This unique structure is the gateway from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City.
Here I got from PP to HCMC:
1- Get a VISA before you go. When traveling overland from Cambodia to Vietnam, you have to get your visa beforehand. Luckily, I was staying at a fantastic hostel in PP (name it here) and I handed over my Passport and $65 to the front desk. They sent it to Kampot and it was back the next day with my Visa.
2- Book a 6-hour bus trip from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
3- Spend an hour going through customs. (I waited much too long to get my passport back. As I watched the groups behind me get their passports, I began to suspect that the higher-cost tour companies get expedited. When they finally handed my passport back, it seemed to have a RED cover and upon closer inspection, they had given me TWO PASSPORTS folded together. I nearly walked out with the passport of some unfortunate Vietnamese woman.)
4- Arriving in HCMC and try to meet up with your friend. Troy had instructions to meet me at the bus but the drop off location isn’t always the clearly listed on the website. I had given Troy the address of the ticket office- but got dropped-off at the bus terminal. I eventually found the ticket office and contacted Troy with the Wi-Fi there.
5- Eat Phó! Troy had been staying in HCMC already and we took a cab back to the hotel, then headed out to find some Phó. Success!
This is me, in front of the royal palace as Kate & I walked to our hostel, ‘Me Mates Villa‘. (Weird name, great hostel! They organized my Vietnam visa for $65!) I ended up in PP for 4 days longer than expected but there was so much to do! Here are some things I thought were fun. Also, markets and foot massages.
4- Eat/shop/get a pedicure or use the Wi-fi at Sister’s Cafe where women learn hospitality skills to become independent. The service at Sister’s isn’t amazing because each of these woman is in training. They are learning! The food is nice, the store is adorable and the women and kind. Give them your money.
5- Have Lucky the elephant paint your t-shirt at Phnom Tamao Zoo. We paid $150 each for a behind-the-scenes tour with Wildlifealliance.com and it was totally worth it to spend time with such amazing animals and their dedicated caregivers. Please carefully research any tourist sites that feature animals as an attraction. Do not take elephant rides or selfies with tigers. Lucky the elephant has recently fallen ill and needs $40K in treatment. Donations can be made at their website.From their website: ‘Lucky was rescued from traders at the tender age of 6 months, and has been at the Center for almost 15 years. Her gentle nature has made her our Elephant Ambassador, and she has since touched the hearts of thousands and helped inspire the next generation of Cambodians to protect this Endangered species. When the injured elephant Chhouk arrived as a baby, she even took him under her wing and provided the orphaned elephant with motherly comfort. Lucky is an incredible animal that continues to inspire us all.’
All these outdoor activities may leave you dehydrated & exhausted. Plan a mid-afternoon smoothie stop then head back to your (hopefully air conditioned) hostel for a nap.
The people and sights of Phnom Penh demanded that we linger longer than Kate & I had originally planned. Since we weren’t going to make it to Koh Rong or even Kampot, we decided to do something special… meet an elephant celebrity! We did our research and found a responsible place where the animals were treated well and NO ONE RIDES THE ELEPHANTS. Just an hour drive south of PP is the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center and the permanent residence of Lucky the elephant. The center began as the national zoo and there were many war-torn years when the animals survived solely because the locals fed the animals in their cages. In 2001, the Wildlife Alliance partnered with the zoo and brought in more animals confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade. This darling Gibbon was raised with humans but kept on a chain that damaged one of her feet.
She came right to the fence when she heard her favorite keeper’s voice and she would throw you a concerned look over her shoulder if you stopped massaging her back. The Cambodian heat was intense (per usual) so we were ready for a lunch break and a rest in a hammock. There were many local families with picnic lunches and small children who were entertained when Kate stuck her foot in the rice and I had a hammock malfunction.
Tourists can be silly. Children can be adorable.
Some things are the same all around the world.
In my next post, Lucky the elephant paints me a T-shirt!
Oct. 10th, 2014
When you last left us, we had stumbled into Phnom Penh and finally found our hostel, Me Mate’s Villa. We ate breakfast at our hostel and by then, they had clean sheets on our beds. There was major amounts of sleep to make up.
(Oooh- high ceilings, a bathroom and A/C!)
Kate & I didn’t think we’d stay in PP too long. Unfortunately, that terrible bus ride threw us off our game & we didn’t end up making it to Sihanoukville (4 hrs) or even Kampot (2.5 hrs) since we couldn’t fathom being on a bus that week. We walked the city and treated ourselves to massages and smoothies. It was still hot as blazes & super humid, so we needed those smoothies for hydration…
This is me, in front of the Palace, with the river behind me.
Today, we wandered down the shady pedestrian road and went to the Nat’l Museum. It was $5 and pretty interesting, although I must admit that I was expecting A/C… Or at least glass windows. Nope- there were 2000 year old artifacts (Like this ancient statue of Garuda) just a few feet from a wide open window. No humidity controls here!
The museum was worth a few hours and could have been more interesting with a guide since the signage isn’t especially informative.
We ended our low-key day by meeting up with Meaghen, (my camp friend of 20+ years!) for dinner! We took a Tuktuk to an Aussie bar and had super yummy hamburgers! It was great to get to catch up with Meaghen and I’ll get to visit her school later this week!
Good night! More Phnom Penh adventures to come!