Chau Dac is a small border town on Vietnam side near Vietnam and Cambodia border. M suggested to visit floating forest near the town and I am glad I did. He dropped me at the bus stop in the morning on the way to work and helped me with the bus ticket. We parted ways and I thanked him for his wonderful hospitality and glimpse of local life, it reminded me of my college in Gurgaon. Bus was suppose to leave from a central station and they had a shuttle from the ticket office to the main bus station. When the shuttle bus came, lady at the ticket counter signaled me to board it.
At the main station when I went to my bus company’s office to ask about where to catch the bus, man at the office gate saw my ticket and told me to wait for 30 mins in the waiting hall. When I went to the waiting hall next door it was packed, it was a big hall with million people and I came out and started looking for some quiet corner. When I passed the office again man asked me what happened, I told him it is too crowded and I saw a empty chair in the office near the entrance and asked him if I can wait here and he said sure. I got the VIP seat in the office and I was the only non uniform person in the office and the man who was helping me was standing on the entrance and directing people to their respective buses and in between when no one was asking him about the buses he started asking about my whereabouts and all the regular questions, how long I been here, where I am going to next etc. He was also translating for his office colleagues who were busy on the computers and laughing once in a while and then he suddenly points to the girl working in the corner and said she likes you. He teased me until my bus arrived. I was trying to steer the conversation to some other topics by asking him random question but he will came back to his topic after answering my question. It was funny. When my bus arrived he didn’t let me go until I said good bye to the girl, poor girl was laughing so hard and was super shy, I waved good bye and thanked him for the entertainment. Chau Dac was 6 hours away.
I like traveling by road, it gives me time to contemplate on things and chance to see the country away from big cities. Bus seating was weird, it did not had regular seats but inclined ones, it was like seating in a dentist chair, seats were reclined at about 120 degrees and were in a bunk like setting, 3 rows with two levels. I did not feel it was comfortable if that was the idea of the seat design anyways we reached Chau Dac in the late afternoon and I wandered around the town to find a place to sleep. I managed to find a cheap one and it was a off-season I guess as the whole hotel was empty. I was able to bargain a little about the room price but not much.
I was super hungry as I did not eat anything since morning and when I asked the hotel owner about food places near by she handed me the menu and I settled for chicken curry, it looked good in the picture and it was good in taste as well. I asked about the floating forest tour and she told me it will be tomorrow and will cost around $20 plus the entrance fee. The floating forest was about 30 kms away from the town and some local guy would take me on the motorcycle.
Next day I asked about it from the hotel next door and he said it will be around $15 and I said let’s go. Motorcyclist was there in five minutes. It was about 45 minutes ride, along the water streams, rice fields and lush green surroundings.
Ticket office at the forest asked me If I was traveling alone or with the group, I said alone, they gave the most expensive ticket. I guess I was the first tourist of the day as everything was quiet and hardly any people in sight. They told me go down near the boat. Office was a small river and the guy started the motor of the boat and told me to sit in front and we started going in the river. I was not seeing anything floating and after 10 mins I thought I came in at a wrong time and my two days were not worth this boat ride. Then the boat stopped and parked and the driver signaled me to get down and go on the other side. When I went on the other side I saw the floating forest, it was spectacular, I was in awe. It was an area covered with plants floating on the water and they take you inside the forest on a boat, as you go deep in the forest you don’t see water at all, it’s all green and feels unreal.
In the evening I was walking in the local market looking for chopsticks. I entered one of the shops and guy was busy playing video game on his phone and when I showed him the chopstick translation on the phone, he point to the shop next door and as I going out, a girl walked in to the shop and the guy asked her to take me to the chopstick shop. I followed her to the shop and she told the shopkeeper lady about what I wanted in Vietnamese and shopkeeper lady pulled out a packet which had like 30 chopsticks and I said no, I just need a pair. She signaled she does not have any smaller packet. I said thank you in Vietnamese and continued my quest for chopsticks and locals were amazing trying to help me out, as it was evening the shops were closed already. Another shopkeeper directed to one street and I was able to find chopsticks successfully from a road side vendor lady who was closing her shop. We had to bargain the price on the phone as she did not speak english. I typed on my phone 5000 and she nodded.
Next day morning I had booked a boat from Chau Dac to Cambodia border and then from there small van to Phnom Penh. It was not a bad ride in terms of time. I came down to the hotel and was waiting for my ride to the boat office and the hotel owner asked me “Breakfast? and handed me over the menu” I pulled remaining Vietnamese currency from my pocket and calculated how much will remain after I would pay for the Cambodian visa. When she came back to take the order I showed her the money for breakfast and visa and told her this is the only money left and asked If I can get an omelet and a coffee with the remaining money. I had about 15000 vnd where as the total cost for the two items according to the menu was about double. She looked at me and my situation and smiled and said ok, no problem.