The first time I visited Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh four years ago, I treated it as every other tourist who uses it as a base to visit the killing fields and Tuol Sleng genocide museum. But this time, we spent enough time there for me to fall in love with the city. Long walks along the Mekong at sunset where locals gather to socialize and, surprisingly often, dance, are relaxing and entertaining. Phnom Penh is a quickly developing city, or “rebounding” might be a better way to describe it. In 1975, it was home to 2 million refuges and, after the Khmer Rouge takeover, its entire population was completely evacuated while it sat to rot for years as a large ghost town.
Since the last time I visited, it has become a much more travel-friendly place. The interstate highway across the country and through Phnom Penh has been paved, cutting travel time down to a third of what it used to be. ATMs have also started popping up around the country, with around 30 in the capital. Anyway, I’m glad we spent more time in Phnom Penh this time around and I was sad to say goodbye the next morning when we left for the Vietnamese border.
When hitchhiking in Cambodia, getting a ride is easier than anywhere else I’ve ever tried hitchhiking. Even in the countryside, we always had a ride within minutes. That may have been because I was standing next to a pretty girl with short shorts, but I think they were attracted to my hairy chicken legs. The problem is that everyone wants money for picking you up. I have no problem with paying people and, with bus prices as they are here, don’t need to hitchhike to save money. But when you’re paying everyone who picks you up, it feels a lot like you’re just hailing cabs.
We stopped at a little family restaurant where no English was spoken, as you’d expect, but we couldn’t even communicate with our hands. You’d think it would be easy to motion with your hands that you want food, especially if you’re sitting down in a restaurant. But it wasn’t easy, somehow. After a while we finally got what turned out to be the tastiest meal of the trip, and my first bite of beef in more than a year. Beef. Is. Good. What was I thinking all year?
We stayed in a guesthouse on the Cambodian side of the Bavet-Moc Bai border crossing, where Vietnamese people cross to gamble in the casinos that all have signs forbidding Cambodians to enter. The casinos were filled with all Vietnamese gamblers and I really wanted to sit down to play with them, but then I remembered that I don’t have money.
We crossed the border and took a bus into Ho Chi Minh City, where there are four million motorbikes but you are woken up by roosters crowing. People are so friendly in the South. Sorry, northerners. Maybe I need to revisit Hanoi but, from my very limited experience, people are just nicer here. But I’m so glad to be back in Vietnam. The people are amazing. The food is amazing. The traffic is crazy. The food is amazing. The food is amazing. Nobody makes spring rolls like me, though. Not nobody. Not no how. We’re going to hang here for a while then head up North before crossing into Laos. The food is amazing.
Facebook is blocked. Seriously, communists, what the hell good do you think that does?
Workers of the world, unite!
Location:Bui Vien,Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam« The Land of Smiles | Why I Love Vietnam »