Saturday, 24 April 2021

Border Crossing – From Cambodia Pailin–Phsar Prum to Thailand Chantaburi – Banpuggard with a Malaysian Registered Motorbike

The border crossing from Cambodia (Pailin – Phsar Prum) to Thailand (Chantaburi – Banpuggard) went without any troubles but at the Thai side it was unusual compared to all my other entries..

Rode in the morning from Pailin town to the border town of Phsar Prum and park Bluey right in front of the Immigration and Customs. Best to be obvious but also ignorant I assumed so with Bluey fully in sight I proceeded to immigration stamping out and ignored customs.

Immigration & Customs at Phsar Prum - Cambodia 

No guards at the gates really so after immigration was done I packed up and rode Bluey very slowly to the Thai side wondering when will someone blow the whistle and pull me back to the Cambodian side but it never happen so I was out of Cambodia.

This was interesting for the previous time I was in Cambodia, running though the proper paperwork cost me USD 12.5 export fee and at least an hour waiting for the customs officer to figure out their paperwork but just being ignorant and riding through hoping no one notice cost me a free exit from Cambodia. This also allowed me to keep the original “temporary customs permit” which I got at the Cambodia entrance border of Chong Chom as a souvenir.

The Thailand side border Banpuggard made me run a wild goose chase which makes me feel like each of the counters did not trust each other. First up was counter 9 which was to get the immigration white card and TM2 form but the lady would not give me the TM2 form and ask me to go to immigration first at counter 4 then customs then back to her at counter 9.

So I got to counter 4, and mention motorbike crossing to the officer just in case since the TM2 form was missing. The officer checked with his buddy which refered to another list on a paper and finally asking where is Bluey registered. Apparently on their list was four countries that was allowed entry of vehicle into Thailand.

Malaysia

Singapore

Laos

Cambodia

Got stamped in at Immigration and I had to jump a fence to go to customs which was on the road drive through. Immigration was on the pedestrian walk path. Customs asked for all the standard documents and a new requirement of a photocopy of my passport with the entrance stamp into Thailand. This I could not prepare in advance since I just got the stamp a minute ago so I was directed to a nearby photocopy booth and got the papers for 3 baht. Bluey was also brought into the Customs holding area instead of parking in the no man zone.

Border Checkpoint - Banpuggard

As the Customs processed the Temporary Import Permit (TIP) form he asked where was I going.

Home ... back to Malaysia.

15 Days ok ? Enough to go home to Malaysia ?

NO ! Cannot ! Give me 30 Days.

This was the first time I had to bargain to get a 30 days permit. I guess I had enter once too many time into Thailand and it is showing in their system.

15 Days enough to reach Malaysia.

NO ! ... I go Bangkok Songkran (Thailand New Year Festival) ... 15 days not enough ... I want to see Songkran then go back to Malaysia.

Songkran was a week later so effectively after Songkran I would have 2 weeks to get home hence the argument was sound. If I don't get 30 days, there was no way I could hang out in Bangkok for Songkran.

The Customs officer was convinced and he laughed when I mention Songkran giving me the thumbs up and said OK ... for you 30 days.

Phew.

Customs done I went back to counter 9 hoping to get the final TM2 form. The lady filled up the form and now I had to go back to counter 5 for the immigration stamp on the TM2 form. Mind that I was lining up again and again for all this counter behind new people so this whole process really took up time.

Immigration looked at me and the TM2 forms and asked me to bring Bluey into the immigration compound. Jump the fence again to Customs and somehow explained that I needed to ride Bluey into the pedestrian only section to show immigration the bike. I went round and round looking for a way in and the guards started blowing whistle stopping me like I was crazy trying to jail brake the customs holding area.

Somehow I manage to convey the message and the guards showed me a gate which they opened for my entry into the Immigration holding area. Immigration Officer checked the bike chassis number, double check all the paper works again, requested for my driving license and was very pleased with the international driving license.

Immigration finally stamped the TM2 form and with that I was now good to go into Thailand. The whole process took me 2 hours at the border and since this was a very remote border luckily there was not much people in queue else I would have been stuck for a long long time.

The last leg ... the road back home ...

Back in Thailand - Chantaburi Region

Traveled on : Apr 2019


Saturday, 17 April 2021

Sleepy town Pailin & Gambling at the Border Psar Prum

The time I spend in Pailin was literary inside the casino. First day I reach Pailin and after checking in the hotel and got a shower it was hitting the road again to go 20km to the border town of Psar Prum where all the casino was.

Initially I thought there was only one casino at this border town as shown in the map but once I approach the border, mushrooms of casino lined the sides like honorary guards all the way to the border post.

Pailin Town

Pailin was not really a touristy town and lack the usual tourist gawking around that usually follows the banana trail along Cambodia. A plain surrounded by mountains, which was a rare sight in Cambodia, streets were well paved and housed and shops clean cut showing the leftover of the gemstone riches of old days.

