian tourists on every street and bus was a surprise. Restaurants serving heaps of meat, western dishes and western drinks were suddenly everywhere.

Today we left Vietnam on the Mekong Express. We left Saigon only 20 minutes late, at 7:20 and arrived in Phnom Penh around 2pm. This bus was slightly cheaper at $14 each than the Giant Ibis which was $18 each and we got what we paid for. The bus was not the new one on all the pictures, it was quite a bit older and our window had a huge crack in it which had been taped over, so we had almost no view out of the window. The highlight of the ride was crossing the Mekong River, there are very few bridges in Cambodia crossing the Mekong and none on the route between Saigon and Phnom Penh (although one is supposed to open in mid 2014). Instead the road ends and descends down the river bank and onto a car ferry. The water was flowing fast but the ferry had no issue against the current and we crossed the river in a few minutes.

Yet again we are in the tourist area. The hotel is very western (if we didn’t know better this could be anywhere in Europe) and the streets around here are packed with western restaurants and bars. We ate at the Aroma Chef which had among its many western dishes a full Sunday lunch!

All prices are in American dollars, in fact that is the main currency here in Cambodia. This is known as Dollarization. Luckily the cash machines give out dollars or we’d be in trouble. The only issue is the charge to withdraw cash from the ATM, $4 charge from many banks. Also, only the dollar notes are used- no coins! So anything under a dollar is handled in the local Cambodian Riel. For example, tonight our meal cost $10.50, but you can’t get 50 cents so we got $9 and some Riel in change from $20. Reading around, this is because money was abolished in Cambodia in the 70s and when it was reintroduced many people had no faith in it, then US peacekeepers from the UN brought large amounts of dollars and this just became the currency of choice.

We only have two full days in Phnom Penh and five full days in Siem Reap. We’ll see if there is anything else interesting and worth the effort but we have to be in Thailand for the 6th January and we have a 60 day visa which we hope to make the most of. The next couple of days could be tiring as we rush around.

Posted from Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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