The slow boat along the Mekong to Cambodia was something I should have enjoyed more than I did. Unfortunately, in an inspired plan to save accomodation money, I’d decided to take the night bus from Saigon to the tiny Mekong Delta town the boat was leaving from.
Night buses often are a great way to save some money – as long as you’re not expecting too much vigour out of yourself the next day. Unfortunately the night bus I took on this occasion left at 11 pm and was due to arrive at 18.30 am. It arrived at 4.30 am instead. It was also a sitting-up bus instead of a cramped-but-at-least-I’m-still-lying-down bus. This meant I got approximately an hour and half’s sleep. This meant I spent the entire day falling asleep. (And also battling the lurgy I’d acquired in Saigon which gleefully seized the opportunity to counter attack.)
Given all that there was still something amazing about gliding slowly down the Mekong in a ramshackely tour boat. (We stopped briefly at a fish farm on the way out. There were more fish than water in the enclosures beneath the floating houses, and when our guide flung some food in to them the writhing, thrashing of their bodies sprayed us with water five metres away.)
The border crossing itself was a surreal experience. We handed our passports, photos, and visa money to our guide who went off to get our visas while we had lunch at the floating border station. No departure card, no customs check later we were cruising in no-man’s-water to the Cambodian border station on a nearby bank. The arbitary boundaries of countries seemed especially absurd when you watched the brown, slow waters of the Mekong flow calmly on without care or impediment. No barbed wire, no concrete monstrosities, no turn tiles or scanners.
A little while later we left the boat behind and boarded a bus to Phnom Penh, where I immediately collapsed into sleep.