On one mountain sat the must see Pagoda on the hill temple of Pailin. Phanom Yat Pagoda overlooking Pailin main town and mountain was gilded with gold and was a hot dating spot for young couples.

Sleepy Town of Pailin 

Phanom Yat Pagoda - Pailin

At the foot of the hills is Granma Yat Statue, A shrine that looked similar to the local lore in Malaysia of Datok Kong, I presume this was the local land god but alas ... I had no one to tell me the tale.

Granma Yat Statue - Pailin

Gambling in the Border Psar Prum

Checked out all the casino I could see and mostly catered to online gaming with cameras to live dealers plus massive baccarats tables as usual. The Flamingo Casino was the only one that had a little variety of games and I ended up three days always there gambling.

Flamingo Casino - The Oldest, Largest and most Table Games in Psar Prum

In short, I payed the learning fee for how to play Asian Poker or Pai Gao Poker as the locals call it. The casino was very chill with only locals and Thai local tourist frequenting it regularly so a foreigner like me was quite a sight for the people there. The casino staff seam to came from all over hence some of the pit supervisors from the Philiphines who could speak English keep chatting me up.

Initially some curious players tried to asked me questions in the minimal english they could muster. Apparently nearly all the players here were regulars and knew each other one way or another like a big morning market that seams to know the neighbourhood customers. New faces were rare and forigen tourist riding bikes all the way from Malaysia was extremely rare.

After the first few hours in the casino the new players whom just join the table would be introduce to me by the current players as a foreigner from Malaysia. All these was in Thai languege and I guess it was amusing to them. Eventually one of them could speak good English and once he knew I was riding around south east asia with Bluey it became the table conversation. Questions were passed from players to him to relate to me and so forth and they all chatted with big smiles on their faces. Many times the games was like on pause while we all chatted like some new friends just met a the Bar.

The Single Street of Psar Prum, Lines with Casino on both sides 

Gambling was not the main motive for most coming to the casino, enjoying company and entertainment was the main goal.

Players and dealers all offered me free food from the casino but I only knew how to order fried rice since there was no menu. One dealer even offered me a free room in the casino to stay and as tempted I was to feel like a VIP player, I turn it down knowing the danger of staying too close to a Casino. Still 20km distance ride everyday still did not deter me from playing. Every day ... 20 km to the casino and after a loss ... a sad 20km back to the hotel.

Traveled on: Apr 2021

Saturday, 10 April 2021

A Treasure Map in Kratie – The Mekong Discovery Trail

The first thing I notice when I arrived Kratie in le Tonle Guesthouse was the cute little drawn map of the sights and things to do around here.

A treasure map !

The Mekong Discovery Trial - Kratie to Sambor loop around the Mekong River

The Mekong discovery trail that makes a loop from Kratie as a base point and involves two ferry crossings. I was ecstatic for I knew this trail is a must do since I had Bluey with me. I mean why waste a absolutely amazing ride trail for free when every other tourist would have to rent a bike to do this gig.

The trail was about 80km in total making a full loop. I started at 10am in the morning going north from Kratie town passing village life on the road which was what this trail was all about. Discovering the life of normal people along the Mekong river.

The start of the Mekong Discovery Trail. 

I have to say, the tourism idea was splendid for there was not one effort done into making this trail a tourist trap so all along this ride north was normal people chilling out and minding their own business. I reach the 100 column pagoda which was a grand temple but ordinary after seeing so many temples in the region.


Wat - 100 Column Pagoda at Sambor 

The most interesting part of the Mekong discovery trail was the ferry boat crossing in the north. Google maps was a very small marker saying local boat crossing and some comments said only for peoples and no vehicles. I took my chance and rode down to the river banks and saw little bikes inside the boats.

Parked Bluey nicely and identified the boatman and pointed to Bluey and across the wide Mekong river. A nod of the head and I knew this ride was well on its way to becoming legendary.

How much ? I asked ....

2000 riel for Bike, 2000 riel for you

Bluey's Boat ride across the Mekong River 

Just another day Crossing the Mekong River - Sambor

So a total of USD 1 and I will get a boat crossing shipping me and Bluey across the Mekong river. I could not help smiling and admiring as they load up Bluey into the small boat but at the same time felt nervous every time the boat lean one way or another threatening to capsize. All aboard and we were off to the other side.

I paid USD 2 as a gesture of thanks to the boatman once he unloaded Bluey safely and it was off to hit the second part of the trail. Riding on the opposite side of the Mekong river going back south was dirt road all the way.

Many a times I had to cross wooden bridges that looked so battered it was borderline falling apart. Each bridge I would stop, and eyeing carefully, picked out the planks I would ride across on and once committed on the bridge never stop regardless of the sounds the bridge seam to make.

Dirt Road riding - Mekong Discovery Trail

Wooden Bridges Crossing - Mekong Discovery Trail

Local Houses along the Mekong Discovery Trail

Houses after houses just seeing the locals all chilling under the houses in groups either chatting or playing games, I rode slowly all the way back south. It was really the boring non-interesting ride it could ever be but doing it without having to worry about time made it relaxing and enjoyable to see what is, as it is.

