Saturday, October 25th, 2003 – Day 249 to Sunday, October 26th, 2003 – Day 250

Saturday, October 25th, 2003 – Day 249

I had TOO much to drink last night. Why, I do not know as I had to get up early this morning to get to the Thai/Cambodian boarder before it closed. It was 2.00am (not too sure) when I got home. I slept past two alarm clocks until at 8.30am I got up. In a bit of a rush I headed to the Eastern Bus station to buy a 147 BT ticket to Trat.

I had though this took four to 4.5 hours but it was nearly 6 hours. It was a pleasant and comfortable journey (although I was hungover) to Trat. From Trat I got a mini bus to the boarder (100 BT). Its a place called Hat Lek and its where you pass into Koh Kong, Cambodia. It was 5.00pm when I got there and the Border Hours are: 7:00AM – 5:00PM. The first time I made this crossing there was no bridge between Hat Lek and Koh Kong. You can to take a 10 minute ride on a speed boat. Courtesey of the Japanese government one of the longest bridges in Asia has been built (11 BT toll) which makes things a lot easier.

  • Bus from Bangkok to Trat (147 baht)

  • Van from Trat to the Thai border town of Had Lek (100 baht). Departs every 30 minutes or so.

  • Buy your visa and walk into Cambodia.

  • If you are going to take the road, touts and drivers will approach you as soon as you cross the border. I paid 30 bt for the 15 drive to Koh Kong.

More information on the crossing can be found here.

Cambodian visas cost 1000B for a 30-day tourist visa in theory. I hate the Cambodian border officials. They are So corrupt. Every time I pass through here its the same. Its all efficient when you exit Thailand and then you see these shacks when Cambodian guys in white string vests and guns. They have been known to illegally fine you for not have a health certificate, malaria tablets, a photograph etc.

I signed a SARS free form and the official asked me for 50 bt. Not a lot but illegal. I told him no and walked off. Nothing said. I ten went to buy my visa. The immigration officials in string vests demanded 1300 baht for the new sticker type visa. The real price is 1000 bt. It seems they are pocketing $10 usd per visa.

I complained and told them I had contacted the Cambodia embassy yesterday to confirm the price. They then said 1200 Bt. I said no. By then a large group had gathered and they were poking at my bags and inspecting all of my passport stamps. They then said 1100 Bt. I did not want to push them any more so I agreed. I then got a moto taxi into town for 30 bt. I booked into the Rasmey Makara Hotel for 10 USD. It had a bath and cable TV and air-con.

I walked around town and had a bite to eat at Otto’s Restaurant . I had chicken with noddles. There are a lot of expats here who have been here for years. They have state or army pensions and are mostly Swedish or German. They re here for the cheap drugs and women. Koh Kong is a wild west town. Its where the smugglers hang out, where outlaws from Thailand are, where Thai people come to gamble and where it is said the best drugs in SE. Asia are grown.

You can buy a big bag of marijuana costs 5 USD. Big enough for a month. In many guesthouses, they give it out FREE. In Ottos, all these guys with long hair were stoned out of their head.

I watched parts of the Liverpool V Leeds game, the Manchester United V Fulham game and a film called 13 ghosts.

Koh Kong is a quaint and interesting border village that shouldn’t be missed. Stop and enjoy us while traveling through SE Asia. Villages like Koh Kong are getting very rare nowadays. Children say hello, ice is cut by hand and although life is slow it is very enjoyable.

Lots of Karaoke clubs, massage parlor’s here. Had to be up early tomorrow.

Foreign Office (14 October 2003) regarding Cambodia.

Your greatest risks are from road traffic accidents; armed robbery after dark; landmines and unexploded ordnance in rural areas. Public order is fragile. You should be aware of the risk of indiscriminate attacks by terrorists in public places, including tourist sites, throughout South East Asia, including Cambodia. Medical insurance is strongly recommended.

Sunday, October 26th, 2003 – Day 250

I was up at 8.00am and took a moto (20 bt) to the docks where I bought a ticket to I had been before. The price was 600 Bt. You can take a 4X4 to Phnom Penh now but as it was raining last night it might take up to 10 hours.

  • I have taken the boat before (last June 02). It was a nightmare. I should have known as the boat was only ha;d full. Its light a plane fuselage. Its a long narrow boat with only one exit/entry point up front. There are 6 seats across (3 to the left and 3 to the right of the passage). Its totally tomb like enclosed. You would not want to be clautopphobic. About 1 hour in, we encountered fierce waves. I mean really bad. Every 3 minutes we had to cut engines to leave the big waves pass underneath (the boat is a speedy one). Everyone got sick from the ticket sellers, locals and tourists. People were praying and holding hands. It went for 4-5 hours. You could not see out the windows because of the swells. We though we were lucky to be alive. Hopefully its will be better his time as I saw many fishing boats heading out to sea.

