04 Mar Border crossing into Vietnam
Once in Kratie, we quickly figured, that we would be cutting it close to make it to Saigon in time for Randy to get his bike cleaned, boxed up, and for him to catch his flight back home after Christmas. Instead, we decide to take one more minivan to the border of Vietnam from where we are going to cycle into Saigon.
While in Kratie, though, we have the pleasure to meet Suzanne, a young woman in her early twenties who decided to leave her family and hometown in the USA to start up her very own Kayak rental business and now also opened up her own restaurant in Cambodia. Although, she did not have much of a business plan when she arrived here in Cambodia, she had a huge dream, which she persued and made it a reality. Now, she has 4 employees, learned how to converse in Khmer, and her business seems to be running well. It’s always great to hear inspirational stories like hers…and she makes a heck of a pizza!
The following morning we head over to the market place, where dozens of minivans, busses and taxis are getting loaded up to the gills with people and goods. While Randy is asking around for a ride to the border, the rest of us are people-watching. We are totally in awe of how much stuff can get strapped to the back and the top of a minivan—huge sacks of rice, furniture, monstrous wooden vases, scooters, food, household supplies, the list seemingly never ends.
Eventually, Randy returns with a minibus driver in tow and leads us to our new found ride. Before we know it, several people try to “help” and take our gear and bikes and start stuffing bags which-ever-way in any place of the minivan. It takes a few firm words, consisting mainly of “no” and ” slow down” to keep our bikes and stuff from getting all banged up and somewhat organised. Then we jump in the back rows of the bus and wait. Apparently, there really was not that much of a rush to stuff everything into the vehicle after all. Now we are still waiting for the front rows to fill up, before we start another crazy bus ride.
Along our way, we pick up a few more people, who squeeze in between the seats. Just when we think, that the van is full and the seats are all filled, the driver stops again and somehow another person finds more room in the already filled rows of the bus. Nobody seems to mind though, people just scoot together until it’s time for somebody to jump off the bus again. Personal space is not a concept here. Suddenly, the bus magically empties out in the last town before the border. For the last 10 miles, we have the entire vehicle to ourselves, as we watch traffic die down outside of our window. Then the bus stops between a small restaurant and what looks like a very empty border control. We can make out a small shack-looking building with a few Cambodian officers sitting in front of it.
Then there is a huge open space with a 4 lane road and an island with a Vietnamese memorial in the middle of it. Behind that, we can see a huge, shiny, new official building on the Vietnamese side. What we can’t see is any traffic passing through at the border. We quickly grab all of our gear and organise everything back on our bikes. Afterwards, we head to the restaurant to have lunch and to spend our remaining Cambodian change.
While we sit outside and eat we watch the traffic, or better the lack there off and wonder, whether this border is actually open or wether it is even an official international crossing. We have read before, that some border crossings close at certain times, after all, it is Sunday afternoon.
Luckily for us, the border is open. We head to the shack-looking Cambodian office to stamp out of the country. Then, after taking a few snapshots at the monument in “no-mans-land”, we park our bikes to stamp into Vietnam. We step into the huge, empty, new building and hand our passports to the gentleman behind the glass. Apparently our passports are getting old and worn, because the officer is unable to swipe them. He asks us a couple of simple questions: what’s your name, where are you going…then he punches our information into his computer and off we go into Vietnam.
Unfortunately, we somehow managed to lose most of the pictures of this day.