We discovered another part of Svay Rieng in the morning. Breakfast stalls, little cafes and stalls selling meat, veggies and fruit lined a couple of busy, little streets. Kids on their way to school checked us out as they passed us on their bikes. There were dogs everywhere, mostly hanging around for scraps. We had rice with pork at one place and later walked over for some sweet coffee at a nearby café. We didn't want to leave. It was our last morning in Cambodia, and we felt as though we just started to get to know it.
We arrived at the Moc Bai border crossing well before noon. We over-stayed our Cambodian visa by one day. The Cambodian immigration official jumped in her seat with excitement, and asked for $US5 each. We expected this much. She then proceeded to put the money directly into her wallet, which I found odd. To make a long story short, she wasn't too pleased with me when I asked for an official receipt. She claimed that receipts were issued only for over-stay periods of 2 days or more. She really took her time writing out the receipts, and complained. Later we waited for a good half hour to get the receipt signed by another official. It was a waiting game they were hoping we'd lose. They wanted us to just give up and leave, but we stood our ground. I saw her take the $US10 bill out of her wallet. We were probably entitled to a grace period of one day, a fact that the local immigration officials use much to their advantage. From there we proceeded directly to the Vietnamese immigration. As soon as we entered the room we knew we were in for an experience. There was a busload of tourists in the room all waiting around. 5 or 6 Vietnamese men dressed in blue jumpsuits were writing out entry/exit forms for everyone. One of them grabbed our passports and handed it to another, while motioning us to have a seat and wait. I noticed that as people were picking up their passports the unofficial officials in blue jumpsuits were asking for a fee. People gave up anywhere from 1 to 3 $US for their service without question. When it came our time to pick up our passports all we had to do was ask what the fees were for to avoid having to pay. They didn't even put up much of a fight. As we waited for the next stage, the men in blue jumpsuits were dividing up their loot. We ended up having to pay 4000Dong for something or other, but it came with the proper receipt attached. Just when we thought we were in the clear, a customs official outside told us to go through the building with our bikes, which until then were stationed outside. We were just waved through, and the only questions we were asked pertained to our cycling trip. We were officially in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
As soon as we entered Vietnam it felt different. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what was different about it. For one the buildings seemed taller. There were countless cafes serving up coffee, all with a very inviting décor. We stopped in Trang Bang for some lovely fish noodle soup. It was served up with fresh herbs and chili, and a lovely chrysanthemum tea. The owner spoke French to us the entire time. She was great. Afterwards we followed a couple of ladies from the soup shop to a nearby guesthouse. They were full, but suggested another place down the road. We had dinner at a local restaurant of some more noodle soup with tofu. They were really nice. It turned out to be a great first day in Vietnam. Tomorrow we ride into Ho Chi Minh City.