I had time to spare and didn’t want to travel within the lines anymore.
After spending four days devouring pho after pho, seeing canvases of the same rice paddy fields in blue, orange, and yellow, and trying pho cocktails at the the Mad Botanist and Né Bar, it was decided that my time in Vietnam was up. Using google flight explorer, I saw a $30 flight pop up, from Hanoi to an island off the coast of Vietnam, called Phu Quoc. The island borders Cambodia/Vietnam at the southern most tip.
The following day, I flew from Hanoi to Phu Quoc via JetStar, as I landed in the an airport with one luggage carousel with a stench of humidity. I went to a kiosk stand asking for transportation to the nearest port to take a ferry over to Vietnam’s mainland. Speaking English with them was like trying to teach your 2 year old son Chinese. The more you say, the more confused they get. One says, there are no ports. Another says it will be $10, which could pay for 1 night accommodation on the island. The luggage was tossed in the trunk and I was off to the port.
After 15 minutes of bouncing up and down unpaved roads, I arrive to the Phu Quoc port which looks like a Vietnamese ghost town. There’s a couple barefoot locals with no shirts carrying fruit. There’s a couple booths selling who knows what. I find one supposedly selling tickets. Nobody was inside. Ten minutes later as I’m sitting on the dusty road waiting for anybody to come save us, a woman in a torn white top that was embellished with a “Phu Quoc Express” logo on the right side pocket. She surcharged me, asking for 450K VND~ $20.00, (should be 350K VND~ $15.00) I pay and take my luggage down to the port. I’m lucky enough to only wait twenty minutes and then I’m taken to the “5 star transportation” ferry from Phu Quoc Port to Ha Tien.
The ferry was clean with safety brochures written in the last year. I’m given a bottle of water as I listened and watched 90’s Vietnamese music videos on the 60 inch TV hanging at the front of the deck. Looking around the cabin, there was a group of older men with sun damaged skin starring at the risqué women dancing in bikinis that were on the TV. One and a half hours later, I reached Ha Tien, Vietnam. I was patiently guided out to a local port with only locals cooing in Vietnamese. Eventually, I navigate towards an older man who made a promising pitch about getting safely across the border into Cambodia. I tested my luck with humanity and got in his 8 seater Toyota where the seats were torn and the windows cracked.
Twenty minutes later he dropped me off at a smelly, insect infested travel agency called “Ha Tien Travel Co”. Don’t go there, don’t waste your time. I and eight others were promised a seamless travel through the Prek Chek/Ha Tien border up to Kampot, Cambodia before 4 PM. We waited at the travel agency from 11:00 to 5:00 PM and spent $68.00 ($50.00 VISA, $2.00 photos, $1.00 form to fill about current health, $15.00 transportation to Kampot). As I read, it turns out the VISA fee is supposed to be $35.00 so we just continue getting screwed. By 5:00 I depart in another 8 seater van where I see insects chewing on leftover fruit in the back. Our group go to the border where we walk across holding our luggage, another van waits on the other side. The walk across the border takes five minutes. I get back into the van touching shoulders with a couple backpackers, a couple lost in translation European couples, and two single Dutchies who haven’t said a word. I reach Kampot by 8:00PM after the 7 other stops to drop people along the way.
What Was learned?
The one reputable travel agency in Ha Tien is the Oasis Bar. It’s a western owned restaurant with friendly English speaking staff who give free advice on all travel within Cambodia and Vietnam. The food is not half bad either, they have healthy vegetarian options to balance out the junk sandwiches that were sold at the Ha Tien Travel Co. They will charge you $35.00 for a Cambodia VISA, which is the fair price, not $55.00. Last point, people can be savages for a couple extra bucks.