The train to go there went smoothly, with a lot of locals, and I even ate the local food sold on board, which was delicious. But arriving at Poi Pet, I was shocked to see that every price was in USD. I was really looking forward to Cambodia, mostly for Angkor Wat, which didn't disappoint at all, but I also wanted to discover a new country, and I'm not really sure of the authenticity of a people that doesn't use the national currency. So I was pretty disappointed by my first impression of Cambodia itself. But Angkor... wow! (and this is totally not a bad pun on the name Angkor Wat).
|Sunrise @ Angkor Wat|
|apparently Lara Croft did a hell of a job, with that much restauration needed...|
The next day, it was time to leave Siem Reap. The hostel had choices between a 8$, a 10$ or a 15$ bus, and I chose the 8$ one for a more authentic experience, I figured. Well for 8$, the pick up driver is 45 minutes late (and at 5h30, it hurts), and no smile reaches his face. During the first break, the Cambodians totally ignored us, the "tourists", and I had to reach out for my food and stop a waitress to get a reaction. When I wanted to buy a drink, the waitress kept saying "one dollar", completely ignoring my "in Riels?" question, even though we both knew she understood. I don't know if the 15$ bus would have been that much better. Probably more tourists means more places used to tourists, but still, we're not a disease, don't despise us that much!
But still, the road was pleasant. At first, I couldn't really figure out the Cambodian characteristic, it was either similar to Thailand or to Vietnam. Yes, Cambodia is midway between Thailand and Vietnam, and not only geographically. But then, when in the countryside, I could finally see the authenticity of the country, where kids are kids, and tourists are too rare to spoil anything. I even saw 7 weddings! I don't know if it was Friday, or March 15th, but it was rejoicing to see the pink ribbons. And then I wondered: would there be smiles on their faces if they saw me? I really don't know, but I hope tourists trying the adventure there will be luckier than me.
When I finally arrived in Phnom Penh, fatigue had taken the best of me, and I let myself driven by the first smiling tuk tuk driver to my hostel, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I was seeing. It didn't feel as crowded as I expected, and when I wandered around looking to take my picture taken for the Vietnamese visa, I could discover a very nice town, populated with tourists that never came home, and authentic Cambodians who are not completely spoiled by tourists, so that was refreshing. And there are also some nice sightseeing to do, so that added to the whole experience, even though I didn't stay too long. Of course, I was surprised to see that the hostel suggested day-trip tours to the Killing Fields and S21, and even a day with the military to shoot at coconuts with any weapon of your choice. But the more "regular" things, such as Wat Phnom or the silver Pagoda, were beautiful, even if less material for the thoughts.
I guess, Phnom Penh reconciled me with Cambodia, because it really left me with the impression of a nice town to live in, all the more with a developping buzzing nightlife.
I can't really do justice to Vietnam this time, because I really stayed too little. But I listened to some girls in Siem Reap who said Hoi An was the place to stay at a nice beach, and didn't regret it.
My first step was Ho Chi Minh, and that city, on the other hand... From the plane just before landing, the city looked dazzling. Neons everywhere, a very busy town. And by day, "busy" translates to "crowded". So crowded. Just on the way to the airport, my taxi driver almost killed two pedestrians and 3 motorcycles, while he almost made me throw up, and believe me, I'm not usually sick in cars.
In comparison, Da Nang and Hoi An were way more wide-opened, Da Nang in the way of a resort city, Hoi An in the way of a cute little village between river and sea.
And that was basically it for me, but it was really nice to lay back and relax before what I already call the Japan Marathon (if Vietnam Airlines don't have a 4h delay as they did on departure... Otherwise I'm screwed).
Last piece of advice: if you can, avoid the Vietnamese Visa on arrival. It's not less expensive than the regular visa, as you have to pay 45 USD at the airport to get it, in addition to what you already paid on a web agency (I personally chose cheap vietnam visa which is way cheaper than the others and very efficient - I received the letter the same day I asked) , and you have to wait - in my case - 1 to 2 hours to get it. Seriously, if I had more time in Phnom Penh and not on a week end, I would have done it in Cambodia, because it's cheaper and you actually have nothing to do other than hand your passport to your hostel who then takes care of everything.