Visa run

December 6, 2008 at 7:03 pm 2 comments

Woke up at 6am without an alarm clock, arrived at the bus station at 7, found some grub to eat (rice with vegetable garnish) for 25 cents. Reached Ko Kong at 1:30pm, hired a moto-taxi to take me to the border 11km away, walked into Thailand at 2pm. The Thai border town resembles an outpost, with only a small market along the main road selling household supplies, some clothes, a lot of toiletries, and packaged snacks. There is a fruit stall, half a dozen fruit vendors, a hole in the wall smoothie shop that blends sugar and concentrated flavours with ice, and one restaurant. There are two atm’s but there is no 711.
As i entered Thailand the friendly immigration official was re-teaching me the few Thai words i had known and forgotten. I told him i was returning to Cambodia in an hour and he smiled and commented on the expensive visa fee. So it’s not a secret – this corruption? Everyone knows about it.
I had lunch in the restaurant. Thai food is my favorite of all the Asian cuisines i have tried. The simple meal that was prepared for me – papaya salad and vegetable fried rice – eaten in the very basic cafeteria with the spectacular view of the Mekong was delicious. You would think, how difficult are these dishes that Lao, Vietnamese, and Khmer cooks cannot make them? You’d be surprised how easily one can render vegetables unetible by using the wrong seasoning or worse, using margarine!
After lunch, i walked through some of the shops and bought a hat with a pink flower design and a large brim. I’ve seen many Cambodian women wear hats like this one.
Before re-entering Cambodia i hid most of my money inside my sweater, leaving only Khmer riel and $30 in my wallet, just in case i found it necessary to show my inability to pay the high fee the immigration official might want. 
The official fate had chosen for me said (as if choosing a number at random) that the fee was 1500 baht. I told her i didn’t have any baht and was about to offer her a "tip" of $5 when she decided $30 would suffice. And so it was settled and i walked away with a business visa for $25 + $5, much better than some of my friends in Phnom Penh, who complain of overpaying by $15-20.
My moto driver waited for me in the hot sun. After finding a guest house to spend the night and buying my ticket to Phnom Penh for tomorrow, we drove through what was once jungle to a small waterfall. My driver, Sokaa, was only 22 and told me about himself. He’s the 4th of 8 children, gives his elderly parents half of his monthly $80 paycheck, wants to buy a faster motorbike, used to gamble, works for an NGO and drives the bike on his days off, likes being alone, likes smooth skin, feels that Cambodian girls are too interested in money and thinks that weddings are too expensive (the fee a groom has to pay the bride’s parents is about $1000 for a village girl & $3000 for a city girl). He spends about 100 baht a day (approx. $3), has no passport and therefore cannot go to Thailand without his sister who has a passport, wears white girls’ shoes from Thailand, and wants to meet me again if  he comes to Phnom Penh in the future.
I saw a sunset while we drove, mountains, and lots and lots of landscape……. It was a good day.

Entry filed under: travel. Tags: , , , .

Kratie province Beaurocracy steps on my sense of entitlement

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. GS  |  December 8, 2008 at 1:01 am

    I’m glad to read the last pages to know you are OK and your days are nice.
    Be well

  • 2. Dina  |  December 8, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Excellently written!


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