Cambodia – first impressions

The Cambodian border was of even poorer quality than the Laos border from China (at Boten). Once we crossed out of Vietnam the road became dirt and we were directed to the small shack that would provide us with our visas. Despite the ramshackle appearance, the border control were all awake and friendly with very good English, which provided a nice contrast to our entry into Vietnam. Three officials, many stamps, and $52 later we were back on the bikes and riding along our first Cambodian road… hoping at some point it would become paved.

Currency in Cambodia is strange. The ATMs spit out US dollars only, and every price is quoted in US dollars. So you pay mostly in US dollars, but instead of coins you get Cambodian Riel (4000 is a dollar, which makes it perfect for supplying the equivalent of quarters). Where the locals are getting the Cambodian bills to begin with is a mystery to us. There aren’t many banks, and so far we have only seen one ATM.

The food has been good so far. A mild Thai style curry is very common here and often relies heavily on coconut milk for both its flavour and consistency. The breakfasts, specifically the noodle soups, have been nothing but a disappointment, especially after leaving all the delicious pho behind in Vietnam.

The road became paved not too far from the border. From there, the main roads have been paved and are in decent condition. The side roads are unpaved, but the well-packed red dirt provides a better surface for riding than most options. It would be difficult to imagine riding them in the wet season.

In many ways Cambodia feels like Laos – people smile and wave, especially the children, and life here feels quieter and slower. However, the appalling poverty of Laos is also apparent here – those happy smiling children are usually ragged and barefoot. The donald duck look is common for kids here, wandering around in just a dirty T-shirt, with no pants or shoes. In some ways Cambodia seems poorer than Laos, where even the scruffiest shack could be seen sporting a huge satellite dish, a rare sight here. In our experience, border areas are often poor – perhaps the situation will improve as we go further into the country.

Photos of this leg can be found here

~ by Elephants on January 22, 2011.

One Response to “Cambodia – first impressions”

  1. Hi there Matt and Alison I want to say hello and thank you for making your journey alive for us. Your descriptive narratives are really interesting thank you.

    lots of love

    Auntie PAuline and co xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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