Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gunning for the Border

After 5 days on Phu Quoc Island it was time to move on and Robyn was heading home to the US. She had wisely purchased an airplane ticket back to Saigon and the three of us - Mike, Anne and Phuoc were heading to Cambodia to see the famous temples of Angkor Wat. This time the ocean wasn’t as smooth as the day we arrived on the island and the hydrofoil bobbed up and down for the 2 and ½ hour ride to the mainland. In one word, the ride was hell. After several puke bags we arrived in Rach Gia, white faced and vowing to never to get on another hydrofoil again in our lifetimes. Word of advice to anyone going to Phu Quoc Island – FLY! When we arrived in Rach Gia we weren’t sure if we had it in us to continue traveling, but we were up for some more food from Ao Dai I restaurant. After some stomach soothing ginger filled porridge and another wonderful bowl of wonton noodle soup, we were rejuvenated and ready to make a run to the Cambodia/Vietnam border. The hotel we stayed at last time in Rach Gia had advertised they could assist in hiring a private car and for a mere $40 we had a private car to drive us the 3 hours to the bordertown of Chau Doc. The Vietnamese countryside was beautiful. We passed rice fields, little towns and numerous temples.
Chau Doc was a very quaint town full of life and character.
From our hotel balcony we could see all the makeshift food stalls and restaurants and we wanted to experience as much of it before heading to Cambodia the next morning.
Right behind our hotel was an open market with numerous local specialties.
In one evening we snacked our way through the flavors of the area.
Hamburger Baguette Sandwich Stall
Southern Style Seafood Soup
Buying Fruit
Eggrolls and bbq pork over rice noodles with cucumber and banana slices
Phuoc eating raw tamarind
Grilled Egg Vendor
Sautee Corn Vendor
Another interesting aspect of Chau Doc is the use of pull-bicycles as a major mode of transportation. Opposite to the cyclos in Saigon where the passengers sit in the front and the peddler in the back, the passengers sit in the back and are pulled by the cycler in the front, hence the name.The tour company we made arrangements with for our border crossing had hired two pull-bicycles to pick us up the following morning.We were planning to cross the border via the Mekong River and on a ferry, which we made sure was nothing like the hydrofoil from Phu Quoc.
The views from the river were breathtaking.
After we handed our passports over to the receptionist at the hotel in Chau Doc we were informed Mike’s visa had expired 10 days ago. What? How could that be? Well it turns out Anne’s visa is for 3 months because she is Vietnamese-American and Mike was issued a tourist visa, good for only 1 month. When we reached the Cambodia/Vietnam border we were promptly informed Cambodia would not accept Mike’s passport and that Vietnam would not allow Mike to leave the country because he was well over the 30 days the visa was good for. What does that mean? We were denied entry into Cambodia and had to head back to Saigon to sort it all out. So close and yet so far.Oh well at least we were heading back to a city we really liked, but weren’t sure how we were going to take care of this, but we would soon find out.

1 comment:

christineburgess said...

the only thing for sure about travel is that everything changes. If you open your eating place, make sure that there are menus people can take w/ your info on them so they can find their way back. we went to a new cuban place on lombard and asked the server which pinot was the driest and he said I don't know, I don't drink wine. and walked away. nobody ever came to welcome us or said goodbye, the food was not artfully presented such as all of the photos you have posted- everything is so colorful there., where you are. we all said of the cuban place- that it wouldn't last for long. ambience = food quality.