Mekong Boat: Chau Doc, Vietnam to Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Because I am not in a hurry to get anywhere I will not to fly too often within Southeast Asia.
I have already experienced a few crazy bus rides in Vietnam so to cross the border I decided to take a boat on the Mekong River to Phnom Penh, Cambodia out of Chau Doc; a stylish and fitting way to depart from the Mekong Delta.
The price of the boat ride being 20 dollars ensured I would be only with tourists; a sure recipe for someone to put their foot in their mouth and act like a jerk.
The above photo shows our Vietnamese border crossing welcoming committee along the Mekong River.
On the top of the picture there are the food and drink vendors, in the middle are the super relaxed border guards and on the bottom are the type A aggressive, hustling kids (especially the one in the red shirt).
The boat has not even properly docked yet when the red shirt kid was already aboard running through the boat at full speed seemingly without any purpose (of trying to sell or beg).
It was doubtful he would have been be there for purse snatching in front of the border guards so the situation was a bit confusing and scary for some passengers.
Things quickly calmed down and the usual food and drink sales transactions were taking place.
Within less than a minute not unexpectedly one of the tourists had to be a jackass. A kid was trying to sell something maybe pineapple but after getting a no answer he tried his pitch again. It is normal for a street vendor not to just walk away after receiving a no; who can blame someone who is miles below the poverty level for trying to make a sale.
That is when it happened: the guy sitting next to me, a chunky (doubtful he ever starved for a second) guy from Australia screamed: KID, GET OFF THE BOAT!
Yes, I know this is not the end of the world but it was still sad and embarrassing; the chunky Aussie trying to control someone’s livelihood; clearly non of his business.
Our passports were collected by one of the boat operators, taken to a nearby building to be stamped and brought back after five minutes. We were never ID’d or cross referenced in person. This was another communist flashback; it is much easier to exit a communist country than to enter it … inside communist joke with some people who are reading this.
After this I got off the boat to stretch out and took some photos of some other kids hanging around. Just before the boat departed I waved to the kids to come to me and gave them one dollar to their biggest surprise and joy. The Aussie bloke turned to me saying: you just made their day; I just nodded thinking yes, that was my point but decided not to lecture him.
There are two ways to travel through an impoverished country: always fight tooth and nail for the best price and getting a nasty attitude when something costs 25 cent more than expected or give out a few pennies and dollars and spread some joy; a fair payback for the thousands of unsolicited smiles received.