We set out at 9 for the very straight 13S south to the border in Cambodia in 176 km. We stopped just before to spend our last Kip on gas.
We are a bit sad to leave Laos and the people who are soft spoken and very friendly, the riding is fantastic, and the food is good. There is essentially no traffic and where there is the drivers are considerate and follow the rules of the road and this includes the scooter riders.
When you arrive to the Laos border you pull under the arch and park just beyond it.
The first step for exit is to go to the left bank of windows to #2 and hand over your passport, pay 2 USD for an exit stamp (scam? the locals were paying too), and hand in your departure form you filled in on entry. Trevor did challenge him and even asked for a receipt for the stamp fee….no receipt.. no payment…no stamp. We all paid. Too bad he did not pay him with the fake 10US he had received in change from a bartender in Phenom Pen last week.
You then take your Laos TVIP across the road to the customs window and hand it to the agent. He stood up from his chair behind the window and said “motos?”, looked out the window and saw 4 motos, and said ok you can go.
You then ride 300 m to the exit gate thru no man’s land. Here there is a welcome to Cambodia sign and another gate.
When you pull up the agent in the kiosk will raise the gate for you.
You then ride 200 m to the new looking immigration building and pull under the roof on the right.
Here the agents were all aghast that we had out headlights on and all dramatically covered their eye “as if from some bright spotlight”. It is illegal to have headlights on here in the day time. We all said they are always on and we can not turn them off and they did not say anything after that. Despite the internet rumors we were not stopped or ticket for driving in Cambodia with our lights on.
We were asked to go the first kiosk just to our left and this is quarantine. Here you fill in a health questionnaire and show your passport. They then “take your temperature, but she barely even pointed the thermometer at us. You are then directed inside to “room number 2” This is “customs”, but actually it is not as they do not have a customs office here at the border. This is the reason there are so many issues crossing into Cambodia. Some days there is an agent here some not. Some days you can get in some not. We had taken the preemptive strike to get the papers in Phenom Pen. The alternative is to leave the bikes here and one or more of us would have then had to go by bus to get the papers. They were really not sure what to do with us as we clearly had paperwork and permission to bring the bikes into the country, but they had no way to generate the TVIP.
There was much discussion and after 45 min they decided we could go to Stung Treng to the customs office, which is 65 km away. We have heard since that an Austrian couple who contacted us for advice on crossing here did not get the papers as we advised and had to park the bikes in No man’s lane and bus it the 450 km to Phenom Pen.
We were told we needed to go today to customs and report in , but as it is Oct 31 they say they will not do the TVIP at months end and we will have to go back on Nov 1. OK whatever?! Finally they decided to trust us that we would report to customs.
We filled in the visa on arrival form, paid 35 $ each, and supplied passport photos…tada Visas. Next you go to immigration for photographing and fingerprinting. The last agent then stamps your passport takes your entry form and staples your exit form into it. All done in just over an hour. The one agent was actually very nice and gave us his phone number. Four of them spent 10 min on google trying to show us where the customs office was in Stung Treng. They seem very apologetic that they could not do the TVIP for us here and that we would need to wait until tomorrow. Since we planned to stay over there anyway it was no big issue for us. Last step is to ride 200 m to the exit gate, which they did not even bother to raise so we had to duck under.
Finally in Cambodia!!! We certainly hope Thailand is easier. The first 40 km is a good dirt road with some sections with bad pot holes and a fair amount of dust. The garbage on the ground here is terrible and the economic level obviously much lower even than Laos.
The last 25 km are mostly paved and just after we hit the pavement Dan had a flat and we found a large screw in the rear tire. The other guys had been ahead and finally turned back 25 km farther on after a car pulled up to them in town to say your friends have a flat…by the time they showed back up in 30 min where all done and ready to go.
There are some sketchy sections on the road near town with pot holes and so we slowed it down quite a bit.
Trevor had purchased a SIM card last week and so we could use it in town to google map the Customs “office”. This is lucky as with out that and the sign in English we would have thought it was a derelict or abandoned building. There was a few guys with no shirts on in the basement and the “boss” was wandering about fresh from the shower in only a bath towel and was brushing his teeth on the patio when we arrived. They had been called from the border agents and were “expecting us”, confirmed that it is a new month tomorrow and they will do the papers then, and we should come back at 830 am. They assured us it would be no problem for us to get the TVIP and ride the 4 hours to Siem Reap. It is only an issue for us as we have a flight the evening after next to Hanoi. The other 2 are staying here 2 nights and then heading in the opposite direction.
The hotel we had looked at on line as the best of the choices here is right on the Mekong and 400 m from the Customs building. It is clean and nice and 20$. Their towel decorations are supposed to be temples???!!!
This evening we walked over to the center of town and found a huge night market, fair, and stage show. There was an incredible number of sights, sounds, and smells and garbage of course.
We had breakfast and then went over to the customs office at 9.
They had said 830-9, but when we showed up it was locked up. There was a teenager there who called the boss when we arrived and he got on the phone with us and said he would be there in 2 minutes. 20 minutes later he showed up. He said he would do the papers in 30 min. The first issue was they needed to make some calls to sort out what to do, then the internet went off and they needed to re start all the forms, and then the power went off…. no internet again.
At 1030 Trevor went inside again and asked if we all needed to stay or could Dan and Sara start off for Siem Reap (a 4 1/2 hour drive). He said no worry as you will only get one form for all 4 bikes, despite the fact that we will not travel together.
That said we did leave and eventually they supplied the paper (no VIN numbers and all the plates were listed as Dan’s). The issue here in Cambodia is they have no system or structure in place for the TVIP. They start from scratch with every person. This means they have no idea what to do with us. Luckily we are in the country at all and with the bikes. We have since read that others who got in just did not bother to go to customs and easily got exit passport stamps when leaving and did not report to customs on exit.
We headed west on the National Highways 352 km to Siem Reap. This is on paved roads with very little traffic. This route passes thru many villages and several small towns.
We stopped at the half way point in Preah Vihear.
Arriving to Siem Reap on the main road it was 30 degrees, humid, and there was quite a bit of traffic, but it was moving smoothly. The Cambodians for the most part are courteous drivers. And one on the very small roads it was mostly tuk tuks and bikes.
Our hotel is off the main road and so quieter. We checked in and had some lunch (including banana flower salad) before walking a bit in the heat.
We have planned to meet up with Dave and Kyle who we met in Dushanbe Tajikistan. They were riding from Siem Reap home to the UK for a visit! They live here and have agreed to store our bikes for 2 weeks while we have a holiday in Vietnam. We grabbed a Tuk Tuk down to where the action is in the “bar” zone and spent a great evening with them at Beatnik Bar conveniently across the road from one of their 3 apparel shops here. This is a very happening town with a great vibe. We met up with some of their friends and both of their girlfriends. Plans were made for our return in 2 week. I can tell we do not have enough time here already!