On our way to Cambodia's
capital, Phnom Penh, from Vietnam we were looking forward to be some of
the first to use the new 2.2 km Tsubasa Bridge across the Mekong River.
It had opened a few days earlier. Previous to this, the Mekong River had
to be crossed via ferry -- a very time-consuming process. The removal of
this bottleneck promises to greatly enhance travel between Vietnam, Cambodia
and Thailand -- the 1,000 km southern economic corridor. The US$150 million
bridge had been over 10 years in the making and the project was mostly
funded by Japan. In fact, the Japanese word tsubasa implies "two
birds spreading their wings and holding hands." A beautiful structure,
and there were people walking on the bridge to enjoy the view.
But first, approaching the Vietnam/Cambodian
Customs, the bus attendant in charge of the passengers collected our passports,
along with $35.00 each for the Cambodia visa. We waited in a holding room
while he took them into immigration to have them put onto onto our passports.
It was very confusing -- there were rows upon rows of people waiting in
We were advised to use the toilet
facilities before we returned to the bus. The toilet fee was 2,000 dongs
for a pee and 3,000 dongs for a bowel movement. That, of course, included
a small wad of toilet tissue (think crepe paper) LOL!
We finally were directed to pass
through security when those of us with big backpacks were shouted back
to the scanner. Those of us who did this didn't see anyone at the scanner
so we carried on. Was it remote control? Big Brother watching from somewhere
out of sight? All the security personnel sounded a bit nasty.
Returning to the bus got our
passports back only to give them to the manager yet again as we drove over
to the Cambodian border. The manager sat on a bench inside to fill out
our arrival / departure cards and gave them back to us as we lined up for
security check. Some had their pictures taken and finger prints scanned.
By he time the customs guy got to us, he didn't bother to scan our hands.
Just said "No problem" and waved us through.
We drove a few meters and then
stopped at a "restaurant" for lunch. Beam warned us about eating the local
food -- not safe as it had probably been sitting for some time. She suggested
instant noodles! Imagine... coming all this way to have ramen, but it was
a good choice -- followed by cold drinks, beer, and ice cream. A 20 minute
stop, then another few hours to Phnom Penh.
Before the bridge, the source
of income was mainly farming: rice fields in rotation, vegetables, plant
nurseries, fruit, and most interesting, were the kilns for making bricks!
That's a main building material here. Piles of wood, of all sorts, is used
to fuel these kilns.
Once across the bridge, we saw
more commerce, well, banking anyway -- mostly financed by foreign countries.
There are many banks along the road. very modern buildings in between ramshackled
huts, traditional homes, and small shops.