It was my first time crossing an international border by boat. When the boat entered the Cambodian water, driver pulled up the Vietnamese flag and it put on the front of the boat. Boat ride was about 30 mins and was pretty. I saw a floating gas station for the first time on a river where our boat refueled. I shared the boat with few Russian and British people.
Visa process was straight forward, guy on the boat was friendly and funny, he collected everyone’s passport and asked for the visa fee which included special fees for the border officials on both sides. I told him that I don’t have Cambodian currency or dollars and can only pay in Vietnam dong (vnd) and he told me that it would cost me about 320K vnd, I had calculated that it would cost about 280k and was carrying only 300k, I tried to argue that according to conversion with the highest rate and the fees it will cost 280k and he replied that the exchange rate I was using is available only in town. I showed him the money and told him that this is all I have and please give me back some currency for souvenir, I don’t care, even a 1000 vnd bill will be fine. He gave me back 10k vnd and smiled and said a bigger souvenir for you. We stopped first at the Vietnam immigration for the exit stamps and then waited about 20 minutes at the Cambodian immigration and had our passport back with exit stamps and Cambodian visa. He directed all of us who where on the boat to proceed to the immigration office and get entry stamps for Cambodia and go outside where the van was waiting.
We reached Phnom Penh late in the afternoon, I walked about one km and found my hostel where I had the reservation. Owner was a nice Australian man. Hostel was very quiet and I had the entire 8 bed dorm to myself and it was nice not sharing it with annoying drunk teenagers.
First thing I noticed about Cambodia was the currency, it was weird. Every thing was in USD, when I went to the ATM for get some money it showed me two options whether I want USD or local currency. I was surprised.
Guess, what I found on the next street to my hostel? Restaurant named “Sher-e-Punjab” and I was delighted. When I walked into the restaurant one Indian guy was already having eating and started talking when he saw me. I initially thought he was the owner the way he was talking loudly with the staff who was sitting on the table next to him. I settled in the corner table and thought that the distance might discourage the guy to stop talking with me but it did not matter to him. We started having the conversation from two corners of the room and the white guy sitting in the middle was wondering what the hell is going on. He started with the routine questions but little more specific, Where I am from in Punjab? What I am doing here? After sometime he said “Jahan bhi Saradar honge, wahan Gurdware hoga, koi bhukha nahi marega” which translates to “Where ever there will be Sikhs, there will be Gurdwara and no body will die of hunger” It was a great realization moment for me that I am part of such a great legacy which I take for granted sometimes. When I asked the restaurant staff about who is from Punjab, they said no one. It was actually ran by people from Nepali, it was started by a Punjabi who left few years ago for another business pursuit in some other country but the new management did not change the name. It was my brunch place for next couple of days.
J whom I met in Manila was also in the town and it was nice catching up with her in the evening. I also met an interesting ex consultant who was living in Asia for about 20 years, he was super talkative, J and I laughed about how we did not even had a chance to speak for the whole hour he was with us.
I booked a van to Siem Reap the next day and main stop in Cambodia.