Down and out…….in Cambodia

For all you dishevelled disgruntled Farang readers who have felt that life has been just a little unfair at times, take this opportunity to read into the awfully unfortunate saga of a certain Mr Tammas.

Looking through me archives, it won’t take the reader too long to realise that your regular blogwit blogger here, once upon a time, spent many-a-day living it up across the border over in the former Kampuchea, the Land of Landmines and Legless Lepers.

Any traveller-cum-tourist-cum-expatriate on entering Cambodia will soon be inundated with a myriad of sad, sorrowful tales, and the tale in question is no exception.

So, for all you foreigners residing over here in the Land of Monks and Mangosteen who have the not so enviable task of having to pop across the Poipet border every month to renew your visa, here is the hellish low-down on a Hungarian ex-pat whose across the border ‘visa run’ turned into a ghastly nightmare

Having exited Thailand, Mr Tammas decides to take it upon himself to have a quick look round Poipet market on the Cambodian side before realising to his absolute shock and horror that some fervent fiend has, with a razor-sharp knife, sliced open his backpack and taken off with all of Mr Tammas’ cash, credit cards and even passport! Not having the faintest idea what to do, he is soon given the ‘You can not go Thailand, you no passport’ from the not so user-friendly Khmer immigration officials. Of course, with no cash and no passport he is soon pleading away asking ‘just let me get back into Thailand’ before, to his seeming good fortune, chatting away to one Khmer official who says “I’ll get you back across the border but its gonna cost ya”. Mr Tammas, on realising he still has a thousand baht note in his pocket, slyly slides it into the officer’s backpocket before . . . the officer just… disappears off the scene never to be seen again.

Evening arrives, and after getting a ‘nauseated nasty look’ from a bunch of ‘visa-runners’ wanting nothing whatsoever to do with the now rather smelly Mr Tammas, he comes to the realisation that he is ‘stranded’ in Cambodia with not even a single baht, not to mention no passport to his name! Having nowhere to sleep ‘til morning, a sheepish shopowner allows Mr Tammas to sleep on his floor before the hunfortunate Hungararian has to go off to file a police report. So, the next morning on arriving at Poipet’s so-called Cop Shop, he is duly informed that he is ‘unable’ to file a police report as he doesn’t have the 50 baht required to do so!

Aghast at the state of law and order in Cambodia, Mr Tammas can do nothing but head for Phnom Penh and seek some international help. Well, that morning with a slice of luck he soon meets up with a friendly NGO from the States, working in a town halfway to Phnom Penh called Battambang, who offers Mr Tammas a lift, just that far, for free. Half a day later and feeling flippin fortunate to be out of Poipet, Mr Tammas, halfway to Phnom Penh is soon searching around for the address of a free place to stay given to him courtesy of the friendly chauffeur. Looking rather pitiful, and stinking to the heavens, our Hungarian friend is soon befriended by a Cambodian Policeman who asks him ‘Where are you going?

Unable to give him a decent answer the police official radios up his buddy, only to ask Mr Tammas the likes of ‘Where’s yer passport?’ Of course the, by now hungry, Hungarian on being escorted to the local station is soon givin them the lowdown of his hellish bad luck.

Not exactly believing Mr Tammas’ story, the Pol Cpt asks to see his police report to verify the theft in Poipet. “They needed 50 baht to process the darned thing and I didn’t have the cash” Mr Tammas hastily retorts before the superintendent unfortunately informs him that having no cash and no passport he is therefore considered a grave threat to national security and must be ‘held’ at the police jail until he is able to pay the frivolous fine!

From only wishing to ‘pop across the border’ our friend here is soon squatted in a mosquito-ridden cell with a thousand Cambodian cellmates living in the most squalid of dirty places not having the faintest clue to his future. Having no diplomatic relations in town whatsoever, Mr Tammas can do absolutely nothing but play tiddly-winks with the cells’ cockroaches for the next week.

Luck soon arrives a week later and Mr Tammas is called to the superintendent’s office and told ‘you go to court today” before being shuttled away handcuffed to hear his verdict. Fortunately for Mr Tammas the judge declares that a meager 300 baht fine will suffice and, in lieu of cash, his watch would be ‘just sufficient’.

Outside of court, still cashless and not having the foggiest on
how to get to Phnom Penh, he is soon told by a kind police guy “You bad luck, you no money go Phnom Penh but I buy your shoes for 5 dollars, enough go!”

