During a one hour flight from Ho Chi Minh city to Siem Reap in Cambodia, you are presented with customs and excise forms, entry and departure forms and told to complete them.
We also sat by the exit door for extra leg room and asked this time to “please stop any other passenger opening door”…!!!!
Our agent had previously advised that we had to pay $30 each to enter the country and that we would need to take a passport photo with us.
All sounds simple so far .. right?
So we land and roll to a stop by the terminal building and then take a walk, blindly following other passengers, in the early evening 28 degree humidity.
After waiting in line we step forward and hand over our passport forms and photo.
“You need visa, go there.. ” with a wave of the hand. This female official without ‘the warm welcome’, gestures to the opposite side of the hall.
There was chaos, with passengers being turned away like us, or filling in new forms, other queues, and a few gentle protests, that we had completed our forms already.
We queued for a visa in front of military looking officials, certainly not looking for social interaction.
We eventually stepped forward and again handed in our documents and passport.
“You fill in this form.. then come back!… no! Your forms no good … fill in this form and come back.” She, like her colleagues had three stripes on her lapel.
So we took new forms and completed them away from the front of the queue.. like everyone else!
We returned to our ‘warm’ hostess!
She took the passport, the new form and the smaller entry and departure forms, photo and our $30. She gave us back our passport covers and customs forms and waived us away to an area past around 10 other officials all busy in a line working with the passports.
To our hostesses left sat an official with a part open suitcase.
If I had been allowed to photograph this scene, it would have shown dollars being stacked in a black briefcase, exactly as you see in the movies.
We made our way to a ‘collection point’ and within a few minutes our passports were returned to us.
Now we made our way back to the ‘welcome to Cambodia NOT’ female official where we started.
She waived us through to pick up our suitcases much to my wife’s relief!
But the games were not yet over!
As we headed towards the exit, we join another queue. Here we hand in our customs form.. nothing to declare!
We are met by Muy, our guide. Our luggage is reluctantly lifted into the boot of the car by the driver, I think the culture here is very different already to the West…
As we are about to depart a man runs over to the car and knocks on the window.
Muy exchanges a few words we don’t understand, speaks to the driver and we start to move.
When I ask Muy what was he saying he tells me “no problem.. he says driver left key in the boot”
We are not happy with that and the driver again reluctantly, stops, gets out and removes the key.
Our journey to the hotel is a mystery. When I ask the guide if it is ok, he says “ok, not best, ok” certainly creating doubt in our mind as we pass one palatial five star hotel after another!
A right turn brings us onto a unlit, undesirable uneven road and we stop.
The guide says the hotel is here .. somewhere!
This was not good ..
Eventually after a call we continued along the road to the end of the street and turned right.
We were at the entrance to our hotel where a very warm and unexpected experience awaits.