I didn't want Xenia to go alone to the Cambodian border. She had to take the trip to renew her visa. It was just a simple matter of crossing over and quickly returning with a three-month renewal. But Cambodia, as an idea, brings to mind the worst. Criminals go there to squat. The drug trade, human trafficking, and violence are easily overlooked by police. Cambodia is one of those, 'heart of darkness' places.
So I didn't feel too good about sending my girlfriend on her way, at 5 AM, to Ho Chi Minh City to catch a 3-hour long bus ride to the border depot of Moc Bai. Something as simple as falling asleep on the bus and having her wallet taken could be a real possibility and a real headache. At least with me, she could doze off and know at the very least, I would have my wallet to help us get back safely if she got pick-pocketed on the bus. But as it turned out, I was just there to keep her company on the boring trip there and back.
The weather was horrible that day and I dressed in proper shoes and wore a sweater for the first time since I could remember. The bus was cramped and exposed to the elements. It picked up everyone along the way and maintained a pace that felt like a crawl compared to the rest of the traffic that went by.
I waited for her on the Vietnamese side of the border for about an hour and a half. I found a small stand to have breakfast. But there were flies all over the opened container of sweetened condensed milk. There was nothing to eat there that flies hadn't touched first. So instead I walked over to another plastic stool stand and had a beer.
I enjoyed watching the world walk by. Some backpackers were coming into Vietnam for the same reason that Xenia went into Cambodia. They were a young attractive couple with their world on their backs.
I really wanted to have a coffee, a hot coffee that would awaken my mind that was feeling as tired as my body was sitting in that low plastic chair.
For $0.50 I bought the second best thing--iced coffee. It was big and in a plastic cup brought to me in a plastic bag, and with a plastic straw. This was quite unlike the mugs that were prepared for the truck drivers waiting in line and then delivered by motorbike to them. It was sweeter than flat coca-cola and had the viscosity of motor oil. The air was too cold to melt the ice and water down the coffee to a drinkable level. I left it barely touched
Not long after that, Xenia came across the border. I was relieved to see her again and leave. The ride back didn't seem too long. But the late-morning Ho Chi Minh City traffic was so bad that once we realized that we were in Saigon (the central district of HCMC) we hopped off of the bus and took a taxi. We treated ourselves to our new favorite restaurant for some hot soup.