The second ferry crossing in the south was more normal and only cost 2000 riel for both me and Bluey and once across it was a short ride back to Kratie.

The Normal Ferry back across to Kratie 

Traveled on: Mar 2021  

Friday, 2 April 2021

Kratie & The Mekong Dolphins

Kratie was a long detour I decided to make while waiting out the time in Cambodia to before doing the last leg through Thailand back to Malaysia. In a way I had to burn time ... waste it in a way so that when I finally crossed into Thailand, it would be near the April Songkran Festival.

* Thinking back to those days travelling without a care in the world while writing this piece in my room in Singapore in 2021 after a year of COVID-19 just feels so unreal .... somehow the invisible chain has set in ... and I wonder when could we do these types of cross cultural soul searching in future.

Kratie was a nice little quiet town unlike any I have seen in Cambodia. Most towns I rode through along Cambodia was either very small and dusty while the slightly more bigger one would be very noisy and cluttered. Kratie was different, it was quiet and somehow peaceful. Seeing sunset along the Mekong river and just watching it flow was the most natural thing to do every evening.

Kratie - Sunset

A Fishing Boat at Kratie - Mekong River

The Mekong Dolphins,

Of course I had to go see the Mekong Dolphins ... or as they call it ... the Irrawaddy dolphins. It was a tourist trap in a way but still the experience was worth the trip. I mean we got on a boat, either sharing or alone with the boat guide which was relatively affordable and controlled price by the tourism industry board of Cambodia.

They propel out with the motor engine and near a certain spot they would kill the engine and slowly peddle manually ever so slowly closer towards the dolphins. Apparently the dolphins just hang around these parts of the Mekong all year round. Its their home and in a way, would not be able to go very far upstream or downstream as the Mekong river becomes shallow or narrow.

Irrawaddy Dolphins Viewing Spot in Kratie 

Looking for Break-line in the Water for Irrawaddy Dolphins - Kratie 

One could only see every so much a moment, slight tip of the top fin of a bunch of dolphins ... usually 2 or 3 in a group and then they would dive and we would hunt the waterline waiting for a break to catch another glimpse of the top fins of Irrawaddy dolphins. Photos was of course near impossible to catch with all these brief moments and after a while looking at some boats with DSLR franticly trying to snap photos of the dolphins when they are spotted felt ridiculous. I decided to just sit, look out and enjoy the breeze and occasionally smile at the passing breakwater tip of an Irrawaddy dolphin swimming closely

Kampi Resort

Nearby Kratie was the Kampi Resort. I decided to stop since it looked like a tourist souvenir trap but found out it was like a day resort retreat. Floating huts on top the Mekong river where one could dip in to the cold and fast flowing rapids of the Mekong river on a hot afternoon was really an ingenious idea. Coupled with hammocks and food service, if only it was not that expensive. Thinking back ... it was not really expensive when compared to Malaysia or Singapore ... but I had normalized to local value of money.

Kampi Resort -  Kratie 

Swimming In the Mekong River at Kampi Resort - Kratie 

Traveled on: Mar 2019

Saturday, 20 February 2021

A Folk Tale of the Dolphin (Irrawady Dolphins in Kratie-Kampi)

Local Lore Stories in South East Asia is always intriguing. ^^ ... 

***

Once upon a time, there lived a Theveda (A male Angel) on a huge scared tree and a girl in a nearby village.

The Thevada fall in love with the girl when he saw her bringing food to the spiritual tree to pray for happiness in her family and her community.

This was because he was her husband in their past lives.

The Thevada attempted to meet her again, but he could only go to her house during the night and had to transform himself into a python

The girl was frighten when she saw the snake for the first time, so Thevada decided to show her his real appearance and told her about their connections in the previous lives.

The Thevada python visit the girl every night until the girls parents discovered them together.

The Thevada described his story to them and guided them to a treasure location

The family found the treasure and became a rich household in the village.

The story of a girl getting married to a python and becoming rich spread rapidly to other village.

In another remote village, there was an envious couple with a daughter which heard the rumour and intended to replicate it.

Therefore, they decided to marry their daughter to a python too.

The father went to the forest and found a starving wild python.

He excitedly brought it home.

A wedding of the daughter and the snake groom was celebrated and attended by many relatives and friends of the family.

However, many guest were surprised at this wedding.

When night came, the bride was left alone with the hungry snake.

The python started swallowing's it’s prey, the girl.

She shockingly shouted out for help, but she was ignored by her parents

After a while, the parents became suspected when they no longer heard the voice of their daughter.

They immediately found only the snake with its enlarged body in the room.

They cut open the python to save their daughter.

Luckily, the girl was still alive, but sadly her body was contaminated with fishy smell remained.

She was so embarrassed and upset.

Hopelessly, she decided to kill herself by throwing herself into the river.

Suddenly her body turned into a dolphin and begin swimming in the river.

It was believed that the dolphin has existed since then.

***

The local Lore of Irrawady Dolphins