Dedicated to a wonderful Mother Jean Noble 31/5/1929 - 20/8/2007 - may we never take our mothers for granted. - Goodbye Mum
CAMBODIA (KAMPUCHEA) QUICK FACTS
Prices in Aussie/US Dollars
We will only cover the basics here as there is so much more on the net. As usual, it is only “OUR” experiences and as such, may not be true for YOU.
VISAS AND BORDER CROSSINGS.
Visas and border crossings.. See this page for the Lao to Cambodia crossing. Includes pictures of the immigration buildings.
Crossing FROM Cambodia to Vietnam on ROUTE 1, at “Bavet” Cambodia. Crossing completed on the 28th January 2009.
There are other crossing options, not covered by our experience.
Coming from Laos the cyclist will have a fairly long ride from their accommodation in Laos, to Strung Treng. Particularly if you stayed on “Khong Island” PLUS you will need to factor the “vagaries” of crossing the border – with regards to the time needed.
There is no accommodation before Strung Treng. There are few settlements of any size before Strung Treng, none that we could see with electricity or running water. We do NOT know the “land mines” situation in the many bush areas that “seem” suitable for camping. YOU SHOULD CHECK FOR YOURSELF, if you intend camping in remote areas – in fact ANY areas within Cambodia.
From Strung Treng to the next town is a long cycle – 130+ kilometres and the road is sealed and fair, but poorly surfaced (bumpy) for a trike. Water and “village” food is available all the way along. The food is “suspect” everywhere, as the level of hygiene is VERY poor.
You can stock up on food in Strung Treng, sandwiches, baguettes, cooked rice, etc... plus your favourite fillings/toppings. You will (should) not need to carry “excess” water.
There is an accommodation option about half way between Strung Treng and Kratie at “Ou Krieng” (various spellings) – it is VERY basic, with no running water or power. Generators are used for some power, for about four or five hours in the evening.... However you may not be able to charge your “appliances”... There will be no plugs in your room.... Although we carry one, we were loaned a mosquito net – you may not be.
Accommodation becomes more plentiful in and after Kratie, but, it varies greatly in value for money AND hygiene. Noise can be debilitating if you are prone to this phenomena – the best choice is hard to figure.
We found less than half the hotels had clean sheets, some that did, had a “well used” cushion as a pillow. All – even near new – had fixtures and fittings that did not work. One, only allowed us to watch TV between 6 pm and 10:30 pm. Some turn off air con and water at odd hours.... It is rare to be informed of these peculiarities before you commit and pay. As hard as it may be to believe, we had one hotel knocking throughout the night, to ask us to check out... The experience is within our diary pages if you want more detail.
Like most cyclists, food is very important, calorie/kilojoule requirements do vary, usually on the high side. Extreme care needs to be taken, depending on your “constitution”. Nowhere, is the hygiene acceptable to the majority of people, many Cambodians complain about this too. Diarrhoea, Hep A, worms, etc.. are a real possibility, if you do not take care – We cannot stress this too much.
Rip off's are common, but can “often” be avoided. On one occasion, despite all care, we paid US$12.00 for the two of us (US$6.00 each) for a curry and rice. As I said “with all care”.... We “grilled” them first as to quantity, variety, etc... When we were served, we found half cooked sliced potatoes and onions in a soup. I have never experienced “double talk” so much as when they tried to explain the dish.
As a general rule, you rarely ever get what you ask for, sometimes you get far more, but, mostly, the dishes – everywhere – are too small and lack any care in their “construction”.
In Phnom Penh, tourists have “educated” many of the restaurants, you will often see sign's that say “you get enough rice here” or, “as much rice as you want”. “large dishes”, “salads washed in drinking water” etc....Clearly they have had complaints. Some dishes are so small that you can easily clear your plate with two or three desert spoons full. Baguettes are another “scam” - they “mostly” do not use the larger ones and despite the menu saying e.g.. “Omelette and Baguette” often that means a “one egg” omelette and a slice of a small baguette. The scam, of course, is, you hit the menu again to satisfy your hunger.
The sheer quantity of insects we find in most “rural” “meals”, is staggering and it happens to some extent in the capital. Some insects do carry disease, so you do need to be careful. We NEVER eat the pre-prepared food you see in pots, in some restaurants. If they will not prepare a dish for us, we move on, ALWAYS.
When one sees the number of people, who dip their fingers in to taste the dish's, lids left off, covered in insects, etc... Most likely, you too will choose a meal cooked to order. This “observation” is more common in the country areas.
