Other people's stories
Feb 09, 2002
"Deep fried insects do not taste like chicken!"
Adam Katz, Khao San Road
After 24 hours on a train and 5 hour on a boat I'm back in Indonesia. I'm heading off to Palau Weh tomorrow and may stay there for 3 weeks. I don't know if I'll have access to internet for those 3 weeks so I'll leave you with some "other people's stories"
There's this notorious border between Cambodia and Lao. It's far enough from each country's capitol that it's pretty much run by the local police/military chief. Cambodia is on one side of the Mekong, Lao on the other side and you take a longtail boat across. No one ever seems to know if the border is open, which way it is open, or how much it will cost to cross. Our group managed to get across from $20 on the Cambodian side and $5 on the Lao side.
I heard two good 3rd or 4th hand stories about other travelers experiences attempting to cross this border. In the first story a lone travelers arrives at the border and is asked for $20. He refuses to pay "I have a visa I shouldn't have to pay anything else." Which is true. The border guard refuses to budge on the price. Our hero responds with "Okay, I'll wait until you get off shift and ask the next guy." Our hero sits on the bank of the river for 3 hours. Then sure enough, the guard gets off duty, wanders over and offers the guy "How about $1." Saving $19 might not sound like a big deal to those of you in the US, but that's two weeks accommodation in these parts. Our hero pays the dollar and continues on his way.
In the other story the couple wasn't nearly so fortunate. They get a visa stamp out of Lao without problem. Then they cross the river to Cambodia and are told "The border is closed!" They try bribing the guards, they try begging, but to no avail. Frustrated they take the boat back to Lao and are shocked to find out that they cannot re-enter Lao. "You have been stamped out, you cannot come back without a new visa." Fortunately, there was a guesthouse on the border for them to stay at. Unfortunately, they were stuck at that guesthouse for 4 days waiting for that visa.
Then there are the legendary expats you hear about. There's an Irishman that hangs out in a particular bar in Phnom Penh. Rumor has it that he's ex-IRA and very much not welcome back in Ireland. He's welcome in Cambodia though, he's one of the prime ministers body guards. I never met him. Now I hear about some English bank robbers. Very nice people, I'm told. They got away with their haul and have retired on an Indonesian island. We'll see I may yet meet them.
A frenchman in Africa
Africa scares me - and I heard this story first hand. I met a frenchman while waiting for a train in Malaysia. He's spent more than a year in total traveling around Africa. One time he's down there and gets Malaria. He's checked into a local hospital and gets sicker. Then he gets sicker. He's on the verge of death, literally on the verge of death and some other travelers throw him in a truck and drive him to a regional hospital where he is diagnosed with typhoid. It's not that he had typhoid and not malaria. He had typhoid and malaria at the same time! The typhoid is treated and he gets better.
He returns to Africa and thinks he's learned his lesson. A cut on his leg becomes a bit red and swollen. Then a black dot appears in the cut. "I'll be home in a few days - I'll wait for a good French hospital", he decides. That was a bad decision. On the plane he is in agony. Each pressure change causes immense pain. Upon landing he goes right to the hospital in Paris. This was a good decision. "My god, we haven't seen gangrene this bad in years", his doctors say. "Another day or two and we would have had to remove the leg." They still had to cut down to the bone to remove the gangrene. I saw the scars... As for myself, central Africa scares me, but I'm still going. I'm planning a quick three week trip. Fly down, see some big animals, and then fly out before getting terribly ill.
Ian crashes a party
I already wrote my story about crashing a party in Lao. We got very drunk and had to flee before throwing up on their floor. Ian's story has quite a different twist to it.
The bars have all closed for the night. He and a friend hear some music coming from a building. They wait outside and sure enough they are invited in, handed drinks and food.
"What's the party for?" asks Ian.
"It's for my friend"
"Where's your friend?"
"Over there" pointing.
"Where?" Not seeing anyone.
The conversation repeats itself.
Ian is shown over to the corner of the room where the host grabs a sheet and pulls it away.
"My friend" smiling
Sure enough there was the man's friend lying dead in a coffin. Ian had managed to accidently crash a wake. What the hell do you do when you've discovered that you've crashed a wake? Ian decides it would be more rude to leave than to stay so they end up staying and drinking.