Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Trouble at the Laos-Cambodia Border

64

I had been warned about the difficulties of crossing into Cambodia. Corruption is rampant, particularly at the Aranya Prathet-Poipet border, lying halfway between Bangkok and Siem Reap.  Many people there are routed to a fake embassy and charged extra before being taken to the actual border.

Thankfully, coming from Laos, we were at a different crossing.  Si Phan Don is very close to the Cambodian border, and the journey didn’t take long.

It hadn’t been an ideal day for me from the very beginning. Apparently my guesthouse booked my ticket to Phnom Penh via a strange bus.  It took a level of cajoling with the boatmen to get me from Don Det back to the mainland and as soon as I settled on the bus, I had been herded off and onto another, transferred via overbooked, overstuffed, van that had no place for my right butt cheek to go.

So I wasn’t in the greatest of spirits to begin with.

A second backpacker-filled bus was ahead of us at the border.  In front of the Lao departure office were more than two dozen angry backpackers yelling and shaking fists in the faces of the immigration officials.

We’re kept separate from them.  Turns out that there’s some kind of issue with payment, and their bus is threatening to turn and go back to Laos if they don’t cooperate.

For hours, we have no idea what is going on — and we pass the time by sitting in the sun in that tiny border town, eating tiny bunches of bananas, drinking the occasional Fanta.

What should fewer than thirty minutes takes us closer to four hours. I breathe an enormous sigh of relief when my passport is returned to me emblazoned with a new Cambodian visa.  By then, the group of angry backpackers has made it through to the Cambodian side as well.

And I recognize one of them: a guy I had met in Pakse.  Incidentally, he was the only other American I had met in Laos.

“What’s going on?” I ask him.

“They were charging us an extra two dollars more than Lonely Planet says we should have paid.”

You have got to be KIDDING.

“Are you serious?!”

“Of course!”

“It’s two dollars,” I point out exasperatedly.

“It’s corruption!” he roars.

And that’s what pushes me over the edge.  I’m absolutely furious.

“Corruption is everywhere in Southeast Asia,” I snap.  “You are not going to resolve it by refusing to pay an extra two dollars at the border.”

“It’s the principle!” he continues.

“Funny how all of a sudden corruption here wasn’t a big deal to you until you were personally cheated by a small amount of money.”

“That’s not it.”

“Did you even succeed?”

“No, but that’s not the point.”

“Oh my GOD.”

My friends are waving me onto the bus.  The last thing I want is to end up stuck in this Cambodian border town.

“You realize that you delayed not only yourselves but all of us behind you,” I told him.  “Thanks a lot.  I can’t wait to look for a guesthouse at midnight tonight.”

What infuriated me about this incident was the absolute arrogance of the backpackers holding up everyone at the border. Backpackers look bad enough already: many drinking to excess every night, many refusing to speak the local language, many eating nothing but pancakes and sub-par Western food.

And to be doing all of those things while flashing more money than the local people will see in their lifetimes…and topping it off by refusing to pay a measly extra $2?!

Don’t get me wrong.  I know the $2 doesn’t go toward helping the people who really need it.  Far from it.  But that’s how this part of the world works.

Surely you can f*cking let it go, pay the two dollars, and let us cross the border already.

Comments

64 Responses to “Trouble at the Laos-Cambodia Border”
  1. That’s ridiculous! When I read the title of this post, I was fully expecting to read an account of what happens so often in Central America (and also the Balkans and parts of Africa), in which you’re stopped by an “official” and asked to pay hundreds of dollars in order for them to allow you to go. But two freakin’ dollars? That’s absurd.

  2. Amanda says:

    Wow, I don’t blame you for getting pissed! That’s so dumb. I realize corruption is not a pleasant thing, especially when you feel like you’re becoming a victim of it. But TWO DOLLARS? I can understand if it was 200. But not two. Putting up such a fuss over two dollars just makes you look like a prick, and, like you said, only helps give backpackers a bad name.

    Glad you made it safely into Cambodia, though!

  3. Alouise says:

    Wow, that backpacker sounds like a douche. Guidebooks aren’t 100% accurate either, prices can, and will change. I’ve heard of really bad corruption stories at border crossings before. But to refuse to pay $2 is ridiculous. Especially when it’s a fee you can afford.