Anyway, on taking Mr Tammas’ shoes the kind official hands him in return a slimy slippery well-worn pair of flip-flops for his grubby feet for free

Even though 5 bucks wasn’t enough for the fare to Phnom Penh, the considerate corporal orders the pick up taxi driver to “Just take the tattered down and out farang, have sympathy for the guy!”

A day later, our friend Mr Tammas on arriving in Phnom Penh, having absolutely nowhere to sleep and no food for his belly, is soon pleading with all the guesthouses down by the lake ‘Hey, I clean all up for you and cook you good goulash, just point me to the paprika and give me a freebie bed!” Anyway, Mr Tammas does strike it lucky when he’s soon hired to cook, clean and ‘hussle’ all the Farang coming off the Angkor Wat bus to stay at ‘his’ guesthouse.

This nauseous nightmare is prolonged once again when he finds out that his darned country had nowt in the way of diplomatic relations with Cambodia

The last time I met our hapless Hungarian friend he was still sweeping the filthy floors of the guesthouse down by the lake and he clumsily complained “Darned British Embassy tells me to go to the Cuban Embassy, the Cuban Embassy says – get out of it, go to the French Embassy and the French Embassy goes “We sees you has a little problem, come back see us when you have-a yer new passport!”

Sadly, Mr Tammas was unable to phone his relations for assistance in this matter as both of his parents had, only a few months prior, died in a horrible auto wreck.

10 responses to “Down and out…….in Cambodia

  1. Although the story has all the elements of an urban myth, for some reason I find it believeable, Steve. 🙂

    One thought that came across my mind is how this unlucky Hungarian guy could not rely on support from his home country at all.

    Although think you are right when saying that most countries don’t give a damn “unless its regarded to them as an emergency”, what makes the difference is where the embassies draw the line for ’emergency’.

    For the record, the Hungarian embassador to Thailand continued his Christmas holiday undisturbed back at home when the tsunami disaster struck his fellow nationals over here. He was fired afterwards, but the point was made already…

    From all this, it seems that life must be tough for a Hungarian abroad. Get in trouble – and you are on your own.

  2. Uhmm at a loss for words besides how incredibly much that just sucks! poor guy!

  3. Hahaha.
    Do you know any other borders where i can go to get a one month new visa? Ive been to the border at Aranya Pratet opposite Cambodia for two months but the service was really slow and i had to wait for about a hour.
    Thanks for the blog. The next time i go i will be very careful with my passport!! Thanks for the advice.


  4. stevesuphan

    If yer living in Bangkok or most of the central region Paul you havent got much choice ‘but’ to go to Poipet (Aranya Prathet) as its the nearest at just 4-5 hours away.
    On the other hand if yer in the south you can pop over the Malay border or if yer in the north you can pop over the border at Mai Sai or Tak etc..
    Otherwise, go get yerself a three month tourist visa in Vientiane or Penang (if yer here for the fun of it) so save the hassle of having to go every month. Altogether, no price difference at the end of the day.

  5. Dude…That majorly sucks.

    Surely there must be a farang smuggler–people, not fruit–who can get him back to the other side?

    Poor Mr. Tammas.

  6. What a worrying, especially for those of us living here who need to make that trip every month.

    Everyone should remember this one though the next time they are at the Poipet border and guard their passports well. I ran into a Canadian guy who had everything else ripped off in Poipet, but luckily not his passport. He was in tears at having lost all of his cash, but in retrospect he was VERY lucky for having thought to hold his passport in his hand the entire time and not stuff it in a backpack as he had done with his wallet.

    Live and Learn! And good luck Tammas!

  7. Did you communicate to the Hungarian Embassy somewhere about this person now?

  8. Had he made his visa run from Mae Sai to Tachilek, Myanmar he could have just walked a mile or two up the Sai river and hopped back across the border…oh well. Viva Kampuchea!

  9. Borderhopper:

    Problem doing that is that you would be busted on the Thai side too for illegally entering the country with no visa let alone a passport!

    Sorry there trangam, our friend Mr Tammas didn’t bother asking any of for help except for a loan of a couple-a bucks for a bevvie and some tobacco and i never did find out his real name etc.. so there was no-way that i could have found out what happened to the guy. I left Phnom Penh shortly after this.
    Anyway, most foreign embassies aren’t going to bothered checking out any info about any of their nationals unless its regarded to them as ‘an emergency’.

    Anyway, fellow readers, to take heed and when across the border especially to the likes of Burma, Laos and Cambodia take extra care of your passport!

  10. Just passed on the infor to be extra careful with personal documents. A friend of mine’s 20 year old daughter will be making the trip atleast twice within the next few months. She appreciated the advice