Posts tagged: Scam

Laos To Cambodia: Border Virgins

By , July 1, 2010 6:00 am

“There is no change of bus, it’s direct”, we were told by the man who sold us our bus ticket from Don Det, Laos to Siem Reap, Cambodia. While the 2009 Lonely Planet told us differently, we were hoping some changes occurred since the last edition. So early morning, we left the island with candid smiles and in hopes the bad border crossing stories only happened to the unlucky ones.

The bus dropped us off right at the Laos border. We all piled in line to get our exit stamps. As we approached the officer at the window, he said $2 each person. When did you have to pay to get an exit stamp? Then because I lost Boris’ departure card, the officer said we had to pay an additional $5 for a new departure card. Everyone in front us paid, but Boris and I agreed not to pay. When we refused, the officer instantly threw our passports back to us.

We read about this scam so many times but as naive travelers, it took us a few seconds to process it. We decided to approach another officer by the gate. He gave us a free departure card but could not help us with the stamp.

We looked around for some locals to follow behind. Even the locals were surprised by the fee, but paid. One local told us sometimes you have to pay. We automatically caved in and paid too. Looking back, it was better not to have paid. There was no way they had a working system to track that you did not exit since it was all a loose paper trail with corruption written all over it.

A few steps further, we were at the Cambodia border. The officer said $1 for the health inspection. He took out a thermometer and placed it on our foreheads and said, “Ok, no fever”, and handed us a piece of paper. If there is a nurse or doctor reading this, can you really take someone’s temperature this way?

Onto the next booth where we had to get our visa and entrance stamp. The visa costs us $23 each and $1 for the stamp. It just doesn’t stop!

Once all that was complete, we ended up switching buses twice and waited hours each time. With every bad experience, there is a silver lining, which we had two of.

The first being that the experience could have been worse. We met a guy on our bus who had to pay a $200 fine at the Laos border. The reason was because when he first entered Laos, it was really late and no one was there to stamp his passport. Later when we tried to exit Laos, they require your entrance stamp to make sure you did not over extend your stay. Since he didn’t have the stamp, he had to pay a huge fine.

The second silver lining was that the bus attendant on the last bus hop was very fond of Boris. He hung out with us and even invited us for free drinks at the rest stop. He referred us to a cheap hotel, which we crashed at for the night and was pretty decent.

Vang Vieng: Formerly A Very Cheap Stop

By , May 25, 2010 10:09 am

From Luang Prabang, we took a minibus to Vang Vieng. It was a 7-hour scenic ride that made us sick and scared of falling off the cliffs.

In Vang Vieng, there were lots of tourists, which many were wearing tank tops that read, “Tubing in Vang Vieng”. It turned out tubing was the main attraction here for those who want to be trashed while relaxing down the river. Prices seem to be super inflated since word got out how super cheap Vang Vieng was for backpackers.

Inside the town, there are many guesthouses, restaurants, and bars. We decided to rent a motorbike to roam the outskirts. As we got off the main road, the scene completely changed with huge mountains and farmland all around us.

We headed for the Blue Lagoon. We saw a yellow sign that pointed to the Blue Lagoon so we followed it. After paying an entrance fee, having our gas somehow stolen from our motorbike, and our tire vandalized, we realized we were totally scammed. As we walked with our motorbike along the road, we immediately came to a gas shop and tire repair shop. Hmm, how convenient.

We finally got to the real Blue Lagoon and paid another entrance fee. It was indeed a lagoon and very blue compared to the black pond we previously encountered. It was a great spot to cool off in the cold water and if you were daring enough, jump off the large tree limbs.

After being well relaxed, we hiked to a nearby cave. It was pitch black inside the large cave. Luckily, we had one headlamp with us. As we got deeper in the cave, the darker it got. It was very important to watch where you were stepping. There were large holes that dropped to another dimension with no one to save you. After 45 minutes in, it got harder to continue so we turned back. It was pretty cool to be able to roam around with no guide.

It was a long day that started out bad but ended up being a lot of fun. We reported the false sign along with the gas and tire scam to the authorities. It made us feel better even if nothing was going to be done to avoid the scamming of so many tourists.

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