Danny Yee >> Travelogues >> Vietnam + Cambodia

the fast boat from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh

Thursday 12th November

The boat to Phnom Penh left from our hotel's floating restaurant, which was very convenient, as I could scoff my coffee before boarding around 8am. Other passengers were trooping through with their luggage — including what looked like an entire German tour group.

from my window at dawn
goodbye to the floating restaurant

We were soon out of Chau Doc and heading upstream. The river opened out onto a huge expanse of open water, but we mostly followed the left (true right) bank, with flat paddy fields — as well as sand piles, cranes, barges, and so forth.

The boat wasn't too crowded and it was easy to move around. Inside the cabin was shaded, and some people sat there and read. The windows didn't open, but it was possible to take photos from inside through the side doors.

A door at the front gave access to the bow, where it was possible to perch on a bench. And the final option was to clamber out the side doors, along the edge of boat - with a rail to hang onto but nothing between you and the river if you lost your grip on that! - and then pull oneself onto the roof of the cabin.

It was mostly overcast, so not too hot from the sun, and there was a nice breee from the boat's movement.

Mekong fishermen
a Mekong house

At about 9.20am we reached the border. We handed over our passports with the visa fee of $23 and waited in a little restaurant for the customs and health clearance; then we got back on boat and were given our passports back.

The boat moved on into Cambodia for immigration, where we sat around under pagodas, eventually got our passports back with visas in them, took them to the window to be stamped many times, and had them checked again on reboarding. Richard gave me his remaining dong here -- he wasn't returning to Vietnam.

now in Cambodia: signs in English
in Cambodia: riverside wat (temple)

We were given the cheese and bacon bun, the two bananas, and the bottle of water that were included in the boat fare. I threw my banana skins into the river, which had almost no garbage in it at all — was all that water moving everything downstream too fast?

The boat company was Hang Chau. The tickets were $21, though I could have got them for $18 from Long at the Hoa Sen bookshop.

For a while the boat was in the middle of river and there wasn't much to be seen, so I read a bit and used the guidebook-on-laptop to check hotels in Phnom Penh.

It was mostly overcast and pleasant with the boat moving. There were temples along the river every so often, but fewer buildings and no signs of any industry. There were people washing their cows, working in the fields or on boats, and so forth, and some of them waved at us from the shore.

In places there were pipes hanging out above river, I think where boats are used as portable irrigation pumps, and at one point we passed a big hospital "Ship of Life" moored at the side of the river. But I was surprised how few other boats we passed — the river is surely the easy way to move anything heavy around.

a cow on the river bank
a Mekong houseboat
a Mekong house

There were more buildings as we approached Phnom Penh: even a little high-rise, some shiny new apartment blocks with Khmer "temple" tops.

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