We also found that glasses are rarely washed between one person and the next. Some rural food places have so few glasses, that a local may come to your table and ask you, “have you finished with the glass”?... Some will even top up YOUR near empty glass with the free “tea” and gleefully take it to their table... Oh! and many places simply do not have tables.... All we want to stress here is, that you take care, follow YOUR instincts and YOUR standards, as best you can. Some illnesses from food that is “bellow par” can be VERY debilitating.....
ROADS, SAFETY ETC...
Many of the roads are simply atrocious... The closer you get to Phnom Penh the worse they get. There are NO functional road rules – ANYWHERE. There ARE a lot of deaths on Cambodian roads... The big question is why? Is it safe to cycle?. There are no simple answers. In the developed countries there are all manner of “statistics” attributed to road trauma. Here, there are few statistics available.
An observation is, that IF you are in traffic or on narrow roads, the drivers “seem” more forgiving... They are “used” to giving way, avoiding the incompetent... We got zero driver abuse other than trucks making a point of sounding those deafening horns just as they pass.. These horns would NEVER be allowed in most countries, they have the ability to cause permanent damage to human ears. Some cars have self repeating horns – as unbelievable as that sounds. A broken horn is about the only thing which would render a vehicle un-drivable. Most owners would simply refuse to drive without one. Take extreme care wherever you cycle and ALWAYS expect the unexpected.
We never felt unsafe anywhere in Cambodia, but you may have an opposite experience, ON one occasion we saw an automatic rifle unattended on the street outside a shop, in the country we saw many people carrying weapons. However, most gave a wave and a smile – we never felt intimidated. We found Cambodians to be warm generous people, wherever we went.
There are petty scams and overcharging, mainly in tourist areas. In the country areas, prices were mostly on par with the locals. We occasionally paid more for water (which we consume a lot of), however, the difference was only 5 cents or so.... 500 riel to 1000 riel tops, for half a litre (depends somewhat on brand) was the range. There was cheaper water in sealed bottles, but it tasted very bad, so we avoided it. On two occasions we cycled after dark, when nearing our destination, whilst NEVER recommended, it did not have that eerie feel about it and clearly we came through unscathed. Like parts of Laos, Cambodia has a lot of unexploded ordinance, with land mines still a VERY big problem. YOU MUST CHECK FOR YOURSELF if you go off the beaten track. You will see many signs saying either danger or cleared by.... ???. The numbers of limbless people you see in many places should indicate to you, that you need to use extreme caution.
If you are unfortunate enough to suffer an accident or a severe illness, do WHATEVER you can to get out of the country. Thailand has world class medical facilities. As does Malaysia and Singapore. Facilities are poor to non-existent in the Cambodian countryside, equally poor in the cities. AS WITH LAOS, PLEASE TAKE HEED OF THIS WARNING. Personally we would choose Thailand.....
If you, like us, are cyclists on a long tour, please consider taking a “first aid” class in your home country, before you leave. We did this and it has helped a few times in the years we have been on the road.
Same as Laos, familiarise yourself with minor treatments and what to look out for as regards symptoms. It may save your life in very remote areas – of course it is no substitute for consulting with a trained (or even partially trained) professional, if that option is available.
We carry a first aid kit that has many of the things we need, for minor bumps and bruises – we have never taken prophylactics, however this is a personal, philosophical choice.
Do your own, thorough as you can, research and get plenty of opposite views before you decide whats best for you.
We also carry a mosquito net for those (many) accommodation(s) that are mosquito infested and have used it often.. It weighs about 4 or 500 grams, so needs careful consideration on the type of tour you are taking. It belongs to our “good kilos” section.
We bought a CELLCARD and Chip in Strung Treng. It worked perfectly throughout most of Cambodia. It is relatively expensive but very convenient.
We use GPRS on our laptop. Without a doubt CELLCARD proved to be the only one we needed. Simple to set up and no “subscription” required, but, expensive rates. Worked all the way down to the border with Vietnam, at various “speeds” - all slow but better than Laos. Able to “top up” at nearly every village. Useful for email but you need to disable Java and images on your browser, to get an acceptable page load. Re- load is in US dollars.
SETTINGS:: APN: cellcard. User Name: mobitel, Password: mobitel
We bought a MOBIFONE and Chip in Saigon. It cost 100,000 Dong (about $10.00 Aussie)
We use GPRS on our laptop. Without a doubt Mobifone is the fastest we have used – it uses “edge” technology there is NO 3G in Saigon. proved to be the only one we needed. Simple to set up “subscription” required, GET THE SHOP TO DO IT, AS ENGLISH IS DIFFICULT - expensive rates. Able to “top up” at nearly every village. Useful for email but you need to disable Java and images on your browser, to get an acceptable page load. Re- load is in Vietnamese DONG.
