This is our second visit to Cambodia. Several months ago, we spent exactly 3 minutes on Cambodian soil, crossing over from Thailand at Poipet for the sole purpose of getting a new Thai visa. Three minutes in Cambodia – and we had a fabulous time as far as I was concerned. Talk about smooth sailing through the border jungle.
The second time, we crossed the border at Cham Yam and it wasn’t quite as smooth. Luckily, we had done our homework on the Cambodian scam machine. Online rumors abound of border guards requesting passport stamping fees or health officials charging money for pointing a thermometer gun at your head. So when we stepped over the border, we knew exactly what to do.
“Twenty Baht,” the health official blurted out after I handed him back our health forms. We had seen a group of unsuspecting tourists coughing up the “obligatory” health fee just moments before. More concerned with a little pocket money than with a bunch of foreigners schlepping in the swine flu virus, he held out his open palm almost poking us in the chest. As confident as we could be under the circumstances (you are at the mercy of the border guards after all), we started our part of the spiel.
“There is no fee,” I snapped at him doing a well-rehearsed condescending flick of my hand. Before he could answer, Tony got his word in, “We’ve crossed the border many times and we’ve never had to pay for that.” Silently holding each other’s stare for what seemed like several minutes, the Cambodian border guard suddenly relaxed and started smiling. “It’s okay,” he said and waived us through.
“Well, that was easy,” I whispered to Tony. Another $0.60 saved. Hey, it may not sound much but it makes a difference over the course of a day. Obviously, resistance is not always futile. In fact, resistance has often earned us more respect than condemnation by making it clear that we are no wandering cash cows. And the smile on Mr. Scam Bag’s face confirmed that. Don’t feel bad for his loss, he’ll probably charge the next tourist double.