14 September – Phnom Penh – Chau Doc (Vietnam)
Wake up around the time the sun comes up, and as that happens, the usual street sounds can be heard. Tuk tuks, bikes, cars, horns, and even some guy giving his angle grinder an early work out.
And then there was the kind and considerate person dragging their wheeled suitcase down the marble stairs from the third floor. Seriously…..
I actually ended up sleeping reasonably well, which was both nice, and a little surprising. And as a bonus, didn’t have to put up with the screaming woman from the previous two nights.
Maybe I just slept through her little show. Or maybe the guy had run out of money….
So, how do I feel?
Well, not great, but probably no worse than yesterday. I think. So I guess that’s a positive.
Eventually get up the strength to drag myself out of bed, and the good news is that the muscle aches seem to have gone. The sinusy and congested chest thing is still there, which actually makes me feel like I could be sick, if I pushed it. Coughing has now become a thing, and that’s a problem because it really hurts when I do.
I suppose at least now I’m pretty sure it’s a cold / flu virus, as opposed to any food related issue.
I assume that’s also a positive….
We head downstairs and out and around the corner to our coffee cart. A couple of iced lattes, and break a $10 note. Change of 28 000 Riel ($7) is handed back, including a 20 000 note.
Yep, we leave Cambodia in little more than three hours, and yep, I really ain’t that good at this money thing….
Down to the river for one final look, as well as the usual people watching. The streets are actually pretty quiet compared to the last few days; perhaps because it’s a Saturday???
There’s a few more down on the river promenade, with lots of tourists out and about. Including the ones taking silly photos of them scaring pigeons.
It’s the only time I’ve ever felt sorry for a pigeon….
Lattes done, we head back into town to hopefully retrieve our laundry. On the way we pass a stationery shop, and Lisa decides she needs more lead inserts for her pencil. Slightly surprisingly; well, to me anyway; the transaction is done rather quickly. And at 5 500 Riel, (~$1.37) it goes some way towards de-Riel-ing my wallet.
We soon find our laundry place, and fortunately, it’s all been done. Total cost of $2, and I hand over 4000 Riel. The girl gives me a puzzled look, and I’m a little confused as to why. Lisa then points out I’ve only given her the equivalent of $1.00.
Seriously, I’ve just been hopeless at this. I’m not even sure I can blame the way I feel.
Although I do think part of it is that I’m subconsciously thinking in Vietnamese Dong at times. As in 20 000 Dong roughly equals a dollar. And yep, even that doesn’t really make sense when it’s thousands compared to tens of thousands.
Yep, just no good at it….
Sincere apologies given, I quickly rectify my mistake.
Back to the hotel; still knocking back every second tuk tuk driver – probably won’t miss that – to cool down and get ready to check out.
One final battle with that friggin shower – definitely won’t miss that – and we head back outside. Hang Chau Tourist, who are taking us to Chau Doc, are sending a complimentary tuk tuk at 12.00pm, so it’s going to be a rather early lunch. Not that I really feel like eating anything at the moment.
We walk down the street to the place we had lunch at yesterday, and end up having a fried egg with a bread roll. No idea what it’s called here, but in Vietnam it would be a banh mi opla.
It ends up being one long roll cut in half, two fried eggs, along with some finely sliced salad vegetables. All looks and tastes pretty good, except for the white coloured spread inside the roll. It’s some kind of mayonnaise?, and it’s really sweet. Lots of mild chilli sauce goes some way to overpowering it, but it just seems to dominate the whole thing.
Manage to get it down, and then have a go at scraping the spread off the second piece of roll. It’s moderately successful, but by the time I get halfway through it, I’m done.
I just can’t eat anymore; I really hate leaving food; but with the way I’m feeling, I’m not convinced I won’t throw up.
While our final Cambodian lunch ends up being a little disappointing, one positive is I get to break that 20 000 Riel note by paying the 16 000 bill.
