Friday morning I headed to the railway station in order to get my next train, after several buses in the few days before. I was even a bit too early at the railway station, and what I’ve seen didn’t made me very happy, as there was still a cargo train on the tracks. This was a good indication that our train will be late. So I just set down and started to wait, as there was not other option at all. After about one hour the western people start asking, when our train will arrive. But it was clear as long as the cargo train will be in the station, there is no way our train will be here on a single track railway. In the end, our train was already 90 minutes late in the morning. Luckily I got my seat, as there seem to be some seats sold twice in our carriage. But in the end that would not be a big issue, as there were seats in the others. The carriage was more designed for a tourist train, as there were luggage racks over the seats, and also the 4 seats in each group are pretty tiny, so with long legs there is a problem. Especially when the bags are stored underneath the benches. But it was not a problem to stand up and walk around, even the coffee was pretty cheap in the train. The doors to the outside could be opened, as the average speed was maybe 30 km/h and the maximum speed not more than 40 km/h. So it was definitely not a safety problem. With open doors you just had a nice view to the exotic landscape around you. I have to admit that this train drive was the most exotic up until now, as I never had one before, which were driving along rice fields and passed by so much coconut and banana trees. After 6 hours I arrived in Phnom Penh and walked to my host Rob, there was a lot of people, cars, scooters, and tuk-tuks on the street, so it was even hard to come along by foot. As Rob was not at home Yuri, another CSer welcomed me. In the evening I went with Rob to an Indonesian restaurant and had a very nice conversation with him.
Thursday morning, after travelling now already since 7 months, I went to Climbodia and had an appointment with Geraldine and Stephan from Switzerland. We decided to do some rock climbing together this day. The crag is a few kilometres out of town and is mainly used for tourist excursions and many newbe climbers. It’s a nice spot directly next to the entry of a cave. But unfortunately the rock quality is not very good, especially inside the cave but also in the chimney routes outside is a lot of dirt covering the rocks. Some of the steps are also a bit slippery. So for one day it might be a good experience in the absence of other possibilities, but not to stay longer. In the end we stayed the whole day there, I pretty much enjoyed it, and took out time for climbing.
I did the following routes:
Den E40 (5c, onsight, the remaining Den E411 6a+ was not possible as the anchor was blocked with another rope)
Sunset Boulevard (6a, top rope, as the rope was already in the anchor)
Snake Skin (6b, top rope to the 3rd anchor, the start boulder is pretty hard overhanging – I was happy that I did this, then I didn’t got quick draws for leading with me 🙈, after lowering down again and I got them, but the following moves didn’t looked very promising, so we skipped it, and let it as open project. But the view is very nice from the third bolt onwards, and yes there are snake skins in the rocks 😅)
April-June (new bolted inside the cave, probably 5b/5c, flashed)
Daelim Dash (not yet bolted only achor, so only top rope inside the cave, probably 5c/6a)
Upgrade (new bolted inside the cave, 5c, onsight)
Window Licker (5a, on sight, just for fun as last route)
Wednesday I rent a scooter and went for a drive nearby. First I drove to the Coconut Hill at the southernmost point of Fish Island. It has a tiny snd beach, probably it’s artificial, but nevertheless a nice view to the ocean. I could clearly see nearby Phu Quoc island from Vietnam and also Kep at the other side of the bay. After having a coffee in a nearby bar and watched a bit the dragon boat races on TV, I went further on and uphill to Bokor Hill. Due to the several curves the road is with about 30 kilometres quit long, I didn’t expected this at first. In former times the Bokor Hill Palace was abandoned, but it’s now a renovated multi star hotel, so no longer interesting and the other hotel about 2 km away is just a massive concrete block. Hence, the only things of interest are the old Catholic Church and some old abandoned bungalows. I walked also up the peak which is slightly above 1,000 metres. But as there was no distinctive path, it was a bit adventurous to find it through the jungle. I also wanted to continue the path, but it became worse and in the end there was no path at all. And even if it was just maybe 100 metres, it could be pretty hard to find a way through this bushes. As it turned also already dark, I opted in the end for the trivial solution and went back all the way around the hill. Which was longer but definitely faster, with just less than 10 minutes. I even catched up two leeches, which already tried to get into my legs, directly above my socks, just after a few minutes. But I was fast enough to remove them quickly, before it could get more complicated. I liked the landscape uphill, as it is quit different than down on the shore, but the old Bokor Hill Palace just lost it’s fascination.
