Wednesday 16th October 2019
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Today we are taking a long bus ride to Phnom Penh the capital of Cambodia, which should take around 7.5 hours.
We wanted to experience the local bus ride and see what border control looked like, it may be interesting!
What we did experience was a 7.5 hour journey in what felt like a bouncy castle come hot oven come glass house bus that had ‘air conditioning’ which blew out hot fumes that filled the air and left a grit taste in your mouth!! Well at the time it did sound like a good idea!
Border control was interesting! So before we left the UK we applied for an e-visa as we had read it made things quicker and slicker when crossing the border.
The bus we used had what appeared to be a ‘Cambodian Conductor’ who took our passport details and visa details before approaching the border. He told us that we would need to pay 2 dollars each to the Border Control Police so they would stamp our passports quickly.
We questioned this and said no we’ve already paid for visas we shouldn’t have to pay anymore to have them stamped – I had previously read about this scam.
He then explained to us that if we did not hand over the money to border control they would make us sit for at least 3 hours before stamping our passports which would mean the bus having to wait on us! He told us they don’t care if your local or tourist they just want the money!
Pretty poor considering your visiting their country to try and help their local economy and this is allowed to happen and it’s well known! We paid the dollars reluctantly!
This got me reflecting about our time in Vietnam and some of the negatives going on in such a beautiful country – well I did have 7.5 hours to fill!
Corruption takes place daily on the streets by the local police! We’ve witnessed it several times, and all the locals who we’ve spoken to have confirmed what we have witnessed. Police are not liked here.
So basically the police randomly stop the locals who are driving mopeds and give them fines for say cutting corners, or driving slightly too fast. You might argue surely this is a good thing but actually no it’s not. Let me explain. So there is a standard fine, so this would involve a pretty substantial amount of money being paid officially at the police office and possibly your driving licence being removed and then theres a ‘police fine’ this involves you paying the police there and then a cheaper payment – a backhander – to walk away!
A taxi driver who took us to the airport also said this happens to them often when they are out of their district. The police can identify them easily from licence plates, know they are not local, randomly stop them for something which is usually nothing and theres not a lot they can do about it as they need their licence to work!
Where are the police though when your trying to walk on a very rare piece of pavement and I mean very rare, that has no mopeds parked on it or is not being used as a shopfront, restaurant or dumping area and mopeds just mount the pavement and come right at you because the roads are conjested – just saying!?
We were also told that in school when your learning about say the history of the country including wars, the teacher gives you the information, if you question this or put forward another idea/interpretation you could land yourself in serious trouble and be seen as a troublemaker.
We were also told everyone in the country has freedom of speech – just not when it comes to Government matters, you do not talk about it or question it or yip you’ve guessed, you can get into serious trouble!
Its a communist country after all!
So anyway back to border control! So border control meant us having to get off the bus as we were leaving Vietnam, enter a building, have our e-visa stamped to exit, show several other people our passport and e-visa before walking out the other side of the building and back on the bus.
We drove approximately 5 minutes then we entered Cambodia. We got off the bus, had our e-visa stamped on the Cambodian side, showed a couple of people our passports and e-visa then got back on the bus.
It felt slicker than I thought it might be actually, it was easier than when we went between Chile and Argentina last year.
As we were on the bus we went to get our snacks that we had left in our seats, just a couple of boxes of crackers and stuff only to find mines were gone and Andy’s were half eaten.
Someone had been on the bus! This worried us as we had left a good camera, Go-pro and other personal stuff on the bus as the ‘conductor’ told us it would be safe no one would be on the bus.
We called the ‘conductor’ over and told him what had happened. After checking our gear, which hadn’t been touched the ‘conductor’ told us it was only the border police who had entered the bus to give it a check…his words were “they must have been hungry and ate your food”! He apologised profusely and looked embarrassed but basically said it happens what can you do! Says it all really doesn’t it!
So other than the bus being hot and bouncy and our snacks now gone ( I was still raging as these crackers were seriously delicious) our 7.5 hours went by pretty quickly as the countryside we drove through was stunning!
However some of the road surfacing was not the best.
Took this from my window view of ‘the road’.
Its also such a pity about litter here, I find it quite upsetting actually.
Litter can be seen everywhere, at sides of streets, on riverbanks, it doesn’t seem to matter. This is such a beautiful country and it is now attracting huge amounts of tourism, something really does need to be done about it. There is also a huge amount of single use plastic waste which for us was really concerning.
We enter Cambodia and it feels different straight away.
On driving on the outskirts there is certainly a jungle feel about it, I like it a lot!
Houses are stunning, all built on stilts to help when the area floods in wet season.
A lot of the houses have the front of their homes as some kind of shop front.
There is greenery everywhere, rice fields and many many fruit plantations, trees everywhere.
As we get closer to the city we can already see there are much more cars here than in Vietnam and loads and loads of tuc tucs everywhere…the roads are busy!
The horizon shows lots of developments/new builds taking place. We can see what looks like areas of deprivation against areas of wealth sitting almost side by side.
Once checked in to our hotel we set about checking out the area and getting our barings. Hello Cambodia!
Some photos that amused us on the road
I’m always intrigued with Asia’s electrical wiring system
Five people on one scooter now that’s what I call perfect balance
How many people can you fit in a tuc tuc style vehicle
Mobile Garden Centre