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Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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To Vietnam! Chau Doc, Vietnam, Friday, 09 March 2007 4:00am

Another early start. We had arranged to hire a driver from Siem Riep to Phnom Penh, because it seemed like the buses would not get us there in time to catch our boat. The driver was of the "if it moves, honk at it" school of road signaling. I think he also honked at a number of non-moving things for good measure. It was hard to tell exactly who any given honk was aimed at, since the honking was nearly constant. My mind quickly started tuning it out. I suspect that most of its targets do the same.

The highway itself had an amazing variety of traffic. Along the way, we aggressively honked at and passed:

  • the usual trucks, minibuses, cars, scooters, bicycles, and pedestrians
  • cows, dogs, chickens, ducks
  • carts pulled by two oxen or a horse
  • bicycles laden with about a cubic yard of firewood or 8ft wide loads of baskets
  • motorcycle trailers with 10ft tall, 15ft long loads of rattan furniture
  • minibuses with half a dozen people on the roof
  • steamrollers and the attendant road-making crews
  • a flatbed truck with a back-hoe and a bicycle
  • a march in support of free speech with an electric PA system on an ox cart
  • chopper tractors (weird long-handlebar contraptions where the tractor engine was 6 to 10ft in front of where the driver was sitting on a cart. perhaps you could swap the tractor for oxen?)
  • trucks with only the bottom half of the cab (the drivers of these seemed more likely than the motorcyclists to be wearing motorcycle helmets. I wonder if that's just because there's no windshield)
  • express busses
  • scooters carrying bicycles
  • minibuses carrying as many as 8 scooters on their roofs
  • a Land Cruiser with California plates
  • double-tank petrol tankers
We arrived at the FCC with about an hour to spare before the early boat to Vietnam. Jessica's visa was waiting for her, so we asked the desk if they could sell us a ticket to Chau Doc. Indeed they could. We spent half an hour on the Internet, sending email about our hotel reservations on Phu Quoc, and took a tuk tuk to the dock. Paying the tuk tuk driver his $2 fare turned out to be tricky, since we had no bills smaller than $10 and the driver had no change. Jessica tried to find a local shop that could break the $10 bill, but we ended up relying on the good natures of some German tourists who were there for the same boat and happened to have the change.

This boat was smaller than the one to Siem Riep. No sitting on the roof, this time. However, we did get good views and breezes in the open-air rear section over the engine.

It was an uneventful 3hr trip to the border crossing, where we got off the boat once to exit Cambodia, and two more times to pass through Vietnamese immigration and customs. Then it was back on the boat for another hour and a half to get to Chau Doc. Jessica was tired, so we took a room at the hotel that the boat dropped us off at. It's a little run-down, but quite cheap.

We walked over to a tour agency that the guidebook recommended and got a flyer, then grabbed some dinner. Vietnamese food is effortlessly delicious. Well, effortless for the food. We had some work to do as eaters. The "beef dipped in hot and sour" turned out to be raw beef that we got to dip in a vinegary broth and cook ourselves on a single burner gas stove that was brought to our table, and then wrap in rice paper wrappers. The simple flavors combined really well.

After dinner, Jessica went back to the hotel and I walked over to the tour agency to reserve a Mekong Delta tour. Back in the hotel room, we planned the rest of our trip in broad outlines.

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