Thailand to Cambodia Dec 2009
Northampton Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
Already on my way to Cambodia with my 14 year old son I decided to drop into the Thai island Koh Chang for a night to reserve a room for our Christmas stay. This was not really a detour as the border to Cambodia is 1.5 hours East of the island and the road is good.
The next morning we took a local pickup (song Taew) from Ao Thammachat pier for 70 baht and took a bumpy ride of about 45 minutes to the Trat bus station where we found a sign saying border and a mini bus waiting for just 2 more passengers. Lucky for us.
The minibus was 120 baht and of course full up with people and bags, no chickens or pigs so we were lucky there..There was only one more passenger of international flavour who was a Japanese businessman on a visa run to Cambodia.
Alighting from the minibus I shouldered my backpack and looked around. Usual border setup, stalls containing snack foods, dried fish, etc and a bank and atm. Useful for some but I had my DOllars already for Cambo. Thai immigration stamped us out and we walked across several hundred yards of 'no mans' land up to the Cambodian immigration building. The dark sliding window was closed and a confusing looking visa scam was taking place as we arrived. A minibus of backpackers mixed with more aged holiday types were being 'handled' by Cambo fixers acting as go betweens.
Before the two of us had the pleasure of saying anything we were pushed in the direction of a table that had sign on reading 'Medical check 20 Baht'. An official intending to look like a doctor asked for the money then gave us a simple form telling us that if we contracted H1N1 we should go to a hospital and tell them we were foreigners( hard to tell maybe for the locals!!). A gun like object was stuck against our temples and we had a blue light shine and a temperature reading was given. Yes we were alive!
By now our passport had been taken and forms were being filled out for us by the fixers who returned a few times to ask qustions. The most worrying for me was for my son's birth certificate, as he was a minor. It was only worrying as I knew it meant they wanted more money to 'fix' the visa! We were shown a seating area to the rear of the immigration and isolated from the group of 10 or so confused and ever more aggitated backpackers who knew they were being ripped off but could do nothing about it. A group of men came up to us and offered us taxis to the border town of koh kong for $20 or $ 30. I refused politely. After a while the pressure was stepped up on me to take up an offer so I moved onto the strategy of offering to drive them if they gave me a 75% discount. After 10 minutes the taxi drivers gave up and moved over to the backpacking group as some of them were actually nearly through the immigration ripoff!!! A few minutes later we were told to go to the window to collect our passports and after another go at getting extra money for my failure to supply a birth certificate we were handed our passports and asked to hand over a tip for the fixers. Trying to hold back my anger I walked away from the vermin in clothing and headed for a group of unattended motorbikes. One man who had offered his services already approached me and offered to take myself and my son,on one motorbike, for 100 baht the 8 or 9 kilometres to the town of Koh Kong and a guest house called OTTOS run by a German. I accepted thinking I had put all of the touts behind me. I was wrong!!!!!!
After an agonising and wearing trip hanging off the back of a motorbike with my backpack into Koh Kong and through a police check point we were delivered to a travel company who then tried to sell us 2 tickets to Phnom Penn for 26 dollars. I refused to pay and after a few minutes of arguing I got on the motorbike and told the travel agent and my driver I would go to Phnom Penn later in the week. I was strongly advised to pay for my tickets and they would change the date. I stopped talking to everyone and told my driver I knew he was on commission as I knew that the correct price for the tickets was $16 for two. I had an offer of $20 for 2 before I was finally offered $16 for 2 and we all climbed on the motorbike and chugged off to Ottos guesthouse.
My driver turned out to be an off duty marine police man who apologised for his part in the over pricing of the bus tickets and, I felt, meant it. I tipped him and proceeded into Ottos guest house. But that is another chapter in the Cambo experience...