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Into Cambodia

Saturday 16th December

Miles: 52   Climbing: 2303ft

Today the plan is to cross the border into Cambodia. I’ve heard a lot of different stories about border crossings in this part of the world. Almost every story involves a bribe and some even end with people getting their bikes taken off them. I’ve heard this mostly with motorbikes but I’m still a bit concerned.

The ride to the border was really nice, I was cycling through farmland for most of the time although I couldn’t tell what type of crop was being grown. It may have been coffee.

I could see what looked a bit like coffee beans drying in the sun on driveways. They were being turned by farmers using their feet and chickens and dogs were sleeping amongst the beans.

In the last village before the border I start looking around for shops. I’d got some Vietnamese currency left to spend. I didn’t spot any shops that tempted me but I did get a very friendly hello from a barbershop. I was in desperate need of a haircut and I’d been wondering if I should go to a hairdresser or a barbershop and now I’d made up my mind. I wheeled my bike over to the man and he offered me a chair to sit in outside his shop. He obviously wasn’t expecting me to ask for a haircut. I said hello then took off my helmet and pointed to my hair. He appeared shocked, a little amused but appeared to understand. He offered me a seat inside now and I managed to communicate that I only wanted the sides shaved and to leave the mohawk.

He got to work, much to amusement of the rest of his family who were laughing, taking photos and videoing the whole thing. Gradually more and more people arrived to watch until it felt like the whole village was watching me get a haircut.

He did a good job and after a lot more posing for photos I was on my way with a new haircut.

I got to the Vietnamese border and was told that I needed to get my luggage scanned so I had to remove everything from my bike to put it through the scanner. This seemed to be completely pointless as cars were being let through without any searching or bags being unloaded. I then got my exit stamps and loaded my bike back up before cycling to the Cambodian border. I had to fill out a visa form and an entry form. On the entry for it asked for flight number or vehicle registration. I just wrote bicycle and hoped this wouldn’t cause any problems. I then went to the desk to buy my visa. I had read that the visa would cost 30$ and the sign there said the same so when I was charged 35$ I questioned why. The official suddenly forgot how to speak English and after a very short standoff I paid 30$ and got my visa. I got away easily this time as it was a very quiet border and isn’t used by tourists very often so the officials don’t appear to be too good at ripping tourists off.

The nearest town was too far to ride after what I’d already done so I checked into a hotel just on the border. It was quite fancy and expensive compared with what I’d been used to but to food was terrible.

After finally getting used to the Vietnamese language I was suddenly stuck looking at a menu where the alphabet appeared to me made of snakes. One person there spoke a bit of English and suggested a few things from the menu. I settled with chicken soup and rice but what arrived was just bones and broth. I drank some of the broth and ate the rice

Tomorrow I’m looking forward to seeing a bit of Cambodia.

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