After living in Ho Chi Minh City for a few months, I became obsessed with the fact that the Cambodian border is only a few hours drive away. I wanted to drive to a new country on my motorbike. And not at the main border of Bravet. I wanted to cross at the little used Trapaing Sre border North of Ho Chi Minh City, which would get me into remote Eastern Cambodia.
The drive to the border wasn’t that interesting. There was a lot of traffic, and it was built up most of the way. But that changed after I passed Binh Long, the last big town in Vietnam. The road became bad, and it became more remote, with only a few settlements. There was no traffic.
I had debated whether or not to spend the night in the last city. It was 30 minutes to the border, so I decided to press on in order to save time tomorrow. Google Maps said there was a hotel at the border. As I drove night fell and I was in the middle of nowhere. When I turned off my motor, I could hear crickets chirping.
I drove until I came to the gigantic Vietnam border building. A gate was blocking the road at night. I turned around and found the hotel, but three huge dogs chased me away. There was a little restaurant next door, so I went in, and the ladies working there were amused. I had to point at the food I wanted. It was terrible, the worst I had Vietnam, which normally has delicious food.
After I ate one of the ladies showed me a room in the hotel. It was nice but creepy, because I was the only guest. In the morning one of the dogs bit me in the leg, ripping my pants and making me bleed. The lady at the hotel didn’t even care.
Crossing the border was a breeze. Only a few locals were crossing. The huge Vietnamese building was empty except for two border guards. They quickly stamped me out and had no interest in my motorbike. I got back on my bike and drove to the little Cambodian building.
It’s easy to get a visa on arrival for Cambodia, but I organized mine in Ho Chi Minh City because I wasn’t sure about crossing such a small border. It actually confused the guards a bit, and they spent a lot of time scrutinizing it. But they eventually stamped me in. They didn’t care about my bike either, so I got back on and drove into Cambodia.
A New Country
It was immediately apparent that I was in a new country. There was no traffic. The buildings were wood. Houses were built on stilts, and shops were simple shacks. I couldn’t read the signs any more. There was a lot of red dirt. It’s clear that Cambodia is much poorer than Vietnam.
At the last minute I had decided to go east to Sen Monoram, rathere than north to Kratie. Sen Monoram is in the highlands, so I wanted to see it. My original itinerary skipped it, because I wasn’t sure about the road from Sen Monoram to Banlung. The interwebs say it’s not finished, but the reports are dated. I figured I’d just ask in town.
It was a nice, relaxing drive on a good road. First through lowlands with a few settlements, then though an area that shows as green on Google Maps, the Snoul Wildlife Preserve. There were many settlements and rubber plantations in it.
Next I drove through a large biodiveristy area, which was hilly and heavily forested. It was uninhabited, and there was hardly any traffic. Having a problem with my motorbike here would not be fun.
I eventually came to a land of beautiful rolling green hills and fir tree. It was nice, and a little surprising. Rolling hills are not what I think of when I think of Cambodia. I came to the little town of Sen Monoram, which is only a few streets. Here I had some lunch before searching for Nature Lodge outside of town.
Nature Lodge is far down red dirt roads, and I got stuck in a torrential downpour while looking for it. It was impossible to drive, so I had to take shelter and wait out the storm.
I eventually made it, and it is a special place. I have a little bungalow to myself for only $10. Tomorrow I will trek in the jungle.