SETTINGS:: APN: m-wap. User Name: mms Password: mms
Cambodia like both Laos and Thailand is conservative. Too much adult “skin” on display can embarrass. There is a big “however” here. Both men and women often wash outside – mainly at communal washing areas, as water is not piped to all homes. They use them independently - that is to say a woman may wash there, then a man – rarely, if ever together. These areas are often in full view of everyone. A sarong is used for privacy by both genders. The process goes on largely ignored by the local population. The distinction here is, being natural or being provocative – I don't need to explain that to anyone. This was taken verbatim from our Laos pages and it is almost an identical situation.
Taking a picture with three people in it would be very upsetting to those three people. Please check the numbers, when taking pictures of people, without permission. Of course, where you can, always ask first.
SELDOM COMMENTED ON.
Cambodia is very poor and toilets do not exist everywhere – even in some villages. It was not uncommon for us to see men and women using the fields for their toilet. Women use their sarong for privacy. People just seemed to accept this as a normal part of life (which of course it is) and completely ignore it.
You may, not notice this if you are zooming past in a car or on a motorbike – then again why would you want to?.
However, as a cyclist you will have more need of a “bush toilet” than most other travelers, often, with little cover, especially if you have eaten “questionable” food. Be as discrete as you can, but not ashamed, it will be ignored and viewed as quite normal by the locals, if you happen to get “surprised”. Quite a contrast to the so called 1st world. (or whatever politically correct new name it has now).
A sarong is one of the most useful pieces of clothing, any traveller can carry, well worth investing in – we consider it a MUST.
Some service stations have a toilet and the occasional restaurant (not all), but, as a cyclist, often are too few and far between to rely on.
This too was taken almost verbatim from our Laos pages and it is almost an identical situation.
The treatment of Animals is poor throughout Asia. From my perspective it is poor in Australia too. Cambodia has some shocking methods of transporting Cows, Pigs, Chickens and other birds... plus many other animals. General treatment leaves one wondering “do they understand what they are doing”??? I don't know if they understand or not.... However, if they do understand, then humanity has reached new lows.....
BORDER CROSSING - CAMBODIA TO VIETNAM VIA BAVET IN CAMBODIA – Route 1.
The Cambodian border looks like this.........
We were allowed to cycle to the immigration booth and get our exit stamp. It took less than a minute and there was no cost.
We saw a French speaking woman try to get through the border, without a Vietnamese visa in her passport, despite her repeated pleas she was denied an exit stamp. She quoted (what appeared to me) an obscure “guide book” and insisted the official should let her pass. He stood his ground, was polite and told her she MUST get a visa for Vietnam to cross ANY land border, OR fly into Vietnam, where she can get a “Visa on Arrival”. - BE WARNED and watch for any changes in policy before trying this. AS AT 28-January- 2009..
The Vietnam border looks like this............
The routine here is very different, you must (should) push your bike through the checkpoint. You can see a motorbike being pushed in the pic above. Although, our “TRIKES” were seen as so unusual they allowed us to ride them. They are a little difficult to push.
To the left of the bus, in the pic above, is the arrival hall. You must leave your bikes outside (or exit the bus) and go inside to complete the formalities. The first thing you need to do is fill in one of those damn arrival forms... The form, needs to be stamped together with your passport.
A few people were thoroughly searched – we were not. We asked an immigration official on the outside of the terminal to keep an eye on the bikes and not let anyone SIT. Getting on a trike the wrong way can damage mirrors, mudguards, etc.. AS WE KNOW ONLY TOO WELL. He was kind enough to do this for us and refused a “tip” for his diligence.
The process was rather lengthy, due to an influx of people, however, the staff were cheerful and efficient.
After the rituals were completed, we were allowed to cycle into Vietnam. If you are on a bus, you will (should) take your bags with you for a (potential) customs check. As many of you will know, a lot of these searches are done on “intelligence” (Not “your” intelligence – dumbo :-), plus an occasional “random” search.
The bus will depart and pick you up at the exit – a hundred metres down the road. - the other side of the overhead walkway in the above picture. This is often a cause of some anxiety for the unaware.....
We were charged US$2.00 at the customs checkpoint – the fee is clearly displayed there. We used a US$10.00 note and was given a good rate in Vietnamese DONG as change.
ON TO Vietnam Page 1
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