Back outside, a quick visit to the convenience store around the corner for some water to take on our boat trip, and then back to the hotel to grab our bags, which we do quickly as our Hang Chau tuk tuk driver is already there.
The driver explains to us that there was some confusion about where we were staying. I assumed that the mix up was over our last minute hotel change, but no, apparently something was mentioned about us being in Battambang.
Our poor driver was as confused as us.
We’re soon on our way and we end up on the street where our money exchange lady is. We really did do some walking.
Onto the road that runs parallel with the river, and then into a car park area of a restaurant overlooking a dock on the river.
We’re taken inside and a guy checks our passports and e-visas, which fortunately, are all in order. He then also mentions something about the pick up confusion, so I guess there’s been a few people scratching their heads, wondering how we were going to be making it all the way here by 12.00pm, from Battambang.
We take a seat at one of the tables in the covered outside area. Feeling the way I do, I need a breeze on me.
The restaurant seems to be run, and perhaps even owned, by Vietnamese. And it’s quite upmarket judging by the prices. Lisa has a soda water, I have a Coke, and fortunately, the $4 cost can be covered with the four one dollar notes I have in my wallet.
In the end, I managed to do alright with the money, having one $50 note, one $10 note, the four $1 notes, and a bit over 4000 Riel.
Hmmm, maybe I am good at this! Or perhaps just certain aspects of the currency thing….
It’s only a bit after 12.00pm, and the boat, which isn’t here yet, isn’t due to leave till 12.30pm. So we sit, play with our phones, and just generally try not to think about how I feel.
Which is difficult, because the muscle aches appear to be returning.
12.30pm comes and goes, and there’s still no sign of the boat. I know the trip is four to five hours, including the passport and visa formalities, and it makes me start to think how late we can leave, before the potential issue of a closed immigration office becomes a thing.
Just before 1.00pm I can see the Hang Chau Tourist boat heading up the river. The guy that we’d seen earlier gets us organised, and we quickly fix up the drinks bill.
My earlier ‘cleverness’ comes undone somewhat, when I realise I forgot to take into account the VAT charge on top of the drink price.
Oh well, have a little less cash left over now….
We head out onto the dock, and as we do, the guy from the restaurant hands us a bag each. Inside is a small bottle of water and a couple of packets of sweet biscuit type things, to snack on during the trip. Was a nice little extra that I didn’t expect.
Down to the boat, about ten to fifteen people who left Chau Doc this morning get off, and we quickly take their place. It’s now 1.00pm, and there seems to be a little urgency about getting the boat on the move.
We drop our bags in the covered, but open, section out the back, and then take a seat on the benches in the same area. The thinking being that outside is always better than inside, but also knowing that fresh air and a breeze in my face is probably going to be much needed today.
Mere minutes after boarding, we’re on our way, on what feels like our own private boat.
Yep, apart from the guy driving it, as well as the guy who I suspect helps us with all things immigration, we are the only other people on the boat.
We sit there and take in the sights of Phnom Penh from a different angle. It’s interesting to see it from this side, and I can see where I spent several hours over the last few days just watching the world go by.
We’re soon on to the Mekong River itself, and while it looked big from land, it looks much bigger when you’re actually out on it.
Phnom Penh disappears into the distance, and I kind of miss it already. I try and take photos of interesting things on the banks of the river, but because of its width, as well as the fact we’re moving at a considerable speed, I have only limited success.
We pass quite a few boats; both small fishing boats, as well as big freight type ones, and even pretty large container ships. It really is a busy river.
About an hour in it starts to get really dark, and a few minutes later the rain is pelting down. Lisa heads to the more comfortable seats inside, while I continue to try and not think of how I actually feel. The coolness of the breeze is still very much required.
The rain doesn’t last too long, and it’s around that time that I notice the river is now flowing in the direction that I think it’s supposed to be. Hmmm, not sure when that happened….
As the hours tick by, and knowing that we aren’t too far away, I continue watching life and the countryside by the river. It’s obviously typical Mekong Delta stuff, but it starts to look a bit more Vietnamese. Not totally convinced that it actually does, and it’s quite possibly me just imagining it.