  • I took the 4X4 option from Phnom Penh to Kong Kong last year as well. The road was built by the Thai military and was just opened. Before the road from the rest of Cambodiana and the bridge from Thailand were opened last year Koh Kong was landlocked. The journey was bad. None of the road was paved and its all over dirt tracks. If the roads get wet its impossible. We had to pass 4 rivers with no bridges. The truck goes from the river bank onto 10 planks of wood placed on 3 3 canoes and powered by a stuck on engine. This is now we crossed. We got stuck a few times on the river banks as there are no piers. Any how they pack people in. There were 4 people in the front seat with me. It took 10 hours.

Anyway the sea was calm and we got to Sihanoukville. Its the ONLY cambodian sea resort and its a dump (although the beaches can be OK). Very run down and sleazy.

‘Beach town’, ‘port community’, ‘fledgling resort destination’ – all describe Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s premier beach town. Sihanoukville’s white sand beaches and warm Gulf of Thailand waters combine with a laid back, beachy atmosphere to provide a great little tropical getaway. Sihanoukville is a place to relax by the beach, enjoy the fresh from-the-ocean seafood, take in a snorkeling or scuba trip, and generally slow-down, unwind and chill-out.

I stayed in the town last year for one night, had one meal and puked my guts up.

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Sihanoukville (26-10-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in it´s original size

Sihanoukville (26-10-2003)

it was noon (after the four hour boat ride) and I took a moto 2,000 Riels to the capitol guesthouse to get the 12.30 bus to Phnom Penh. It took 4 hours to get there. It was a fine ride (the road was paid by the Japs) and we had one dinner stop.

We got to the Capitol guesthouse at 4.00pm. I know Phnom Penh quite well but I have usually stayed in the Paris or Lucky Hotel (which a bomb exploded in 2 weeks after I left killing three) which are about 20 USD. I decided to head down market tonight. I simply walked to the Phnom Penh Villas (8 USD for a bed with cable, bath).

I headed into town for a bite to eat and use the NET. I bought the Phnom Penh Post newspaper and read it.

Phnom Penh

Founded in the mid-14th century by the Khmers as a monastery, Phnom Penh replaced Angkor Thom a century later as the country’s capital and has long been a vital trading hub at the confluence of three rivers: the Mekong, Tonle Sap, and Bassac. Perhaps the city’s most auspicious history was actually when it lay vacant; following an eviction order from Pol Pot, the city was deserted in a period of hours, and almost all of Phnom Penh’s residents moved to the countryside in 1975, not to return until 1979 under the authority of Vietnamese troops.

It has been a long road to the peaceful and growing Phnom Penh of today. There were many years of frontier-style anarchy after the city was repopulated. Drugs and prostitution are still a big downtown commodity, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be caught in the crossfire, something you couldn’t say 4 or 5 years ago. Today Phnom Penh enjoys its own kind of harmony of opposites and offers visitors peaceful moments of a sunset at riverside as well as dusty, motorbike-choked labyrinthine alleys. The city is an incongruous cluster of crumbling French colonials, and the central riverside area has a pace all its own that’s great for wandering.

There’s also much to see of historic interest in Phnom Penh. Its Royal Palace is a stone showpiece of classical Khmer architecture, and the Silver Pagoda, on the palace grounds, is a jewel-encrusted wonder. Throughout the city, you’ll see the faded glory of aged French colonial architecture. There are also four notable wats, religious temples with resident monks.

Of more grisly interest is the Tuol Sleng, or Museum of Genocide, a schoolhouse-turned-prison where up to 20,000 victims of Pol Pot’s excesses were tortured before being led to the Cheoung Ek, otherwise known as “The Killing Fields,” about 16km (10 miles) from Phnom Penh. It’s a town certainly worth exploring for a few days.

Some new good. ireland beat Argentina today in a tight match in the rugby World Cup.

It is still not a stable country. Political Violence is rife. A Cambodian pop star was shot in face a few days ago.

A Cambodian pop star with ties to one of the country’s political parties is fighting for her life in a hospital in the Thai capital Bangkok. Touch Sunnich was evacuated to Thailand on Wednesday, after she was shot in the face by four men on motorbikes. The attempted assassination of the singer led students to hold impromptu vigils in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. Touch Sunnich is closely identified with the royalist FUNCINPEC party, mainly through her rendition of its party song.

Observers have linked the shooting of the singer to the assassination last Saturday of another public figure associated with FUNCINPEC. The radio journalist, Chou Chetharith, was shot in the head in broad daylight. He worked for the party station in Phnom Penh, the director of which is a FUNCINPEC adviser

More news of the curent political instability can be found here and here.

Ah Ah, i did get to see the Argentina v ireland game. it was on ESPN at 12.30 at night. it was the Full game and not just high lights. Good game. Pirty, i already knew the score. I watched aprt of the England V Samoa game before I fell asleep.