By: Jas Mitch
There really is only so much you can do to travel comfortably between Asian cities over land. Sometimes, it’s not glamorous but Mitch and I just roll with it.
This is the story of a bunch of tourists that are probably not cut out for this region…
When travelling around South East Asia unexpected things will happen. The bus won’t be what you expect, the visa will be more expensive due to small charges the guards add on at the checkpoint, you will be dropped out of town and made to get a tuk-tuk into the centre… Its gonna happen you cant let it annoy you.
When we decided to move overland from Laos to Cambodia, we did so with the full knowledge that this one is a difficult, often scam-ridden border crossing.
Having paid the (pretty high) price of $30 USD ($43 AUD), we hopped up bright and early to catch the 8am bus back to the mainland.
We then wandered along the busy markets streets with a bunch of other tourists all headed for the bus to Cambodia. A really nice young guy from the bus company met us at the bus station not too far away, and gave us directions on how this whole international bus, border crossing would work. As per the bus company rules, he collected all the visa forms and our passports and our money. It just means that once we get to the border he gets everyone’s visas processed as a group (it just makes everything quicker). Mitch and I already knew this was going to happen… Evidently a group of Germans didn’t and carried on about it for a good 30 minutes… Finally we got on the buses (complete with Mickey Mouse curtains!). As we were driving away a ?british chick who was sprawled out over the back seat was yelling “where’s my passport!? Give me my passport!”… It’s going to be one of those days…
Within about 15 minutes we had arrived at the border to Cambodia! We piled out of the buses and were greeted by a young Cambodia lady who was going to check our temperature. Once again British chick starts yelling “we don’t have to do this! You can’t make us do this!”… It’s just a fake temperature check honey, calm down!
Anyway so we go to the waiting area and wait. Next thing Jimmy (the guy from the bus company) comes up to Mitch and myself with open passports. “You’ve overstayed your visa!”. What? How did we manage that! “Your visa ran out yesterday” he says as he shows us the stamp and surely enough it did! Absolutely perplexed, we couldn’t deny that we had overstayed and coughed up the $10 USD they charge per day you overstayed… We couldn’t figure it out, this must be the strangest visa length we’ve ever encountered, 18 days. Something didn’t add up.
I went to find Jimmy, I just wanted to see the stamp one more time. All of a sudden he is coming towards me apologising! “Sorry, not you!” He says. “These guys” he says, pointed at the two other Aussies sitting at the table behind us! They laugh and say they thought it might be them! Funny they didn’t say anything… All is well, and are new Cambodian visa definately has 30 days.
We are now in Cambodia! Just as we are about to board the bus we are informed that it’s “broken” and they have 2 mini-vans for us. The reality is there are only a few of us going on to Phnom Penh and a few going to Siem Reap. It makes no sense to use a huge bus. This doesn’t stop the people carrying on though. We file into the bus with the others who understand that this is how travel works in these countries. As we are driving off I hear a French chick from the other mini-van yelling at the driver “WE ARE NOT PIGS! WE ARE HUMANS!” … Oh god give it a rest, it’s just a mini-van!
Off we go on some of the worst roads I’ve been on! Pot holes so big I thought they were going to eat our mini-van!
We eventually arrived at our lunch rest spot, Stung Treng, were we happily stretch our legs and consume our baguettes with Nutella. Then we file onto the next mini-van… Things just get funny from here! There are 8 of us going onto Phnom Penh. They squish us into two rows of the mini-van and then fill up every remaining space with a dining table and 8 large wooden chairs, bags of rice and what ever else they could find… Not very comfortable for 7 hrs, but after Mitch did a bit of backpacker engineering with some rope and a jumper they were not going to hit us in the head!
All good… Or at least it was until we finally arrived at Phnom Penh, having taken the long way to drop off said dining setting, when they tried to pull that age old trick of dropping us on the outskirts of town and having us pay their tuk-tuk buddies to get to the centre of town (we had been told repeatedly this bus was going to drop us off in the centre!). No one budged… We were not going to be stranded here! And after a few minutes the driver relented and took us to the city… Well about as close as we were going to get him to take us…
All in all an interesting and pretty funny trip.
The thing with travelling in Asia is that if you let this stuff get to you, you will hate it here. Just roll with it.