Getting into Cambodia was a bit of an adventure.
Like my typical self, I did a little research on the internet to see what to expect when we got to the border. The warnings were clear – be ready to pay every person that you talk to before making it through. It is all a scam.
Excellent I thought! Nothing I like more than giving away money to those that do not deserve it.
So after a panic attack at the realization we did not have enough money for the border, hunting down an ATM that worked, exchanging it for US dollars with the owner of my guesthouse all in a matter of 30 minutes – we were ready!
But like I warned you about Laos, nobody else in the country was ready.
Our “boat” ride portion of the trip, which consisted of about 3 people crammed into a canoe – was on time. So, I will give that to the people! But when we reached the other side of the land, there was no bus to pick us up. Not at 10am like the ticket said… not even 11am… not even 12am… sometime around 1pm (I believe) our driver came.
During all those hours, I had to ask strangers for money to use the only bathroom around. Wasn’t planning on that. I had no Kip on me because I thought I was headed straight to Cambodia. That’s when I really made my #1 rule for these countries – always be prepared with cash, water and food.
When we got to the border of southern Laos, it was what was promised, a money grab.
First, upon leaving Laos I had to pay the border officers to stamp my passport to leave the country. With a chuckle, they asked for the $5. Unfortunately, I paid it because Rule #2 that I live by, if someone has your passport, you don’t have a lot of bargaining power. Give them the cash.
Next stop, was the medical clearance tent. This was a joke. I was even ready for this but they still got me! “If you don’t pay $5, you don’t get this yellow piece of paper which clears you to enter the country!” the guy argued. Once again, holding my passport I didn’t have much option to pay it. Turns out the yellow piece of paper was an information slip. Oh and SURPRISE – the border agent didn’t give a crap about it.
That border agent in Cambodia also wanted $5 to stamp my passport, in addition to paying for my Visa. No surprise there.
ANYWAY, we finally made across!….. to a group of about 50 people that had been waiting about 4 hours for their bus to show up that had not yet come.
Awesome – Cambodia has the same philosophy as Laos on scheduling!
We only had to wait an hour which I was fine with because I found food and water. When the bus came, people were jacked to finally head to Siem Reap!
YES, we also thought! Here we go!
Our “YES” was quickly followed with a huge “NNNOOOO!!!” when we entered the bus and noticed that there were no seats left. Not. One.
Like many backpackers, you have to roll with the punches at that point and accept defeat. I dropped to the floor in the aisle, slapped back some drowsy Gravol, threw in my ipod and took a nap on the bus floor for about 2 hours.
Luckily, eventually half of the people were transferred to another bus. Seriously, if I had 3 more hours on the floor …. I would have gotten really cranky. And it’s not even like we were driving on a paved road – I was bouncing all over the place down there! And Pam was sitting on top of the engine (or something) so her spot on the floor was getting all heated up..
We got in late but got a tuk tuk immediately and headed to our guesthouse. We chose one in a crazy busy local area which was filled with all kinds of madness.
Once we decided we weren’t afraid – we were pumped!