  4. Things that constantly annoy me… backpackers with a “we rule the rule attitude.” Let me guess. Then these same people go to Siem Reap and party like rock stars and drink hundreds of dollars of beer and alcohol over the next few days. And then go back to their hostel every night and wake everyone up being loud and obnoxious, because they are “living large.” Fricking annoying.

  5. arrrgg – “we rule the world.” So annoyed I couldn’t type.

  6. Dave says:

    Good call.

    Like you, I really get the shits with people who make a huge song and dance about paying an extra dollar or two here and there around SE Asia. For God’s sake, the pack they are carrying on their back is probably worth six months wages to the guy behind the immigration desk, while the amount of booze they’ll sink when they get to the next town that night would have paid for the guard’s family to live for a week or two. All the while, they’ll cry poor and complain about how little money they have and how unfair it is that there’s a local price and a farang price for everything. Suck it up, princess, your life really ain’t that tough.

    I hate corruption as much as the next person, and some of the examples I’ve seen (especially in Africa) really are worth getting upset about … being hit up for hundreds of dollars of bribes to make a trumped-up ‘charge’ go away, for instance. But paying a couple of bucks more than your guidebook (which could easily be up to three years old even if it’s the latest edition) says to cross a border. Jesus. Give me a break.

  7. That’s just ludicrous … same crowd that won’t pay 50 baht more for a far superior hostel because their scarcity mentality is so large that if they get scammed ONCE or overpay ONCE or SPLURGE once, they’ll have to go home one week earlier…

    Unless you’re obviously getting ripped hardcore, don’t sweat it!

  8. 1Dad1Kid says:

    Wow. I’m . . . speechless. Despicable.

  9. Audrey says:

    Good for you for reading him the riot act. I’m all against corruption, but come on. $2 to hold up tons of people at the border? I’ve noticed more and more animosity against backpackers during this latest trip to Southeast Asia and it’s unfortunately people like that who give us a bad name. Really a shame.

  10. Jenneil says:

    Wow! I consider myself a haggler, but definitely not at borders & never for chump change.

    The best part of your story is the fact they relied on a “Lonely Planet” publication which could easily be out of date and should never be treated as a Bible in the 1st place.

  11. Oh, man! I was waiting to hear what really important, scary issue was holding things up. What a jerk — glad you had a little chat with the guy. I just hope he learned something from it (and may even be reading your post).

  12. Matt says:

    Thing how many Singha’s that two bucks would have got him though …

    Only kidding. Glad you went Adventurous Kate on his ass!

  13. Erica says:

    I think I would have had a freak out over sitting there for hours over a few dollars. The first thing I thought was, “what is the prices have changed?” What year was his LP purchased? Regardless, he needs a swift kick in the ass.

  14. Rebecca says:

    Wow, what nerve. Good on you for giving him a serving – he deserved it! Although it sounds like it wouldn’t have even sunk in for him…

  15. Tracy Burns says:

    Ditto to everything Dave said! Wow, I bet the guy haggles over 20c in markets too and feels good about it. I do get that if everyone starts paying $2 extra than soon it might be $4 extra then $6 but common … just pay the $2 and feel good that perhaps just perhaps that money will buy his kids new shoes (probably it will go on smokes but hey I like to imagine the best in these situations). Good on you for giving him a serve!

    From everything I’ve heard the entire Visa system in Cambodia is a scam. Leaving aside the exorbitant departure tax that varies depending on where your leaving from, I just love the fact that technically kids under 12 are supposed to be free but they just cross that bit out on the legal documents and charge you anyway.

  16. No wonder backpackers get such a bad rap, when you get idiots like that making a big deal over $2. If I was the bus driver I’d have upped the price or just left them there.

    I think people come to cheaper parts of the world and forget just how much it would be in their own money.

  17. Connie says:

    I agree that $2 USD is not that big a deal, but I can also understand where this guy was coming from. I’ve been traveling around Asia for almost a year now and have had so many “befriend” me only to try to get money out of me. Their excuse is usually that since I’m American, I can afford it. Officials everyone do the same too and after awhile, it can be really frustrating to always feel like you’re just getting scammed.

