We arrive after a 4 hour drive at the Cambodian border. Colin, the other group leader, forgot his passport. Shyyyyyte, he’ll have to turn around and go back. That’s alright, I’ve done this border crossing many times before, he can meet up with us tomorrow. Nooo problem. None…hop on that bus Colin and we’ll see ya tomorrow! Ok bye! Yep…just waitin around, waitin for our guide, waitin waitin for our guide, where is our guide? I give our contact in Cambodia a call asking where our guide is. My phone beeps: LOW BATTERY. Well that isn’t good timing. He says he will call the contact and get back to me. Alright…I hang up, and my phone beeps again: CREDIT IS LOW. REFILL SOON. Even better! So now I am trying to contact our guide with a phone that is about to die AND run out of credit, and I have no backup phone because my co-leader is on his way back to Bangkok. Impeccable, really. I laugh. Being screwed can be so much fun.
20 minutes later our guide shows up, and takes us across the border but decides to change it up and make things difficult, probably because I was missing a leader and had a phone that was about to die AND run out of credit. Maybe that was just coincidence. The Cambodian border is a special place, rife with corruption and bribes and mafioso. A visa will cost you $20 + a bribe for the guards on duty, usually 200 baht ($6) per person. This fee is negotiable when you are in a large group, and I usually negotiate it down to about 50 baht ($1.50) per person. But our guide today won’t let me go to the guards, he wants me to give HIM the bribe money. Yaaaaaah right, so you’re going to take this over there to them and do exactly what I’m gonna do and pocket the rest? I don’t think so. This little charade went on for another 1.5 hours, as he sends me from office to office to find out why I can’t just go to the border and get a damn visa. Finally he gives up in the face of my stubbornness, and we go together with 15 passports to the visa office, where I haggle the bribe down to 50 baht per person, like I said I would all along. We then sat down at a big table, 4 Cambodian guards and myself, and proceeded to fill out visa forms for each group member, forging their signatures all the while. I wonder if it’s illegal if they give you permission to forge their signatures. Oh well, it’s just official CAMBODIAN documents, how official can they be? If only you had listened to me in the first place, Mr. Border Guide, they could have filled the forms out themselves!
I then proceeded to bribe the mafia $15 to drive us from the border to the ‘bus station’, because of course they need their cut. Last trip, one leader and our guide were actually surrounded by mobsters who double as motorcycle taxi drivers, and it was threatened that if we didn’t take this bus to our ACTUAL bus, heads would roll. Hmmm, ok, we’ll pay! Hard decision there.
Finally, our guides themselves want a bit of the action, because even though he was a pain in the ass the whole time, kept us waiting unnecessarily and was trying to rip us off, he wants a tip. So I do, because I know that if I don’t grease the wheels now it will be even more rusty the next time we come through.
Damn you, Cambodian border crossing.