Sunday, February 7, 2016

Koh Kong to Sihanoukville --- February 2016

After reading the stories in the Lonely Planet guides and websites, I knew I was in for a different border crossing experience in getting into Cambodia. The Lonely Planet said that the cost ranged from $20 USD to 1200 Baht--$33 USD and that this border crossing only accepted Bahts.

 

I knew in advance that I needed to have a small passport photo for their paperwork. As I approached the building, a friendly fellow handed me the Cambodia Immigration application form and told me to fill it out. I then filled it out and picked out the right size photo to be stapled on to my application. I then approached the Immigration window and handed the officer my completed application and passport.

He then motioned for me to enter the office through a side door. When I got in there were three officers with all types of stars on their shoulder boards. They looked over my application and OKed it. They then asked for 1600 Baht--$44 USD. According to a new guide book the current visa cost is $30USD. I told them and showed them my Lonely Planet guide that showed it was either $20 USD or 1200 Baht. They laughed and said the book information was old and it was now 1600. I paid up and they then told me to go next door with the approved application. At this counter, my passport got a full page Cambodia visa in addition to a stamp and a stapled departure card also with a stamp. In total, I counted over 10 rubber stamps were used on my passport documents.

When I got outside my friendly fellow was still waiting for me and offered to give me a mototaxi ride in Koh Kong---the Cambodia border town---for 200 Baht. It was a long ride over a very long bridge into town.

My friendly driver---not a policeman.

Dirt bus station in Koh Kong

I had him drop me off at the bus station that was located in a big dirt lot where I checked out the various bus schedules to Sihanoukville. I then walked to town and checked out the guesthouses along the way. After searching in vain for the Dugout Guesthouse that had a pool, I finally gave up and booked into the Pool Villa. As it turned out, it was the Dugout, but renamed. My room was at the pool so I ended up with a fan room at just 40000 riels---$10 USD per night.

After settling in, I walked to the beachfront and had dinner at the best restaurant in town, the Lavante, The restaurant was on a dock over the water and I had a seafood pasta dish with fried calamari and wine. The cost was 90000 riels---$22 which would be my most expensive dining experience so far in Cambodia.
 
 
Seafood Pasta and fried calamari
 

The following day, I had Maniitt give me a tour of the Tatai Waterfalls, the Mangrove Park and the Koh Yor Beach area.

 

Dog cooling its heels.
Hole created by grinding River Rock when water flows by.
Mangrove view tower tourists
Mangrove walkway.

I toured the nearby market area on my own. It was similar to other SE Asia markets and I continue to be amazed on how can they sell all of the goods and foods offerings in these markets that are for the locals.

Rather than having to head out to the dirt bus station I first saw, the bus will be picking me up in front of the Pool Villa Guesthouse at 8AM. The cost of the trip to Sihanoukville is $16 USD. I am finding out that USD is the preferred currency and that the riels are used for change under a dollar. The ATMs will give you only 400000 Riels---$100USD, but you can get up to $300 USD out of these machines. So from here on out, I will get USD from the ATMs.

The bus from Koh Kong to Sihanoukville takes about 4 hours with a short stop along the way for food and toilet break. I was the only westerner on my bus and after our short stop, I noticed that the bus seemed to be going north instead of southeast as my map showed. I then started looking out the window at the mileage tombstones and I saw that it was heading to Phnom Penh. I then went to the front of the bus and showed him my bus ticket and said, "Sihanoukville?" No English spoken, but he got on the phone and shortly after he slowed down and a bus coming the other way pulled over and I got on that bus back to the rest stop. This bus had a Sihanoukville sign so I just waited until the lunch stop was over and reboarded the bus to Sihanoukville. Good to be getting where I wanted to go with just a little loss of time. I still don't know what I should have done differently.

Since I enjoyed the pool in Koh Kong, I decided to stay at one in the Serendipity Beach area. I walked about a mile from the bus station to the Beach Road Hotel that had a swimming pool. The other pool place, Utopia, was too much of a party atmosphere for me even though it was cheaper. I stayed three nights at the Beach Road Hotel for $27 per night. Although the pool was nice, I enjoyed being down on the beach front more. Plus the mold blooms on the shower grout gave me the willies, even after I got rid of some with the free toothbrushes they stock in the bathrooms.

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