    But again, it’s $2 USD. When I crossed the Aranya Prathet-Poipet border, everyone in my group was charged double the actual cost. I would have taken the $2 USD overcharge any day.

  18. Haha, if we would fight every time to get the prices a guidebook states, we would be pretty busy 😉 Cannot believe how stubborn some people can be, and all the fuss about two lousy bucks!! It seems to be like this everywhere though – we just had a conversation with a tour guide on that topic here, and he gets more and more frustrated about how stingy backpackers have become, wanting everything cheap and arguing about every dollar, although it is ridiculously cheap already!! Glad to hear from you and from other people who commented that not all travelers are like that.

  19. ShaSha says:

    as you said, corruption rate is very high specially in Cambodia, I have some friends from there, they told me many stories like this.. but what to do > 🙁

  20. ayngelina says:

    Okay I will admit it, I argued for twenty minutes at the Guatemala border to Mexico over $2 and it really was the principle for me.

    Maybe I was a douchebag back then.

    That was a month into my journey. Now $2 doesn’t really bother me. I’ll question it but if they insist I just pay it.

  21. Scott says:

    In moments like these you really have to take a step back and do the conversion in your head. When your tired and worn out and hear something is supposed to be say 80,000 riel and your getting charged 100,000 riel you think “20,000! holy crap! I can’t believe he’s ripping me off for 20,000 dollars…” when it’s really a couple of bucks. It’s tough with all the exchange rates and numbers going through your head! But to hold up a whole bus for a couple of bucks? That’s too much. Especially when the option is being stuck in a border town…

  22. I totally agree with you. You have to roll with the punches and pay the piper…especially if it is only an extra few bucks! Small price to pay to visit these amazing countries.
    Better luck next border!

  23. Jeremy B says:

    Kate, I wasn’t really clear for your post – does this bother you? Could you tell me how you really feel? 🙂

    For $2, it isn’t worth it. If it was $200, I could understand being upset. But you need to take into account where you are and what $2 is worth. I don’t understand what he was trying to prove – that $2 is more than what is required? Try going to other countries where you have to pay off the police or give money to someone who makes up charges against you for extortion.

    However, I think your latter point bothers me more – backpackers who come to a country, drink in excess, never speak the language, and don’t bother to learn about and appreciate the culture. Then on top of it flash the money around! I don’t want to beat a dead horse because you and many others have made the point.

    Here’s my question to you. If he wants to make a point by arguing and doesn’t get it, what can you do so that he gets your point – how arrogant, selfish, and ethnocentric he is being? I think the real challenge is show him how to love and appreciate the differences if you want things like this to stop. And trust me – we all want people like him stopped no matter what country we are visiting!

  24. Sabina says:

    Kate – I agree they shouldn’t have held up a bus load of people for four hours over $2.00. But the bright side is since $2.00 can buy basically a whole day’s worth of food in SE Asia, at least the people ahead of you were not totally arguing over incidental pocket change – they were fighting so they could feem themselves 🙂

  25. Ryan Martin says:

    Hi Kate. My best bud Sean Ogle told me to check out ur site.

    I was in Cambodia about 7 months ago and paid 30 bucks to cross into Cambodia from Thailand. Not sure how much you paid in total in the end, but 2 bucks!?! Come on. That’s crazy. Especially being that ur in SE Asia and everything is dirt cheap already.

    What drove me the most nuts in SE Asia was western travelers who said they hated the west so much yet they sat on the bus listening to their ipods and enjoying the fruits of a western way of life. Seriously? U hate the west that much, move to a mud hut, sell your crap, and shut up! ok thats my soap box for now.

    Anyways, Im stoked Sean told me about ur site. Good luck in the rest of SE Asia. I look forward to reading about it!

  26. Kelly says:

    Glad you told him off! This reminds me of a French girl I travelled with in Thailand. I’d spent 30+ hours to travel from Pai down to Koh Phangnan in one fell swoop, and we had met on the train. When we finally got to the island she started complaining and bitching about a 50baht difference in taxi rates. 50b! I was like, right we’re going separate ways now.