Monday very early in the morning I went to the bus station. I could not buy a ticket the day before, as the lady at the ticket counter told me. In the morning the ticket counter was closed and I just went directly to the bus. And got onto it without any problems. The next hours we drove across the Mekong delta and followed various waterways. There are no concentrated villages, but houses were just built along them. As most of the waterways are straight for several kilometres, I guess that these were somehow artificial. This first local bus wanted to drop me off at a gas station in Ha Tien just a few hundred metres before the bus station. The “friendly” motorbike drivers already offered their expensive services. But as I knew these tricks in advance, I told the bus driver to go further on to the bus station, even as I was the only foreigner in the bus. Once we arrived there at about noon, I decided to walk to the other side of the river, as I had time anyway. At one local tourist office I booked my bus to Kampot. These are no public buses, as the passengers were only western tourists. I also was obliged to pay for my Cambodian Visa. I thought I can make it at my own at the border, but she insisted somehow. As far as I know the official price is 30 US$, but as I told you already Cambodia is ranked at 161 at the Transparency International list. Hence, there is some additional compensation fee of 5 US$ expected, which sums up to 35 US$. But then out of nothing, there were additional stamping fees, each of 1 US$. In the end I paid 37 US$ and felt a bit, no that would be understated…I just felt scammed, as they want to get the money out of me. And for sure, you won’t get an invoice of these 37 US$.
I had enough time to get my last lunch and coffee in Vietnam. Then a minivan brought us to the border. The passport and my vaccination pass, I needed to give to the tour operator. The driver had the passports from all of us, and handed these over to another woman. We got all out belongings and just followed her to the Vietnamese border control. As I was the only guy, or at least my a bit fucked up printout of my eVisa was not in the passport, this was the only interaction with the border control officers. After not more than 15 minutes we could continue. We walked across the border to the Cambodian border controls. Hence, I entered and left Vietnam by foot. At the other side again the same. We were sitting at least 10 metres away from the border control officers. They made our visa on arrival for us, in the next room, all people without vaccination got stamped, and the border control supervisor was just sitting next to us. Made some hidden photos of the white girls or was swiping on tinder. Once I realised this scenario I thought at my other border crossings, for example the one from Kazakhstan back to Russia. And now I thought…OK I never spoke any word with any border control officer and got my passport properly stamped for just 2 US$ more…OK thats really the best police you could buy. On the side of the Cambodian border, another driver picked us from the border controls house and we got into another minibus. In about one hour we were in Kampot.
After 30 days in Vietnam I needed to urgently leave the country as my Visa expired at this day. The last 4 weeks passed by really quickly. I could hardly believe that my time in Vietnam is already gone, as I really liked to stay here. The people are friendly, and even if you don’t speak any common language, they’re always interested in you, or just happy to see some foreigner. Even if there is much traffic, it’s not as crazy and rude as in China. I also liked the food, and the weather was enjoyable. And it’s by far not as loud as in China, even if Vietnamese like to listen to loud music. The only drawback I encountered was, that I’ve to pay sometimes more just because I’m white, and this I found disappointing. Nevertheless, if I could, I would have spent here at least 2 weeks more, but now it’s time to move on, and look for some new discoveries in the next country.
Sunday morning I took the local bus from Tra Vinh, it followed the same route back to Vinh Long were most of the people got out and then continued to Can Tho, which is the central city of the Mekong delta. As another bus had a technical defect on the last part, we carried the passengers from the other bus with us. In Can Tho I asked for my next destination, but the last bus for today already left before noon and the next one is leaving the next day early in the morning. For the famous floating market I was too late today, and to early for tomorrow. Hence, we went to a hotel just across the street. Unfortunately in the afternoon there was heavy rain and therefore, bad weather for any sightseeing. In the evening we just walked into the downtown to have some dinner and a beer, before returning to the hotel. What’s really evident, and I’ve the impression especially in the southern part of Vietnam more than in the North, is that the people don’t have any awareness for environmental pollution. I’ve seen so much people just actively throwing plastic waste into the water of the Mekong waterways, that makes me speechless. I can understand that from time to time some plastic ends up by the wind in the water. But that’s not the case here. In the end we don’t need to wonder about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and that the plastic is eaten by see animals, like the whale in Indonesia with 6 kg plastic in its stomach (ah but wait it’s CNN, maybe it’s fake news, like the story about global warming because it’s actually cold to thanksgiving in Mar-o-lago). In essence I found it really disgusting to see the civilisation garbage everywhere, and nobody give a fuck to it.