The most exciting border crossing of my life happened in 2005 when I crossed to Laos from Cambodia! My friend Ashley and I had thoroughly read the Lonely Planet and felt completely prepared for the border crossing. Ashley and I had studied in Singapore together and had been backpacking around South East Asia for about a month.
Originally we had read that the boat price (to get into Laos) should be about $10. When the workers offered us a boat for $20 we refuses insisting that we didn't want to be ripped off. They insisted on $20 and the negotiations were over. Ashley and I went to grab food and contemplate what to do next. There we met some older travelers in their fifties (Harold, Howard and Bill) who became our adopted and temporary fathers.
Howard had been to Laos many times and talked down our boat price from $20 to $12, a price he assured us was very fair. In addition, he told us to put some kip in our passports. This way when we crossed the border the men wouldn't give us any trouble. I tend to be a goodie-goodie and wasn't very excited about putting money in my passport, but he assured us it was normal. I didn't have any kip, but I had a few US dollars, so I put one in my passport.
Once the boat arrived we all got out and approached the border crossing. One of the men went first and handed over his passport. The border patrol officer asked why the money was in his passport? He lied and said he had left it there on accident. I was worried that we had offended the officer and hastily grabbed the dollar from my passport and slyly shoved it in my pocket. Then the officer added, "I want American dollars."
The man apologized and handed over a dollar. He was permitted to pass. Everything went without a hitch until I was asked for my passport. My dollar, which I had crumped in my pocket, was not good enough. It was wrinkled and they only wanted crisp dollars. Luckily one of the men had an extra dollar he handed over to the officer, but that was one of the most frightening minutes of my life.
Don’t let this scare you off! Laos was one of the most beautiful countries I have experienced and I am so happy that I had the chance to explore it.
- Though the crossing was scary, the beautiful water in Laos made it well worth it!
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