3/15/18: Crazy Border Crossing

I woke up at 6:45, a little hungover and very tired. I had my breakfast (a huge mango and muesli) and got to the bus station to wait for my bus to Cambodia.

I sat next to an Israeli girl, Yael, and we talked for a bit. She probably thought I was stand-offish and cold because I gave her a lot of short answers due to my hangover/tiredness/overall lack of will to chat.

The bus attendant came around and collected our passports and the $35 needed for the visa on-arrival.

We got to the Vietnam-Cambodia border a couple hours later. However, we had no idea that we were at the border because there was absolutely no communication from the driver. We just saw people around us get off, so we assumed we had to get off too.

We followed the others into a building and put our carry-on through the x-ray scanner. We entered a big room with three immigration officers sitting behind desks, seemingly looking through our passports. We had no idea which line to stand in since we didn’t know which officer had our passports, but of course we got no clear direction from anyone we asked. We just stood in a random line and hoped for the best.

The way it worked was that the immigration officer would review the passports, then put back a handful of the approved ones on his desk, and then the bus attendant standing by would call out the person’s name and hand their passport back to them. There were a few other buses there, so it took a while for the officer to get to our group.

About 20 minutes later I got my passport back, went out the back door, and got back on the bus. I opened up my passport and saw that an arrival card and visa application form were slit into it. They were both already filled out by a mystery person– I’m assuming it was my bus attendant. Bizarre.

Once everyone got back on the bus, we drove a little further to the Cambodia border. We got off the bus again, and handed our passports to the bus attendant once more. We walked into the building, and the immigration officers were sitting behind their desks. However, we didn’t have our passports since we had just handed them to the attendant so we just stood around waiting for him to come in so we could get stamped by immigration. The bus attendant eventually came in and motioned for us to go through– it was ok that we didn’t have our passports. We could just walk past the officers.

So we did. And the officers didn’t say anything at all.

And then we walked back on the bus.

And we were in Cambodia.

I mean… WHAT?!??!

First of all, the Vietnamese officers didn’t verify our identity at all. They just reviewed all the passports in bulk without seeing each person face-to-face.

Second of all, the Cambodian officers didn’t see us, let alone talk to us to ask where we’re staying, how long we’re staying, why we’re visiting, etc.

Third  of all, there was absolutely no point walking through the Cambodian immigration. We just waltzed through and got stamped by a mystery person.

And fourth of all, we could have brought ANYTHING into the country because they didn’t check our luggage at all. We left all our big bags under the bus.

Anyway, after that absolutely mind-boggling process, we made another stop at a restaurant for lunch near the border. It was a big dining-hall type of place, where you go up to the front and pick what you want from a row of options.

I asked if anything was vegetarian, and I was told no. I started to walk away disappointed, but then I saw fried tofu in a big pot. I asked if that was vegetarian to a different worker, and he told me yes. So, I got that over rice and some random cabbage I also saw at the end of the row.

We were on the bus for another three hours before we got to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

Some Phnom Penh first impressions:

  • Same blue street signs as in Yangon
  • Same crossing lights as in Japan
  • Cambodian face structure is way different from Vietnamese peoples even though they’re neighboring countries 
  • A lot less developed than Vietnam 

I split a taxi with Yael to my hostel, Billabong.

It is such a nice place! It’s like a hotel with dorms. Clean, big rooms, good amenities, a POOL, an area to get ready, a desk, and our own lockers with a padlock provided. I felt like a QUEEN!

I showered and went down to work on the blog/podcast for a bit before dinner.

I got dinner alone at Evergreen, and got noodle soup with seitan. It was ok– the seitan was a bit too oily for me, and the soup itself was quite small.


On my way home, I stopped by a grocery store to get fruit and oats for breakfast since my hostel doesn’t include it with the room. I also found a smoothie place so of course I had to get one… and went with banana and passionfruit. Best combo!!

I got into bed with my smoothie and watched Survivor.

It was weird– my entire dorm, which was about 8 other people, was in bed by 10 pm. That NEVER happens. I guess everyone had an early alarm clock set. Or we’re all just grandmas. Nevertheless, it made me happy. :)

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