An Interesting Border Crossing

I am afraid I have no pictures for this blog, even the feature picture is one from the free picture gallery. But our border crossing from Cambodia to Vietnam was such an interesting experience I thought I would share it.

We started out by leaving our hostel on time instead of early as we had hoped. We had a different tuk-tuk driver than we had had the last few days and asked to be taken to the relevant bus depot. The tuk-tuk driver assured us he knew were it was and started driving. We became a little worried as the traffic was quite heavy and we were in the slowest, least risk taking tuk-tuk of the entire trip.

We got to where our driver thought the depot was, but it turned out to be the wrong place, it was actually the ticket office. Our tuk-tuk driver had a brief discussion with the lady behind the desk and found out where he needed to take us. We also asked if she could phone the depot and let them know we were on our way. We also phoned the depot to say the same thing.

We eventually arrived after the check in had closed but before the bus was scheduled to leave, luckily either our call or the ticket desk call had worked and since they knew we were on our way it wasn’t such an issue that we missed the check in time, especially as we were carrying our bags onto the bus. We were the last on the bus however so I was very glad it was assigned seating which we had booked in advance, so we still got seats together.

Despite our late arrival, we were still waiting a while before we set off, which made me feel better as I felt less like I had held up the bus. Eventually we did set off and we settled in for the five hour journey. I had got my kindle out and I am not sure what but my husband had started doing something when a film was put on at the front of the bus.

It started out pretty interesting, of an American family moving to South East Asia, so I started watching, but then things started getting strange. In the film a revolution broke out in the country (which always remained nameless, but it was pretty clearly meant to be Cambodia) in which the revolutionaries were trying to kill all foreigners. There were a few strange things about this, firstly the revolutionaries had very similar uniforms to the Khmer Rouge, secondly it was clearly a Hollywood movie with people like Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan in it, third the revolutionaries acted like zombies coming in waves and not caring how many of their own fell if they could take out any foreigners and lastly that this should be played on a bus heading towards the Vietnam border when the film ends as miraculously the entire family make it out of the unknown country to Vietnam (which is named in the film) while every other person who makes any kind of contact with the family dies.

This is not my usual kind of movie, but as it was playing in English I found it quite hard to concentrate on anything else. And it seemed like a very strange choice of movie for the bus, so we decided to look the movie up. It is called “No Escape” and while we were looking it up we found out that there had been a lot of controversy around the film and it had actually been banned in Cambodia. So we still have no idea what reason could possibly be behind it showing on the bus unless the driver was trying to tell us something.

Not long after the film ended we reached our lunch stop and toilet break stop. This was our last stop before the border and while neither of us were particularly hungry we took advantage of the toilets and bought a few snacks for the way.

When we got back on the bus we were approaching the border and a man started saying to everyone western looking (which was the minority on the bus) that he would take our passports and we would give him $5 each. I had read about various scams that exist for border crossings at this part of the world, I just played the dumb foreigner and kept telling him that we didn’t need a visa for Vietnam (which was not a lie) and eventually he gave up on me.

We arrived at the border crossing point and we exited the bus taking our bags with us. We got inside and were a little confused as there was a queue but no one was going up to the desk. It turned out that the man who was charging $5 was basically paying it to give the border crossing guards all the passports together and then people would go up when it was their passport. Because we hadn’t paid and still had our passports we were able to go straight up to a different desk, show our passports and get straight though. This just meant that we had to wait for the rest of our busload on the other side, but we had saved $10. We all piled back on the bus and then off again at the Vietnam border control. This was fairly uneventful and then we were in Vietnam.

It was then a short hop to Ho Chi Minh City and we arrived ready to have a couple of days to explore the city before joining our tour.

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