  27. That must have been infuriating to be held up for so long over what seems to be a trivial amount of money.

  28. Mandi says:

    Argghhh…nothing worse than obnoxious backpackers! I feel your pain. How can people be so unaware of themselves that they choose to battle a $2 fee while throwing a wrench in dozens of other travelers’ plans? Glad you told that guy off.

  29. AudreyDez says:

    OMG! 2$! They made you wait 4 hours for a small 2$…How selfish. And to say “They were charging us an extra two dollars more than Lonely Planet says we should have paid.” like things weren’t changing faster in Asia than what LP can write… Glad you could finally make it in the end!

  30. Nomadic Matt says:

    You met one American in Laos? Wow! That’s a lot!

    But yeah….

    2 dollars!! Uggghhh. i hate people who make a big deal of this. I mean it’s like that guy is going to use that two dollars to feed his family or have a good time. That 2 dollars to your friend is what he’ll spend on beer before he even goes to a bar. I would have been pissed too!!!

  31. Katrina says:

    It’s stories like this that make me appreciate all the nice people I’ve met on my travels, people who take the opportunity to interact with ME rather than treat me a certain way based on where my passport was issued.

    I’m glad you spoke your mind to the yahoo. Good job!

  32. Annie says:

    Good on you for standing up to him! How ridiculous people can be!

    Sometimes that’s just the way things go and even though LP my be some people’s travel bible it’s not the final word, things change and just because some author was charged a different amount once doesn’t make that the iron word!

    Glad you made it, even if a bit delayed.

  33. Beach Senior says:

    “What should fewer than thirty minutes takes us closer to four hours. “

  34. $2!! That guy is sure to get taken at every tourist trap he goes to just for being an absolute idiot… lol

  35. EconE says:

    LOL $2.

    I would have offered $3 and asked for a coca-cola with it.

    I got into the same argument with my brother who spends most of the year in Thailand and Vietnam regarding the return of apartment deposits.

    How much stress is $2 (or even $20) worth?

    Stress isn’t free.

  36. Laura says:

    I avoided the Aranyaprathet mess by refusing to get out of the tuk-tuk at ‘fake borders’ and then also refusing to pay extra at the border because I told them I had no more money on me. And it worked! Phew. I’ll be the first to say that I will argue set prices if someone is trying to swindle some on the side. But my max is, oh about 5 minutes. The scary thing is that he used the LP to back him up. Prices like that change & fluctuate that you can’t rely strictly on a guidebook- you need to know someone who went through the day before and got the price he wanted. I’m glad you stuck it to him!

  37. sealiz says:

    And we wonder why people throughout the world can’t stand Americans! This is insane. Truly. I am sooo glad you said something to the jerk. Seriously – $2?! That’s not principle – that’s just being stupid in so many ways.

  38. Lois says:

    That guy should have just considered it a rather small contribution to the bullshit fund:

    http://www.wearesolesisters.com/2010/12/sole-sisters-guide-to-keeping-sane.html

  39. Elizabeth S. says:

    I had a similar encounter with some Brits in Guatemala that were outraged that they had paid a small amount more to their water-taxi driver who raised his prices for those who bought tickets later in the day (a reasonable incentive so buy early so that he knows how many fares he is getting and can try to sell out his boat in the morning). They were saying incredibly nasty things about this man who was just trying to do his job… I think the amount in question was about $1.30 USD.

    Perspective is SO important. To look around and think daily, I am so luck to be able to travel… this is not because of ANYTHING I did, but fate and fortune. Imperative.

  40. Amy says:

    Wow. That’s just ridiculous. Yes, corruption is bad, but when it’s just $2 and it’s holding up other people, just do it. Plus, guidebook prices aren’t always right. Just because they re-issue and update once a year doesn’t mean that it coincides with price hikes or adjustments. Or that the book prices are just wrong. Realize it’s just $2, pay it and let the line move!!! If it were a ridiculous amount of money or you couldn’t afford it, then you have something to complain about!

