After our stressful experience crossing the Thailand/Cambodia border, we were really not looking forward to another crossing. We were also pretty sad to leave the what had become one of our favourite places in the world, but we were excited to experience a new country.
Cambodia had been a weird one for me. My first impressions of the country weren’t great, after being scammed several times in our first few hours there I was left with a mistrust for Cambodian people and a negative view of the place. It was also one of the worst places I’ve been for being constantly sold stuff and asked for money. However, as time went on my opinion changed. At the killing fields I learnt about the suffering and stress the country had been put through, and it gave me a new understanding and compassion for the locals. I didn’t blame them for begging for money and maybe resenting us for the money we had – westerners are so ungrateful in comparison to them. After I’d seen this I started to see the country in a different light. By the time I reached Sihanoukville, where the people were a lot more friendly than in the city, I had a massive soft spot for Cambodia.
In a week and a half Jess and I had seen the most epic ruins and temples we’d ever seen, learnt about and had the saddest experiences of our life at the Killing Fields, and stayed at the most beautiful and relaxing beach we’d ever been to. Not a bad way to spend 10 days! How can I dislike a country that brought me all of those things? I actually left feeling quite saddened. I had 5 dollars in my purse that I could have given to a child who walked past us and begged every day. I thought we would need it for the tuk tuk to the bus but we didn’t. I still feel guilty about that to this day, and in actual fact I wished I had passed an orphanage or something similar, as I would have given them a big donation – something I don’t think my dad would have disapproved of me doing with his money. But I never got the opportunity and I didn’t want to just give it to anyone on the street and not know if they really needed it. I regret that.
So anyway, it was time to put Cambodia in the past and focus on our new destination – Vietnam. We boarded our first sleeper coach at 8pm from Sihanoukville. Although it was a little claustrophobic, it was relatively comfortable and I was happy we had a booth near the front of the coach where I could see the road. The toilet however was the tiniest box I’ve ever seen which you had crawl into and crouch down. One time I went the back door of the bus was left wide open about a metre away from it – not the most reassuring sign!
But anyway we had a few hours on that coach before they got us up and made us move to another one. It was pretty chaotic but eventually we were on our next bus of an even more claustrophobic model, but this time at the best, front seat.
We reached the border at around 6am. Since I don’t sleep very well on transport (which is extremely annoying if you’re travelling for an extended period of time!) I was absolutely exhausted. I’m so envious of Jess, who manages to fall asleep anywhere in about 5 minutes! I’ve spent a lot of my trip so far severely sleep deprived due to these problems. Luckily, the crossing was a lot smoother than the last one and the coach followed us through and we got back on at the other end – such a relief considering how awful we felt going from Thailand to Cambodia. When we got back on the coach we went to our seats (which were the best on the coach) and some others had stolen them. We had to move to the back of the coach, to extremely claustraophic seats which made me feel a bit sick. I could have killed them.
We arrived in Ho Chi Minh (also known as Saigon) at around 12am the next day and we felt completely out of it after being in and out of sleep for the past 16 hours. As usual, we were grabbed straight off the bus and asked if we wanted a taxi. Dazed, confused and eager to find a guest house we jumped straight in. We were also confused as to what the currency was and how much vietnam dong was in comparison to dollars. Of course the taxi driver said he didn’t know and took us to a bank where we drew out what we thought was £100, when we saw the taxi metre we assumed we’d made a mistake. He bought us to a guest house which was where we realised he had driven us around in a circle, and we were back where we had started. Jess told him this and he started shouting at us to get out of the car. We were so tired we just paid him what we assumed was about $3 just to get rid of him. We soon realised we’d just given him $20 to take us around the block. I hate how that was the first thing to happen to us in Vietnam but I wasn’t going to judge the country that fast. We finally found a guest house and then we were free to explore our first city in the country – Ho Chi Minh.