Ride day 36: Ha Tien to Kampot (across the border to Cambodia)
1 August 2016
We are both awake early to the loud artificial bird calls from the speaker over the roads it was a fairly disturbed nights sleep due to the late and loud karaoke from the wedding in the next street. We head out to get the bikes serviced (oil change and everything tightened, checked and oiled) and also rear brake pads changed on my bike.
Whilst waiting on the bikes being done, I wander up the road to find a Hot Toc to get my hair cut and beard shaved. The girl in the shop found it hilarious that I wanted my head and beard all shaved to a grade 1. After finishing the hair cut she gave me a long head massage, which was mainly very relaxing, except for occasional smacks on the head!
With the bikes finished and ready to go, we headed back to Oasis bar for the famous Full English Breakfast. A bit bad for our last morning in Vietnam to not have Pho, but you need to understand this breakfast is legendary. Proper sausage, back bacon, egg, toast and Heinz beans. Delicious! With our stomachs full, we quickly grab our bags from the hotel and load up.
A last Vietnamese petrol fill up on the way out of town, and we are on our way to the border. It’s 10.30 a.m. and already a hot day and the roads are relatively busy. Our aim is to get to the border for 11.00 a.m. – apparently the quietest time. We stop to grab a couple of drinks at the roadside, and then continue up the last few kilometres to the checkpoints.
The whole process of leaving Vietnam and entering Cambodia is a little bit contrived but relatively easy.
Border checkpoint description:
1. At the first barrier / gate ride through and pull over on the left. You then need to enter the building on the left and hand passports to the Vietnamese exit counter.
2. Once you’ve been stamped out of the country, it’s then back to the bikes and proceed to the booth by the next gate, also on the left. The guard will not leave his hammock / seat, and instead you need to park up and walk over to show him the exit stamp.
3. Once you’ve been waved through its then a hundred metres or so ride to the next gate past the casino. Approach the main building on the right hand side and enter the building, ensuring you have the following:
- Passport photo (if not, a US $2 charge applies)
- Visa application form (available at counter)
- International health check card (if not, a US $1 charge applies)
- $35 in cash (USD only)
4. Hand the completed visa application form, passport, photo and US $35 to the guard at the first booth. Once completed, he will hand the passport back with visa now included.
5. Approach the next counter where you will be given a landing card to complete. Fill in the same details as the previous visa card including visa number this time, then hand it back to the guard.
6. Once details have been entered into the system by this guard, you will need to go in to see the doctor on the far right hand side of building.
7. Complete another (thankfully final) form with the same details as previous two, plus a few basic health questions and then hand form and international vaccinations card to the doctor. He will take your temperature and may ask a few questions, and then once complete you are free to leave.
8. Leave the building via any exit, collect your motorbike and ride to the final gate.
9. At the final gate, show passport with new visa in it and then proceed. If asked for more $ at this stage, stand your ground and then wait to be waved through.
10. You are now in Cambodia!
The whole process end to end took us about 45 minutes, with about 6 people in there at the same time for visas.
The process is quite beauruacractic and not a lot of order to it. More guards than visa applicants, and mostly not doing anything more than looking on. Stay calm, smile and accept that it may take longer than you expect, but there’s nothing you can do to expedite the process.
Arriving in Cambodia
Once in to Cambodia there was an immediate change in scenery, and it felt noticeably hotter and more humid. The paddy fields were almost luminous green in places.
We set off along the road taking in the sights. Less than 10 kilometres in to the country and there’s a large temple on the side of the road, with beautiful bright colours.
The road from the border towards Kampot is great Tarmac with no potholes, but very exposed to the wind. The wind was racing across the salt pans and blowing us around on the road. The wooden houses on stilts are relatively spaced out and offer limited protection from the strong wind.
A couple of other things hit us from our first hour or so in Cambodia – the roadside is considerably less busy and populated. The traffic on the road features far more big 4WD’s and also motorbikes with big wooden trailers with either people or produce on board. And the signs all have the local script which looks so different to what we are used to.
As we continue along the road and past salt pans and paddy fields, we spot a man in the paddy fields tending to his crop. He is using a rotorvator, but has modified it to have a ski on the back, which he jumps on to and skis behind the machine over the mud from one end to the other of his field. No sooner have we taken in this sight, than a van drives past us with a horrible burning smell coming from it. Moments later a loud bang and the van slowly comes to a stop with a distinct smell of burnt out clutch.
We pass a roundabout with a big white horse in the middle, marking the left hand turn to Kep.
We continue straight on, and within 30 minutes we are at the Durian roundabout, in the middle of Kampot. From the centre, it’s about 3 kilometres over the bridge and in to the back streets to bring us to our accomodation, Kampot Manor Guest House. We are greeted by David the owner, who shows us around the place and then to our room. A quick clean up and we head in to town for food and shopping essentials.
Dinner consisted of Fish n chips and chicken fajitas at a backpacker bar, before finding a supermarket near the durian roundabout. The market had super narrow aisles with barely room to move. Everything we needed was there except for SIM cards. The shop even had a large selection of proper wine (not bought).
Tracey was starting to feel a touch unwell (possibly the prior nights seafood disaster), so we headed home. As we crossed the bridge we can see a long string of traditional fishing boats heading out for the nights fishing. Later on after the boats had all gone out, the border control boats took up guard positions at the mouth of the river.
Full days route here: