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Wednesday 10 Jul 2013
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Welcome to Cambodia

Laura and Heather had booked a trip out into the jungle so we had to say goodbye to the first of our group. By this point we had all become good friends, bonding over card games, crazy monkeys, river swims and the truly awful taste of Lao-lao, so it was sad to say farewell. Mike was also staying behind so Krysia had taken over as our unofficial guide in her capacity as a travel agent. In other words, she was the only one Mike trusted with the bus tickets to Phnom Penh.

We were ferried back over to the mainland and walked through the small town to a cafe, where we were given the necessary forms for the Cambodian visa. We had to hand over our forms, passport, photo and US dollars to the bus agent before we got on, which is always a little uncomfortable, but if we were getting scammed then at least we were all in the same boat! Luckily it was no scam and the border crossing was actually relatively simple. We had to leave the bus and wait in a cafe in the no man's land between the borders for about half an hour while our passports were processed. After that we climbed back on board and the passports were handed back out and double checked at the Cambodian border. I now have a very ornate new visa in mine. Possibly my favourite visa sticker so far. The bus wasn't full so we had a double seat each to spread out in. I started working through my new video stash and the 9 hour journey passed in no time. I watched the film of 'Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' which tied in nicely with my trip as I'd listened to the audiobook while travelling through Java in May.
Kye negotiated three tuktuks for us before we'd even got off the bus in Phnom Penh and we made our way to the Mad Monkey hostel. It was a really nice clean hostel with a big triple room for Nat, Jill and I to share. We quickly made ourselves at home spreading out our still damp laundry. Unfortunately, not everyone got to relax straight away as Jon realised he didn't have his passport. He definitely got it back on the bus and I didn't remember seeing anything on his seat as we got off, but we didn't know whether it had been left on the bus, the tuktuk or lost at the lunch stop when he'd got changed. So while the rest of us met up for dinner, Jon and Carl made their way back to the bus station and enlisted Mike's help by e-mail to contact the bus company. The Mad Monkey ony had space for one night, so we trawled through Hostelworld and Trip Advisor until we came up with hostels in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville that could cope with a group of nine for the next week. Travelling in a big group requires more planning ahead than any of us has been used to for a while.

Our new hostel, the Sunday Guesthouse, sent a couple of tuktuks over to pick us up in the morning and helped us arrange transport to get to the S.21 and Killing Fields Genocide museums later in the day. In the meantime we walked over to the Stray office and booked our next bus on to Siem Reap, all before breakfast. I was outvoted when the others saw an amazing bakery with an Aladdin's Cave of baked goodies out on display. I did my best to resist, but with nothing else nearby I gave in to temptation and didn't so much fall off the coeliac wagon, as high dive with a triple back sumersault off it... One Croque Monsieur, a Pain au Chocolat and a Croissant later and I felt guilty, but very satisfied.

Jon and Carl spent the morning at the Swedish Embassy and following leads on the missing passport.  Luckily, it turned up at the bus station and saved them a considerable amount of trouble!  It certainly made me keep a closer eye on my own passport...

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