  41. Andy Jarosz says:

    Good call Kate. We crossed the same border, same direction but at around 2pm – not a soul in sight either way. Walked up, the Lao guy wanted $1 each (two of us), then the Khmer ‘medical check’ $1 and the visa guy $1. Sure, it’s annoying but sometimes you have to shut up, pay up and move on. Save your energy for the battles that matter. (In our case this was haggling with a driver to take us down to Stung Treng, but that’s another story).

  42. aditya says:

    I hate this kind of thing myself. Yes, only two dollars, but if we allow this to happen, we are doing a disservice to the community by allowing that culture of corruption to be preserved in the country, and also to the image that ‘western’ tourists/travelers will be willing to give bribes when demanded to do so. (this is of course if the price is stated officially somewhere on the checkpoint, and not just in LP or guidebooks). If there is an officially stated price to pay (e.g. in a board somewhere), for practicality I would still pay so as not to hinder others if it is not outrageous, but make it DAMN CLEAR, that we are not happy about this. If the officers are nice and helpful i wouldn’t mind giving a dollar or two more anyway

    If the price given is just a ballpark figure in the guidebook… then it’s just absurd

  43. maria says:

    Hello,

    I understand that 2 dollars is really a small amount of money that it’s not worth to wait for 4 hours but I would say I am against silent passing like we- backpackers- do not care. I have been travelling for 6 months aroud SE Asia and as someone said before, sometimes(especially in cambodia9 i really do feel just like a walking ATM- and I learned few phrases in Khmer and I eat on the street and I don’t drink beer. I understand it can be frustrating..I do not know exactly on which side I stay, but I have experienced being treated like stupid westrn girl and than be laughed in the face, so..

    But I agree- 2 dollars is not worth waitinf 4 hours…

  44. Jennifer says:

    We are one of the “arrogant” backpackers that refused to pay. Luckily we were in a group of 10 today that actually had a spine and decided to say no to corruption. The money didn’t bother us, it is not a great amount, but it is the principle, its wrong and it should not be tolerated. We all refused to pay and succeeded. Sure a couple of tourists won’t stop corruption on their own, but I’m pretty sure if every one refused to pay then it would stop them demanding an extra $2 here and there pretty quickly. Corruption is everywhere but if everyone has the ‘its only $2’ attitude then it will continue.

    The Lao immigration try and charge $2 stamp out fee, then Cambodian immigration charge $5 stamp in, and a $1 quarantine fee – which is $8 per person extra. There are roughly 200 people that cross the border a day and so they are making an extra $1600 per day for doing nothing! If you think by paying the $2 your some how helping the country then think again, the money isn’t going to buy shoes for their kids, its going to buy them all flash new phones that we saw them with. If you want to help the country then donate your $8 to charity rather than to corrupt officials.

    Don’t support corruption. Refuse to pay their $8 bribe.

  45. Valter says:

    Good evening!
    Sorry for my English.

    Am I the only who disagree with this?
    I’ve been traveling in Southeast Asia for long long time and I really don’t like to be cheated/scammed.
    I do not support corruption as well. And corruption is valid from 1 dollar to 1000 dollars. It’s not about the amount but the act !
    Maybe 4 hours for 2$ seems a beat exaggerated…did they claim for so long?! But I still maintain my opinion.

    I refuse to be cheated. I really miss some countries because they try to scam me for large amounts. I have seen many backpacker paying much more than me right in front of my face and I warned them and they told me: ‘I don’t mind, don’t want to upset myself.’
    It’s OKAY! For them… For me, I cannot afford it so I don’t support these corruption acts. Everyone is free of paying what they decide BUT if you consider yourself against corruption you are now doing your part.
    Also, I do appreciate to travel cheap… I am from poor country but that’s not the question again. It’s about because maybe you never seen local people kidding in your back like ‘we’ve cheated one another!’ or ‘westerns are so dumb!’…

    ”You cannot change the world’ you can say me.” That’s totally wrong, little acts, big acts. Don’t be angry when you come back to SE Asia in 5 years and you are paying 10 dollars fee.
    In Cambodia I was to be scammed in the oficial embassy of Vietnam and I refused to enter the country. I sent a letter to the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Vietnam and I guess it resulted in something.
    Also remember that poverty, starvation, discrepancies in money and food distribution are products of corruption, and corruption is any kind of…

  46. david says:

    Cambodian e-visa on internet is 25 bucks, cambodian police sucks, goverment sucks and borders sucks, I was in Cambodia two times for 3 months, I won’t back, can’t walk 2 steps without someone offers you something! Bye bye Cambodia.
    Around SEA this things happend every minute, thats why is not a top destination like France, US or Spain.
    SEA is plenty of monkeys and donkeys, specially Thailand and Cambodia, false people that only want our money.
    Have a nice day.

