Crossing into Cambodia

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Jul 15, 2008

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

May 2, 2007
Pruhm, Cambodia
We crossed the border at Daun-Lem on the Thailand side to Pruhm on the Cambodian side before noon without incident. While we were in Bangkok we were told we could get Cambodian visas on-line. We had spent an afternoon at a wireless hot spot in a mall trying to get Cambodian visas on line. We had to upload a photo of each of us, which we had prepared according to the instruction on the first screen. But when we tried to insert the photos we found out that the photo file had to be over 1000 kb. So we had to reset our camera and find a light background at the mall in front of which to take another set of photos. When we got to the next part of the visa application we had to tell the date we were arriving. We gave up at that point because we didn't know when we'd arrive at the border. Even if we successfully navigated the on-line process we'd still have to find a place to print out a hard copy of the visas. It is possible to get a Cambodian Visa on line, but it is pointless because you can get your visa at the border.
We shared a mini-van from Pattaya with the driver and six men who were making their six month visa runs. All old farangs with Thai wives or girl friends, except one man who was originally from Hong Kong but had a Malaysian passport and a home in the US. You meet the strangest people on the road. There was hardly a word spoken on the minivan. The men just sat in their own thoughts or hung over from the night before. Tour companies in Pattaya run these visa trips; the minivan takes off at 6:30 AM and will return the men to Pattaya with their new Thai visas by 2 PM. We are the only ones on the van who are going to continue on into Cambodia. The men will walk across the border with the driver who will carry all their passports in a bundle. They wait for the driver to get the passports stamped and then walk back across to re-enter Thailand where they are issued another six-month visa. We keep our own passports and get our own visas because we are not part of that program. We were just getting a ride. The cost for the mini-van ride for the two of us was B2000.
Our guidebooks always make the border crossings sound worse than we find them. At this crossing it was ridiculously easy. We didn't even have to stand in line to go to some official looking immigrations officer behind a desk or window. We just took a rough seat, at a rough table, in the shade, and a young man and woman in civilian clothing with excellent English took care of everything. The visas cost us B700 each, which is close to $20 depending on the exchange rate. Cambodia uses US dollars and riel, their national currency, at the same time. Large amounts are quoted in dollars and smaller amounts in riel. Change is usually given in riel. The dollar is equal to 4,000 riel. So if you pay $2 for a 6,000 riel bottle of beer you get 2,000 riel in change. In this area of Cambodia they also accept the Thai baht. The young man who gave us our visas also arranged a private car to take us on to Battanbang for 1600 baht. He said it usually was B1500 but because it was the rainy season the price was higher. But when he paid the driver we saw him pocket the extra B100. If we were real backpackers we'd haggle on the prices and we've seen some travelers making a stink over a few baht, which is good because it keeps the prices down for the rest of us. We rarely run into any Americans, which is surprising because America is the third most populous country in the world. They are probably about, but we don't travel in the same circles. So far we've seen mostly Aussies, Germans, Belgians, Austrians, or Dutch. Here in Cambodia we meet and hear French; this was a French colony once upon a time. We are also seeing tour groups of Chinese and Japanese in Southeast Asia.
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