As per the last post, we were un sure what to expect – Cambodia has a long history with an unfortunately brutal recent past that leaves no doubt in your mind that Humans are capable of the most unspeakable acts. Yet everything we had read was telling us that there are more smiles per mile here than anywhere else in the world. And so there are!
Before reaching the immigration office we were met by about 5 young men all keen to put us on their 125cc Honda Waves and take us to Anlong Veng, the nearest town. We briefly explained that we would be taking a taxi because moto-dup (motorbike taxiing) is not suitable for us with Molly and backpacks. That is OK they explained as first they would help us get a Visa and maybe they will find us a taxi whilst we wait. We tried to decline their assistance politely as we explained we want to visit the border market and have a cool drink.
Somewhere lost in translation and perhaps without the ability to coordinate a taxi for us, three of the moto riders became less interested and drifted back and forth, now more interested in what we were doing, not what we could do for them. The other two just threw in a questioning “taxi?” comment every couple of minutes and we proceeded to purchase a Visa.
I don’t know what happens at most land borders where you receive a Visa upon arrival. In Singapore and Malaysia you get the Visa as part of your immigration process, stamped in by an Immigration officer. We assumed this was what was happening here in Choam as well. There was a Visa window, explaining different Visa’s and their pricing and whilst hardly an official looking building, there didn’t appear to be one within a few hundred kilometers so we trusted that we had been taken to the right window and that we weren’t about to discover another more modern and official looking immigration building behind the markets (having already paid our US$60 for 3 Visa’s.
Again, the office was empty and somebody had to find the Visa officer. He was polite but reasonably officious without uniform and a suspiciously driven interest in us organizing a taxi as priority over actually getting a Visa and entering the country. We remained blasé about the taxi situation as I assumed if it could be done then it would be done and the markets looked interesting so spending some time there would be fun.
The Visa process involved us filling out two forms, the officer sticking the wrong passport photos to the wrong forms and telling us repeatedly that a taxi would be 15 minutes so better to organize it now. Relenting, I entered into a pricing exchange (bartering) and when I quoted Thai prices for similar journey’s his defence that Cambodia is more expensive seemed a bit thin! I had a good mix of US dollars and Thai Baht but interestingly enough the locals in Choam were only interested in Thai Baht. We agreed on a taxi to take us to the escarpment near Pol Pots house, into Anlong Veng for a drink and then onto Siem Reap. We assumed a 4 hour expedition so thought that Aus$50 for the 3 of us was reasonable. Regarding the taxi and driver we had no idea but the likelihood of the taxi being a Toyota Camry was high.
Once the Visa’s were done we were pointed across the street. Apparently Immigration is a separate and independent function so across we went with our Visa’s ready for sticking in our passports. The Immigration officer had a uniform and didn’t care about taxi’s. There was another form to fill out but a nice picnic table to sit at whilst writing and everybody else had lost interest in us by now. No further payment was required, the Visa’s were entered and we were ready to explore the markets and maybe a taxi would find us.