And then, a bit before 4.00pm, we arrive at the Cambodian passport control / immigration building. We pull up at the small dock and hop off with the immigration helper guy.
Into an area with several small buildings, along with heaps of dogs, and I try and work out where we need to be. The helper guy points us in the right direction, while he walks around to the other side.
We enter the room and there are two windows; one marked ‘arrivals’, and one marked ‘departures’.
Lisa heads towards the arrivals window.
“No, the departures one”, I say to her.
She has a somewhat confused look on her face.
“We have to leave Cambodia before we can arrive in Vietnam”, I explain, in the most patient tone that I can muster.
The penny then finally drops….
Up to the correct window, and as per normal, our immigration official is of the usual gruff and unfriendly kind.
No real surprises there…..
Passports handed over, and he flicks through it. In between frowns, mumbles and grunts, I realise he’s looking for something else.
I assume it’s our visas to Vietnam, so I hand over our e-visas, which he seems to have a bit of a problem with. But I’m just not sure what the actual issue is.
He says something to our immigration helper guy, and it turns out that he is of the belief that an e-visa is not accepted at the Vietnam border crossing.
Our guy explains that it is, and gives me a bit of a smile. It was kind of funny, but at the same time, a little nerve wracking.
I was very pleased we had our helper there.
Grumpy guy eventually hands back our documents, and I give him my final ‘arkoun’.
Back on to the boat, Cambodia now officially behind us, but now kind of not in any country, and then a few hundred metres down, we pull over again. This time it’s Vietnam’s border crossing, and this time we are not required to be in attendance.
And just for reference, the border crossing name you select if you do this trip, when / if you’re applying for an e-visa, is Song Tien Landport. (yes, I know, even though it’s pretty much on the river).
Official e-visa website is here – Vietnam E-visa
And list of ports that e-visas can be used at is here – Ports
Now, back to the journey…..
Our helper guy heads in with our passports and e-visas, and a few minutes later he returns. We quickly check that we’ve been stamped in correctly, and we’re on our way by 4.10pm. All up, the whole immigration thing took no more than 20 minutes, and now, for the first time in two years, we’re back in Vietnam.
It’s a nice feeling.
Kind of like being home, but at the same time, a little sad that our Cambodian adventure is now officially over.
We continue on, it’s all rather grey looking, and we get a few showers of rain. At 4.35pm we turn right off the Mekong, down what Maps.me indicates to be a fairly narrow canal. While it’s not the width of the Mekong, a canal it is not.
There are lots of boats around, as well as a significant increase in the number of buildings and industry on the banks. There’re also a few more people, with quite a few yelling out and waving as we go past.
Yep, a sure sign that we’re back in the Mekong.
Just before 5.00pm we turn onto the Bassac River, and it now feels like we are really close. And sure enough, Chau Doc soon comes into sight.
The boat pulls up to the dock at 5.15pm, and we say our goodbyes to the two guys that got us here.
Out the gates, already having Maps.me showing me where we need to go, and we get approached by two cyclo riders.
Politely declining their offer by explaining that one, we don’t have far to go, and two, I really need to stretch my legs, we head off in the direction of The Murray Guesthouse – our home for the next three nights.
Down Le Loi street, which while we’re in a small-ish country town, seems to carry a fair amount of traffic. It’s also not the easiest street to walk along, with the usual stuff you find on Vietnam footpaths, and is also far from the quietest street, with all the obligatory horn tooting that goes on here.
We walk, and then walk some more, and then just ten minutes after getting off the boat, we reach our accommodation. Although that ten minutes seemed much, much longer than that. Perhaps partly because I’m carrying the heavy bag, but probably mainly because of the way that I’m feeling.
We check in and head upstairs. It’s nice, and it ain’t the G eleven.
Receive instructions on the room, including the safe, and then promptly go and stuff up the safe code and have to head back downstairs for help.
