Our journey into Cambodia started off with a pretty weird interaction. We arrived at the border crossing at 5:30pm heading into Kep Cambodia. At the border there was only one guy who was holding up a rope across the street charging certain people on motorbikes while letting others pass. The sign over the building said “Vehicle Inspection” which pretty much meant if you have anything strapped on your scooter you pay, that is if he can get you to stop in time. If not you just roll through free of charge. When we approached he said we were late to cross the border, they close at 6:00pm. I look at my watch, its 5:30pm. I look at my phone; yup it sure is 5:30pm. Cambodians seem to have their own sense of time that overpowers and disregards the actual time. They work when they want, they leave when they want, and they do what they want, especially the government workers. We needed a visa to get into Cambodia although if we would have kept driving nobody would have noticed. I wasn’t really worried about getting in; it was getting out and crossing into Thailand that made me stay to sort out the issue. The “Vehicle Inspector” got on his phone and started calling a few people, about 20 minutes later a guy comes up with a brief case and opened the doors to the wood shack labeled “Visas.” We bring over our passports put them on the counter and first thing he grabs them and says “We closed, you were late” I look at my watch again, it’s still only 5:50pm and this is after we waited 20 min for him to come back. I just thought to myself, actually you’re late ass hole, we were here early. So we go through the whole visa service, even get yelled at by him because we have to borrow a pen to fill out the arrival form… 5 minutes later and we’re all set, ok, $20.00 each for a Visa. So I pull out $40.00 and hand it to him.
“Visa went up to $35.00 each October 1st” he says.
I reply “No, a United States Citizens visa for Cambodia is $20.00 each”
He insisted that the law changed October 1st (it was October 3rd) to $35.00 each. I ask for a recipt for the transaction because then he wouldn’t be able to overcharge us. He says “No, no receipt” Without any internet connection to look it up we were pretty helpless. Even though I had our travel book that said $20.00 each for Visa and had looked it up online a few days ago there was really nothing we could do at this point. He’s the police and we’re just some foreign tourists who he can take advantage of. So I hand him over $70.00, He says not enough, you were late. Wait…. We were late? It was still 5 minutes until he was supposed to close and he wasn’t even there working 30 minutes ago when we arrived. He says we owe him $10.00 more or we can’t go into Cambodia. We paid a total of $80.00 and waited for 45 minutes for the whole process to complete. Mr. Police Captain, Deputy Chief of Visa Service, you sir are a royal one of a kind dickhead.
Whatever, we were in Cambodia and heading to the Crab Capital of South East Asia, Kep. The road to Kep was excellent, once we crossed over the border there were nice paved roads, center divides, signs that read “please no honking”(a welcome site after Vietnam) and plenty of directional signs to guide us on our way. When we arrived we got a place to stay for $5.00 a night and went immediately to bed after the long days ride on the motorbike and a hectic transaction at the border crossing.
Crab, Crab, and more Crab. Kep is a beautiful seaside town along the south east tip of Cambodia. For many years the town of Kep has been a destination for the rich and wealthy of Cambodian society as well as the former vacation destination for diplomats and royalty. Along the beautiful coastline are a few scattered hotels and beaches, a huge crab statue in the bay, and the famous Kep Crab Market. The crab market consists of a small fish market on the west side and a line of amazing eateries along the east side. Each restaurant has an open back that looks out at the ocean allowing for a spectacular view of the sunset while you enjoy your evening cocktails and crab feasts. Our favorite out of the Crab Market restaurants was “The Democrat”. We had read about a few others on trip advisor and in our travel book but when we were recommended this place from a local working at our guest house we had to check it out. He told us that the restaurant was started by the head chef of the big resort in Kep and is fairly new. Because it’s new their prices are more reasonable and they work hard on service and food prep. The thing that really sold us was their happy hour 2 for 1 cocktail. The Democrat is one of the only places at the market that have a happy hour special. The bartender there, a young man in his early 20’s, made some of the best drinks we had yet. He told us the restaurant owner and head chef paid for him to go to study cocktails in Phnom Penh last year which made him one of the best bartenders in all of Kep. We got a new drink every time we ordered and were never disappointed. During happy hour drinks were only $1.75 each which made it a pretty easy decision when asked if we would like another. Next was the food, Natalie and I ordered a Papaya Salad to share while we drank our first few drinks. It was delicious, full of shrimp, lime, shredded papaya, and local fruits. For our main entrees Natalie ordered grilled squid and I ordered the Crispy Crab. For starters let me say I’m pretty much obsessed with crab, I eat it in San Francisco every chance I get. Although in San Francisco crab will be well into the $30.00+ range at a restaurant and not much less at the local market so the chances are limited. In Kep however the Crispy Crab dish consisted of 3 fresh and delicious medium size crabs for a total of about $12. The meal was cooked perfectly; the shell was softened by the frying process making it edible and easy to eat. If you love seafood and especially crab, Kep is a must stop destination while on a trip through Cambodia.