Another Great Boarder Crossing: Vietnam - Cambodia

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Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District 1
June 4th 2011
Published: June 15th 2011
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May 31st - June 4th, 2011

Wow, sorry I haven’t updated in awhile, I’ve been busy and time is flying and the few periods I had free time to write, the internet (and sometimes power) has been down. Right now I am on a plane from Bangkok, Thailand to New Delhi, India but I will catch everyone up on how I got to this point and maybe a few of the adventures and trouble stories I had along the way. I am back dating the next few entries so be sure to look out for that. Enjoy

Since my last entry ended at Jungle Beach I will continue from there. Originally, Nicci and I only planned on spending one night there but since it was so relaxing, we ended up spending another. I spent the day at the private beach trying to teach myself how to surf (I did kinda stand up once or twice), working on my tan and taking a romantic beach walk with Nic. After my goodbyes to Sly I paid a little extra and took the night train over a night bus (due to the last night bus) to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. This city is famously known for the insane about of traffic and scooters making crossing the street an adventure in itself. This is how we were told to do it: Try to wait for a little opening or get a group of people (hopefully locals). Then you just start walking at a slow steady pace and the scooters and motorbikes will move around you. It is better not to look left or right to much because if you panic and hesitate you will cause an accident. Easier said then done since you still have to lookout for cars.

When we arrived in Ho Chi Minh, we started by going to the War Remnants Museum. This was formerly known as the American War Crimes Museum but due to the increase of Americans visiting Vietnam, they changed the name. This was full of disturbing photographs from the Vietnam (American) War with an obvious bias that shows no misconduct by the Vietnamese. We also stopped by the Reunification Palace but that really wasn’t anything impressive. Afterward, we decided that we wanted to see if we could find a movie theater that was playing The Hangover 2. So we spent the next few hours walking around and found two theaters but neither was playing Hangover. So Nicci and I took Lonely Planet’s recommendation on a place to eat and it turned out to be amazing. The restaurant had a menu of many different and exotic meats that are brought out raw and they have these mini grills for you to cook your own. We ended up getting one regular beef (my order) and one ostrich (nicci’s order). It was amazing and probably one of the two best meals I had on this trip.

The next morning I went to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This was another amazing experience learning the tactics the Vietnamese used during the war and seeing first hand the tunnels and holes they lived in for months. Although, she will get mad at me, Nicci did have some trouble getting out of the sniper’s hole and while I was reaching for the camera some random guy had to help her out. Sorry babe. One of the best parts of this tour was a funny guide we had that was one of the Vietnamese that helped the Americans. The worst but more interesting parts was when we got a chance to go through them. They were so small that you couldn’t turn around, not even half way. I couldn’t imagine having to hide in there while bombs are going off above your head. They measure 60cm by 50 cm and that is actually after they had to make them wider and taller to accommodate the tourist “with the fat asses.” They also made so many traps to throw off the evil Americans, most with spikes and other such objects; I couldn’t imagine. After getting back to Saigon, we went out to eat and I decided to count the number of beggars. Nineteen in our thirty-two minute meal. They are relentless here. They not only wait next to anywhere people spend money, they go into the restaurants and will interrupt whatever conversation you are having every few minutes. While it gets extremely annoying not to be able to walk or sit in public without someone asking you to buy or give something, I always reminded myself that most of these people have nothing and must do this so they can eat.

Rather than taking another long bus ride, we decided to book at two day, one night cruise down the Mekong River and across the not so busy boarder crossing into Cambodia. This was probably the most unorganized tour you could ever pay for. For beginners, we had to switch buses three times within the first hour, not the most pleasant thing to do when its 100 degrees out and you have to constantly be picking up your bag. We first stopped at a floating market and stopped at a store that created some candy and gave up a demonstration. After talking with our rather dull guide, I told her I wanted to take a shot of snake blood while I was in Vietnam, and the one good thing she did was got us a shot of what she called snake wine. They keep several types of snakes over two years in a jar with some type of alcohol. It was very unusual and very strong tasting (as you can see from the pictures) but I’m very glad I tried it. We spent the night on a floating hotel which gave us a room with a broken fan.

And now for the story most have been waiting for... A short boat ride the next morning, and we reached the part of traveling I hate most, passport control at boarder crossings. This one was no different then my luck at most others in my history, something had to go wrong only for me. The tour guide we had whose job it is to make sure we get across the boarder smoothly took all 15 passports of the travelers on the cruise to get the exit stamp from Vietnam. Every few minutes he would come back with 3-5 of the passports so people can start getting the entry stamp into Cambodia. Well, everyone got theirs back except me, as I waited outside, he walked back in with a look like their was a problem. I was a little concerned since I was the only American on the trip and the only one whose visa was paper clipped and not glued in their passports (not by my choice). About 15-20 minutes after the rest of the group already made their way through the entrance in Cambodia, I finally got my passport with the correct exit stamp so I go up to the entry visa and had no issues. Suddenly, the tour guide just grabbed my Vietnam visa (which was a separate piece of paper) and claimed he had to keep it because passport control in Vietnam was supposed to keep it and he had to bring it back after dropping us off at another boat a few hours into Cambodia. I asked him if I could keep it and he insisted he had to bring it back and instead of explaining why, he started getting mad at me for questioning him. Something wasn’t sitting right with this whole situation and the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I felt with everything. How does a boarder agent forget to keep it after putting an exit stamp on it? Why would the agent send a tour guide to get it and not a government employee? Why wouldn’t the tour guide just bring it back to them when we were 50 feet away instead of waiting hours after? Why was mine the only one they are keeping? Why is the guide getting mad? At this point I started thinking of tons of scams that might be taking place and the rest of the travelers on our tour agreed with me that something is weird when I went back up to the guide and asked these questions and instead of answering them, he got angry again saying that he has been doing this for seven years and knows what he is doing. I responded that I started traveling over 15 years ago, and this is the first country in this world I have ever seen a situation like this. After thinking more about the situation, I do believe the boarder agents might have forgotten to keep mine cause thats why mine was on a separate sheet of paper. My issues now were why he is getting mad and the fact that now I can’t really prove through my passport visa’s what country I was in for 3 weeks. If need be though, you can see my exit port from Laos, my plane ticket to ‘Nam, and the entry port into Cambodia but I didn’t want to tell him this. I also did take pictures of the visa and the stamps, and there is no information on there that they and every hotel I stayed at didn’t already have. For the next hour on the boat, I weighed my options.

Option 1 was to say the pictures weren’t clear and I wanted to take another at which point the visa would actually be in my hands and I would demand a clear explanation. This would end up with him getting mad which would get my temper going which I would try to control by saying I want to speak to the American Embassy which would have been impossible since I was on a boat in the middle of nowhere in Cambodia and would have to hold up the group for hours and many more smaller issues. Option 2 was to just believe what he is saying and move on with what I feel was the actually situation, so I went with option 2. I do have all the other travelers contact info and the tour companies name if anything does go wrong but there really isn’t any important into on the visa plus it’s already has the entry and exit stamp on it. Well, I made it across, and was finally in Cambodia.

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