Today we took the final part of our journey in Thailand to the Cambodian border.
There are many land crossing entry points into Cambodia but according to our guide book the Trat route is the worst in terms of consistent scamming. Having been the subjects of a scam a few days previously we were adamant that we were not going to be ‘had’ again.
The scenario is that the government officials charge you 1,200 baht for a visa that should only cost 600 baht ($20) and they make it extremely difficult for you not to pay their asking price. On arrival at the visa office we witnessed many people handing over the 1,200 baht. Some were aware of the scam and on speaking to them had decided they weren’t prepared to argue, others were plainly unaware of how much money these (so called) officials were collecting for their back pockets. Sure enough we were ordered to pay 3,600 baht to cover the three visas we needed, but then followed a twenty-five minute stand off with us adamant that we were only going to pay the $60. Finally, after standing our ground and taking details of staff names, shift time etc and threatening to report them to the Ministry of Tourism, we were reluctantly given our visa stamps. In a country where the average wage is $2 a day, and with almost every tourist being charged $20 more than they should this is scamming on a huge scale.
Cambodia has limited transport options. Local minibuses that are piled high with people (sometimes 30 plus!) and are so old and badly maintained that accidents are frequent, local buses, tourist coaches, tik tuks, motos (motorbike taxis) and taxis. Taxis are the most interesting as you pay per seat, but unlike the West where a standard car would carry four passengers (three in the back and one in the front) these carry seven passengers! Yes, that’s right, seven. Four in the back, two on the front seat and sometimes the driver will share his seat. I have no idea how that works, but it’s something I’m not keen on trying.
After a few minutes of negotiation we finally jump in and take a taxi to Koh Kong, ten Kilometres down the road.
Koh Kong is a small town spread around two main roads and a large river. The main reason it’s become a tourist location is because it acts as a natural stopover point once you’ve crossed the border into Cambodia, but it being a ‘normal’ bustling town made is all the more interesting. We took a walk around the market and water front. ‘The boy’ became the Pied Piper of Koh Kong, followed by a group of local children who were fascinated by his white skin. There were chickens running freely, cows plodding slowly up the middle of the streets and stray dogs sleeping in the heat of the sun. It reminded us of India, only here there were more push bikes. We ate in a local roadside café and the food was superb. A large plate of spicy beef noodles, tasty noodle soup, stirs fried vegetables and two drinks for less than three dollarss – perfect for a backpacker budget.
The only down side of Koh Kong was the type of traveller it attracted. Now, I can’t be 100% sure what everyone’s motive for being there was, but let’s just say that we saw more single, sixty plus Western men travelling on their own than we had done in the previous four months on the road. Needless to say ‘the boy’ was close by our side at all times.
Good times ahead as tomorrow we’re hitting the beaches.
Top tip of the day:
If you find a god quality nappy on your travels, or are at the start of your trip, keep a couple back to use for teething days when your baby may suffer from loose stools. We’ve found that some brands of nappies in Asia are very synthetic and give our baby nappy rash.