[Day 5] Crossing the Border to Cambodia!
I and Antonio woke up earlier today, as we have to exchange Dong to USD and make maintenance on his bike. We left the bike at the Xe May and continued with my bike through the crazy traffic of Saigon to Ben Thanh. Around the market, there is a gold shop which is essentially an exchange shop.
After getting USD for our trip, we stopped at one Banh Mi stall by one of the busy streets. There, we had some awesome Banh Mi for 30k VND, with eggs, chili and soy sauce, and more meat! This Banh Mi was served by a woman who is seemingly pregnant, assisted by her daughter.
Seemingly unnoticeable, a big problem in Vietnam is ‘child assistance’. To earn more money from their local food businesses; parents usually do not send their children to school because they need a helping hand, which essentially robs them of proper education.
Packing up and Ready to Go!
Now that we have returned to the apartment, it was time to say pack up and depart for Cambodia. AJ came around to wish us luck and we were on our way! We decided to slice the route to Phnom Penh in half and stay in Neak Loeung.
Riding out of Saigon wasn’t such a breeze. It is a huge city with 8 million registered inhabitants, so traversing on the main roads there is really chaotic. Lots of trucks and cars block out the way for the bikes, creating labyrinthian alleyways inside one huge road. When we finally got out of Saigon, we were greeted by heavy rain and storm which prompted us to stop before Cu Chi Tunnels.
Fun fact: Cu Chi is a place where you can visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, that were built during the French Colonial period, but also were used in the Vietnamese War.
After eating some much-needed food and drinking coffee with free tea (and hitting my head on the low ceiling numerous times), it was time to continue to Meo Vac border pass.
Moc Bai Border Crossing
Once we arrived at the border pass it all went like a breeze! At least on the Vietnamese side. You park your bike in front of the processing building. You give your passport for the exit stamp, walk to the security officer that will check the stamp, and you’re free to go to the Cambodian side of the border.
The things are a bit different on this side of the border. First thing, you will be greeted by a few men who claim to be visa officers. They will look for your passports and fill out the form for entrance into Cambodia. Visa costs 35$, while the processing fee (after handing out the pictures) is 5$. So, the tourist visa for 30 days stay in Cambodia costs 40$. The procedure for getting the stamp is really easy, you just walk in the building, hand out the passport, and off you go!
Oh, we made a little mistake and left the helmets to the ‘visa officers’ to look out for. When we wanted the go, one of the men didn’t want to give Antonio’s helmet back. He said he wants 10$ for coffee. In the end, we gave him 90k VND (which is almost 4,5$) and off we go! Remember to bargain in scam situations too! And watch out where you leave your things, to avoid these kinds of situations!
Make sure to check out our Vietnam visa run guide for more information on border passes!
Officially in Cambodia!
Once we passed the border town that has a huge casino, we realized the difference between Vietnam and Cambodia. The road here is very, very bad; lots of dust, no pavement and lots of holes. This can be an overkill for an automatic motorbike. Also, this road feels like Wild West, at one point there was no right side of the road. Everyone was just buzzing in their spots.
Eventually, we stopped on the road to ask for gas. A whole family popped out of their home and were staring at us with huge curiosity. They gave us a few liters of gas (1$ for 1 liter) and we were on our way to Neak Loeung.
We were immensely hungry on our way there and stopped at one family roadside restaurant. When we got there, it was really hard to communicate what we want to eat. At first, we got beer; after trying to communicate with at least 3 more people, we managed to order rice, vegetables, and beef combo. A guy who spoke good English helped us a bit too on that front. After refreshing for the rest of the trip, we continued to Neak Loeung. So, the language barrier in Cambodia is a thing too; it is a smart thing to learn some basic phrases for ordering food and drinks.
The road to Neak Loeung is dark, with no lighting except the motorbike light. Of course, there are a lot of holes and flies flying straight into your head, but the helmet visor does a good job on that front. Cars and trucks drive like crazy, and noticing them shouldn’t be a huge problem. On the way to Neak Loeung are a few villages that we’re sleeping in this time of night.
As the ride was already taking us 9 hours, we stopped for an occasional break to stretch out. At one of such stops, a small snake popped out under Antonio’s bike and wouldn’t move. As Antonio has a sort of snake-o-phobia, he jumped away from his bike. Eventually, we managed to scare away the snake with a few rocks and continue to Neak Loeung.
After some 10 and a half hours of riding, we finally came to our accommodation. I was extra tired, so I just blacked out in my bad. Lovel and Darian had a very, very fun night… Tomorrow, we are continuing our ride to Phnom Penh!
To get up to date, check out the previous chapter!