  47. Lou says:

    Cambodians have had a terrible time of it, granted. But in 30 years, they have relied on foreign aid and now it seems that many people don’t want to work – they’d rather obtain their income by indulging in their culture of scamming – even many of the NGOs are total b*llshit. Yes, scamming and corruption in this part of Asia is the norm, but Cambodia is far worse than any others IMHO.

    I don’t agree with the backpacker holding up the line and making such a song a dance, but if everyone is paying 2 USD extra to cross the border, and say hundreds of people cross a day, they’re racking up a serious amount through sheer dishonesty.

    I still think it’s everyone’s duty to at least show a level of annoyance and assertiveness but I personally wouldn’t go as far as fist shaking or holding others up.

    I agree that we’re not going to stop corruption but I’m with the backpacker on not encouraging the culture of scamming. Paying over the odds for anything also pushes up inflation for the next backpacker. Yes, I may earn more money than a Cambodian but I’ve spent years saving more my trip and working hard. 2 USDs isn’t a lot in your HOME country, but when you’re on a low budget and trying to eat and travel like locals, all these little increases here and there really add up – it’s relative. With the amount of people crossing the border and charging extra, they’re making good money daily, even by Western standards!

    I realise that visiting SEA means putting up with a lot of things that you wouldn’t do in the West, but does that always mean we should just sit back and never use collective action in the form of little acts? I apply the same views to the treatment of animals in this part of the world and get sick of people saying “But it’s cultural…” So is removing children’s teeth in Sudan and female circumcision in West Africa so is that ok because it’s cultural? Of course not.

    • I think the right path to take is somewhere in the middle, Lou. Be reasonable about not giving in to corruption — but not at the point of making me wait in the hot sun for four hours as people who make more in a year than Cambodians make in a lifetime complain about $2.

      • Paul Anderson says:

        Lou made a reasonable point though. Also, you are confusing poor Cambodian villagers with rather well off immigration officers. The former deserve your sympathy, the latter definitely don’t.

  48. Gaudente says:

    as long as Cambodia Immigration officers at land crossings continue in their overcharging practices , I will stay away from that cuntry (“o” omitted on purpose)

  49. LSL says:

    Yeah, this and most of the replies are clearly from people who earn first world wages and save up and book a few weeks holiday only to return to their financially privileged corporate lifestyle. And it’s the people who shuck their money out no questions asked that make this corruption successful and make it harder for the rest of us.

    The stereotype that everyone who would stand up to this is a beer guzzling teen party hopping around the world is immature. You are being disrespectful to those who live and work or just plain volunteer in these parts of the world long-term who are not in a financial position to easily wipe their ass with a few USD. They live here and work hard to help locals in need and are constantly being treated like a walking ATM machine because they are white. When they travel between towns or even countries for work, when they go to buy a meal, both locals and foreigners like yourselves are sneering at them saying they should consider corrupted officials trying to squeeze money out of them no skin off their ass because SURELY they can afford it.

    Get off your high horse and learn what it’s like to spend a substantial amount of time in SE Asia, NOT just a short holiday in the tropics, before saying that any ‘white guy’ should be perfectly thrilled to have money constantly niggled out of him left and right, even when dealing with ‘officials’. Some are not so lucky to think so little of a few dollars. And think a little harder about whether to play a part in promoting corruption or not, let alone publicly shit on the people who are doing good selfless work and really cant afford shelling out every goddamn time they are asked.

    • LSL says:

      Ugh sorry, it all came out in anger.

