(Day 295 to 297)
12.09.2010 - 14.09.2010 37 °C
Cambodia here we come, but first we had to cross the border.. Whilst this was a fairly easy experience, we were shocked at how many times we had to bribe the immigration guys..Oops, sorry, I meant pay an “admin or weekend fee”. The guidebook warns of ONE fee on each side, and that if we ask for a receipt and their name they generally back away.. Well, that just made them laugh and we had to pay. 4 times. Once at the Exit post for Laos, then at the “Health” tent for Cambodia, the Visa counter, and finally the Arrival post. Each “admin fee” is at $2 per person, not that much but when you think we paid it 4 times (plus visa fee of $23 each) and it goes straight into their (very full) pockets it makes you seethe as you may as well be throwing your hard-earned cash in the bin. There is nothing that can be done though, you need to pay if you want access to the country, so you pay.. Within an hour of arriving here, we’d understood the saying about the country being the “land of dollars” and so far we have been able to use them everywhere even though they do have their own currency, the riel.
After this frustrating first-hand experience with corrupt officials, we weren’t so excited about arriving anymore. The scenery was also a bit disappointing after the stunning views of Laos which didn’t help. Many poor villages, flat barren lands, some rice paddies so large and thick they look like grass fields. Nevertheless, when we arrived in Kratie this temporary gloom dissipated, thanks to the friendliness of the Cambodian people.
Kratie itself is a dirty indolent town on the banks of the Mekong. We stopped here to break the journey to Siem Reap and to see the rare Irrawaddy dolphins which can be seen nearby, so pretty much ignored the town itself.
The next day we headed an hour out of town by tuk tuk, driving through cute little villages where houses are on stilts like in Laos, women walk around in their long printed pyjamas (we need to look into this and find out why!). We then boarded a boat upriver in search of the disappearing mammals, thought to only be about a hundred remaining. This is the most endangered species we have ever seen and we found them luckily and spent about an hour watching 2 or 3 of them swim up and down amongst the trees in the river.
The following day we were off again to Siem Reap for visiting the fascinating Angkor temples on another bus pumping karaoke tunes on the TV.