Readers' Submissions

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.

Once upon a time I 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 shop owner 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 vagabound 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.

Stickman's thoughts:

Tammas just has to be Hungarian for Murphy.