      The point is it is the people with this attitude, ‘It’s only two dollars’ who dish out every time that are the cause and support of this sort of corruption and general attitude toward westerners. Been having a rough time of it lately and it really pushes my buttons to see one of the people who cause this ragging on one of the people suffering from it (whether a broke backpacker or long-term volunteer) and trying to stand up and make a change. I’d give up sooner than four hours for sure, but I damn well make it a little less than easy for them for the sake of principle and self-respect.

    • I can understand how you feel, LSL, but I stand by what I wrote here three years ago. You may be white and earning a local salary for the sake of doing “good selfless work,” but either way, you are CHOOSING to be in that situation. Yes, you might get charged an extra $2 on occasion, but you also have the opportunity to leave, go home, and earn a salary in your home country. Forgive me, but I’m going to be a bit more concerned about the people who don’t have a way out the way you do.

      • Paul Anderson says:

        Going back home is not always an option. Jobs back home are disappearing and if you’ve spent enough time abroad you may not be employable back home (most employers back home frown upon a CV with anything to do with “Cambodia” in it) or even want to go back! Same with many immigrants in our countries – you could say the same thing to them. If they don’t like it, they can always go back home! However, just like some westerners in Asia, they may have spent so much time living in America, Australia etc. that it’s difficult for them to pack up and leave.

  50. Cimek says:

    Hi
    I had another bad experience at this border recently.

    Me and my girlfriend were traveling by motorbike around this part of Asia, a few weeks earlier we entered to Laos from Thailand via Friendship Bridge. We handed passports to the officer at the border, paid the fee he asked for, was given passports back with plastic chip cards. Then we did the custom for motorbike, officers said all good, opened the gate for us and wished a nice trip.

    When we arrived at the border crossing between Laos and Cambodia. The officer at the check point told us, that we don’t have entry stamp in the passports, but one way pass for the bridge only, so we are illegally in the country. We explained him we gave passports to authorities, paid, have customs done and were allowed to enter legally, if stamp is missing it must be that officials mistake not our, so please ring Vientiane and clear it out. He didn’t wish to ring but called someone in charge from tent behind, who said it’s common mistake and now we have to pay penalty 500$. We were prepared to pay something around visa fee, if at all, asked for receipt, but they insisted for penalty and didn’t want to give any receipt. When I said I report it to appropriate department and requested them to give me their names they refused, even officer in charge didn’t want to identify himself neither had identifier. They said they not gonna let me out of Laos but I didn’t care, I was so crossed that quickly picked up our passports from the table and told them I am going back to Vientiane to sort it out and report everything. We came back to the bike, I started the engine and rod close to the tent behind the barracks where they were seating, then my girlfriend started to take pictures of them by our camera, they were running away and hiding faces like cockroaches, pathetic.

    The one who asked for bribe first was speaking descent English and said he was working in Vientiane at Friendship Bridge border control before. He was fully aware of the problem with crossing there and told us they have many problems like this. When I asked him, “so, if it’s happening every day, why don’t you call and tell guys in Vientiane not to let tourists go in without stamps then?” He didn’t answer, just said it’s happen over and over again, but it’s our fault. It was like organized crime, their friends in Vientiane were letting tourists in without stamp, then this guys were picking them up and charging bribes for no visa on the other side. We were lucky we had motorbike and returning to City was no problem.

    We rod back to Pakse strait away, next day walked to immigration office there and explained the problem we approached but, didn’t mention we tried cross border day before. After a few telephone calls to Vientiane, talks to higher rank officer, explanations, arguments and strongly opposing any extra payment because it’s not our mistake but theirs,someone in charge finally decided to give us a letter written in Laotian to the border officer, explaining how it’s happen we don’t have stamps, and requesting him to let us leave the country . We crossed a few hours later to Thailand with no problems and got to Cambodia from other side same day. Then we contacted our consulate and reported everything, gave them all details, they promised to report it to appropriate authority.

    Maybe we lost one day, but didn’t get ripped off by some cocky crooks. Only because most people doesn’t oppose they exist. So if you don’t care about time take your challenge, it’s worth it and you’ll feel so much better.

    • Paul Anderson says:

      Might be good you didn’t make it to Cambodia because the Lao-Cambo border is notorious for not allowing vehicles in from Laos. They will give you all sorts of excuses but generally don’t budge even with a bribe.

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