Crossing into Cambodia from Nong Nok Khiene to Trapeang Kriel is an adventure itself. It all starts at the bus station in Don Det. A well dressed man from the bus company offers you help with immigration, handing out the required papers and asks you to give him your passport and the visa fee of $40. $10 more than the fee according to the German Department of Foreign Affairs. Questioning the extra costs, the $10 are broken down as follows: $30 visa fee, $2 stamp fee in Laos, $3 medical check, and $5 stamp fee in Cambodia. Unlike most other travellers, I am not handing out my passport. After a short discussion making the point that the bus is not waiting for me at the border, he wanders away with about 50 passports under his arm.
At the Lao border, I am kindly asked to pay $2 stamp fee. A receipt could not be issued, because both of us knew that those $2 go into his pocket. Half an hour into the discussion, me and about 10 other backpackers just paid the stamp fee. We already imagined what was going to happen at the Cambodian border. After being directed to a quarantine to prevent the spread of malaria, we headed straight to the immigration dodging the $3 for the medical check. Then, same procedure again. $5 stamp fee. Here, the discussion got heated up with our passport flying through the room.
Somewhere on the road to Phnom Penh, I change from the bus to a Mini Van and head straight to Siem Reap. I arrive late and explore the Temples of Angkor for almost a whole week on a rented bicycle. The area is huge. Nothing like you could imagine. Amazing what humans were able to build about 1.000 years ago. Sunsets are gorgeous with dense jungle until the end of the horizon which is occasionally interrupted by some mystical temples in the far distance. The only downside is the huge number of tourists. Moving on to Phnom Penh, I visit Toul Sleng, also known as the Security Prison 21. It was one of 150 execution centres in the country during the Khmer Rouge regime with an estimated 17.000 people imprisoned. Only twelve survived.
A Filipino Gang almost succeeds to trick me in a well-played scam. I am offered delicious food at someone’s home and am suppose to play some kind of card game. I am leaving Phnom Penh the other day and am further heading south. Even though it is raining cats and dogs, I am renting a motorbike to see the nearby hill station in Kampot. The view is basically non-existing, but the clouds create a spooky atmosphere inside the abandoned villas from the french colonial time period. The wind is howling through the empty submerged rooms. I get lost in one of the building complexes and all of the sudden a stranger stands right in front of me.
In Kep, I am spending my last days in a bamboo lodge waiting for my Vietnam visa to start. As always, it is raining and I cannot keep my fingers off a motorbike. But this time, the motorbike stops working in the middle of nowhere. I walk up to the first house, hoping to find a mechanic. No one speaks English, but I mimic the situation quite well. Two guys start doing something with the motorbike. About 15 minutes later, they give up and I am back on the road. The motor bike still does not work and someone offers to push me home. Ridiculous! At the next house, same story. No one speaks English, but the guys seem to know what they are doing. $5 and a new spark plug later, I am back on the road and continue my journey through the scenic landscape. Back in Kep, I enjoy the local crab market. Best seafood I have ever had!