It has been more than two weeks that we travelled in a different way. We enjoyed the places we visited and the delicious food in the cities, but we are now very excited to get back on our bikes. Last night we stayed in a cheap hotel in Ho Chi Minh City or as the locals still call it Saigon. The rooms can also be rented for one hour and when we see our room we get the idea that this happens more often than people who stay here for longer. With a special sofa in the room and a condom on the bedside table. Yes, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, you sometimes have to settle for the craziest and sometimes dirtiest places.
We leave the city and we mentally prepare for the chaos. In Hanoi we already cycled briefly in the city and that was no fun. We felt very unsafe. But in the meantime we are in the flow of Vietnam and we even enjoyed cycling in the city. Straight through the markets, all the scooters that rush past us from all sides, the scooters that seem to drive themselves because the driver can no longer be seen under all the boxes and bags and a cyclist who is turning the saté on the bbq while cycling. We enjoy the for us crazy sights and we have a euphoric feeling.
We cycle through the Mekong delta towards Cambodia. It is a beautiful area where people make good use of the water. It is very green, we cycle a lot on narrow roads along the narrow and wider rivers, cycle over countless bridges and take the ferry a number of times.
We have to get used to the heat again. The feeling that we can’t drink our thirst away is back and we get headaches faster. So we take enough breaks in between. We have a new addiction. Squeezed sugar cane juice with lots of ice cubes. They sell it everywhere here. Along the side of the road they often have rest areas with hammocks where you can order this drink or a coconut. So we eagerly take advantage of that. We escape the sun for a while and recharge ourselves to continue cycling.
Once when we take a break along the side of the road, it is very busy. All the men gather and more and more join them. Then we see two men with roosters in their hands. We have often seen the roosters in their reed cages. We had planned never to look up such a fight, but now it is happening right in front of us. The cocks get a nice polish and then they get spat on their bottoms when they face each other. At first nothing happens and the roosters just stand there. So there are a few more spats and strokes over the feathers until the roosters start their fight.
From our point of view, we do not understand why you use animals in this way and how you can get pleasure out of it. There’s gambling going on and everyone looks elated and happy and they’re eager to share it with us. We smile back kindly but take a step back and don’t see how it ends.
The Mekong delta is a beautiful area, but every square meter is used by humans, so wild camping is difficult. We pitched our tent behind a gas station one night, but went looking for accommodations the other two nights. The last night in Vietnam we sleep in a guesthouse. The people are very sweet and hospitable and provide us with a great last evening in Vietnam. While we are preparing for cooking Q is invited for a beer and that eventually leads to a delicious supper and a few more beers with the family who invites us so we save the vegetables we bought for the next day. Every time we want to take a sip, we first have to toast and when our beer glass is half empty, another can is taken to pour. We haven’t had alcohol in a while so we quickly get tipsy.
The next day we wake up with a headache but are very excited! We’re crossing another border! So we quickly eat our oatmeal and drink our coffee and then get on the bike. Once at the border it is a bit unclear where we should be. There is a customs for the boats going in and out of the country so we go there first. The man indicates that we need to be somewhere else, so he drives his scooter with us to the border where we have to leave the country. It all goes smoothly and when we are at the border of Cambodia our passports are accepted, but we see the man looking at our passport with many question marks. He just doesn’t know what to do with us. He decides to drive off on the scooter with our passports. We sit in the shade for a while and wait to see what happens.
The man returns with our passports and indicates that we should cycle after him. We arrive at a place where we can get our ‘visa on arrival’. There is a very relaxed atmosphere. There are again many Buddhist features to see. We arrange our visa, want to pay with euros which turns out to be a problem because they want US dollars so we wait in the shadows for a while until we are told that we can pay with euros after all. And we can cycle into the unknown after a few hours of mostly waiting.
What immediately strikes us is how much space there is here and how quiet the roads are. There are few cars and there is no continuous honking. It feels great. The people are all very enthusiastic and we say “hello” back countless times. We haven’t been able to get any money yet, but we hardly have any water left and we can’t cook without water, so thirsty and hungry we continue cycling. Looking for how things work here with water and maybe a restaurant where we can pay by card, even though it is a small chance that we will find it. We stop at a restaurant but we can’t pay by card there and there is no such thing as a filter tap like in Vietnam and Thailand. But the man from the restaurant doesn’t want to send us away and says we can sit down. He gives us food and later water and apples for the road without wanting anything from us. Wow what a welcome to Cambodia. It is so heart-warming and we are very grateful because we can only withdraw money in the city at the very end of the day.
The next day we cycle to Phnom Penh. We cycle all day on quiet roads and small villages until we take a ferry into the city. It was a very nice way to get into the city. We stay with Grant and Shell. An Australian couple we met in Bosnia when they were doing their bike tour in Europe. They now live and work as teachers in Cambodia and previously in Malaysia. What great people. We have interesting conversations about living differently, the choices we make, society and the experiences on the cycling trips. We hit it off very well and there is a natural balance in giving each other space and occasionally having a nice chat.
We now enjoy the luxurious life. A wonderfully soft bed where we could not sleep well at first because we are no longer used to it, a swimming pool at our disposal and a kitchen where we quietly start our day every morning by making breakfast and a coffee. We end up staying a little longer than planned, but now the hands are starting to itch again. We look forward to the adventure again!