It’s at this point I become aware that I’m absolutely knackered. It’s been a long day, but an enjoyable one, but I just feel like crap.
Trying to push through it, we head outside for a bit of a look around. It’s now getting quite dark so we start walking up towards the main part of town. Which happens to be where we’ve just come from.
There’s quite a lot of food places, but not much when it comes to finding a beer. Not sure I should really have one anyway, at the moment, but I doubt it will make me feel any worse.
We eventually end up near the market area, and over the road are two women doing Bun Ca, which, being a fish dish, is never going to appeal to Lisa.
However, I notice that they also do beer.
“Hai bia Saigon, please?”, I ask, holding up two fingers just in case I said hai wrong, while also being aware that I’m also mixing my languages…..
They seem pretty happy to have us there, and they quickly organise a table for us, before returning with a couple of really cold beers that have obviously been sitting in ice.
The beer is good, and yep, it’s great to be back in Vietnam again. And particularly in the Mekong. It’s an area that I feel like I’ve had a connection to since our first trip, and then after our further five nights down here in 2017, it just confirmed what the whole place means to me.
While the beer and the location couldn’t be faulted, there was one thing that put a bit of a dampener on things; thousands of tiny green bugs that were attracted to the light hanging up nearby.
Lisa struggled to cope with them, and in the end, they did become just a bit too much to deal with. One beer each, and we headed back towards the hotel, keeping an eye out for somewhere for dinner.
We passed a pharmacy, and at Lisa’s insistence, we stopped to see if we could get something that would help me. While knowing that it was more than likely going to be rather difficult to explain what my problem was, we gave it a go.
With finger pointing, a little charades, and even using the written word at one point, I ended up with a bottle of decongestant.
At only 30ml, I assumed it must be pretty potent stuff. I was wrong, as the recommended dose was 15ml.
Oh well, at 18 000 Dong, (just over one Australian dollar) it’s probably worth a try.
Now stocked up with a total of two doses of decongestant, we continue back towards the hotel. Not far from it, we see a street food place over the road. We head across, and just like the Bun Ca women, they are very happy to see us.
Lisa has chicken and rice, while I have braised pork and rice. Mine also comes with a very dark brown boiled egg, which I kind of wished it hadn’t. While not the worst thing I’ve eaten, I could have quite easily done without it. The rest of the meal is good, without being great, but to be honest, food is just not really my thing at the moment.
They don’t do beer, which probably isn’t a bad thing, so we have a couple of soft drinks.
All up, the meal comes to a total of 100 000 Dong, and for the first time in just over a week, I feel like I understand the currency that we’re using.
It’s a nice feeling….
We head back to the hotel and I crash on the bed. I just hurt everywhere.
I get up the strength to take my 50 cent shot of medicine, and then try and have a shower. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really work, as they have solar hot water, and while we’re not lacking any water, there does seem to be a shortage of the ‘hot’ variety.
I quickly give up, as actually standing is becoming problematic.
Back to the bed, and really, trying to do anything other than just laying down, is just all too difficult. It’s actually a Saturday night, not even 8.30pm yet, and I am done.
I lay there and try to sleep. But it doesn’t really happen.
I then realise something, which may explain why the shower felt so cold, and that is that I feel really hot.
Lisa touches me and can’t believe how hot I feel. She’s actually shocked, and she seems really worried about me. It’s kind of nice that she cares, but it also concerns me somewhat.
I keep working on the sleep thing, but feeling so ordinary, I just can’t sleep.
The air conditioner is on, Lisa is now cold, and I’m still burning up.
I manage to doze off for a few minutes here and there, but really, there’s nothing significant. The rest of the time I just lay there, wondering what this is, and how it’s going to play out.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt this sick, and I start to think that there’s a very real chance that I’ll be either visiting a doctor, or possibly a hospital, sometime tomorrow morning.
And that doesn’t fill me with great excitement.
Just the ninth night into a 34 night trip; I can’t believe this is happening. I’m pissed off.
Really pissed off.
As well as more than just a little worried…..