October 31, 2011

Bribery: it works, b*tches

Here in the US, bribery normally carries a negative connotation and falls under the domain of politicians, Mexican drug lords, and egotistical nightclub patrons trying to skip the long line to get inside.  In other countries, though, it's often the only way to get things done.  Bribery can also be used as a threat.  "If you want to avoid ____, then give me $$."  I found myself in this very situation while attempting to enter Cambodia.

I was so proud of myself for double-checking all kinds of things before departing with my backpack for a month.  Automatic bill pay set up?  Check.  Travel alerts placed on ATM and credit cards?  Done.  Plenty of Skype credits?  Yep.  Enough blank pages in my passport for remaining visas and stamps?  Got it.

Well, I thought I had it.  As I was crammed into a tiny speedboat hurtling up the Mekong River with about 7 other tourists, the official on the boat responsible for processing our departure from Vietnam and our entry into Cambodia informed me that I was out of pages in my passport.  Not only that, but in order to avoid being deported to Ho Chi Minh City, I had to pony up an extra $40 (in addition to the $24 fee for the Cambodian visa) so that the Cambodian officials would "hopefully" let me enter their lovely country.  Well, horsesh*t, I though.  I still had 3 full blank pages left, and I was NOT going to fall victim to some stupid border crossing scam.  Also, I didn't have $40.  I only had $4.  So, no way, Jose.  You can take your pathetic bribery demand and stuff it.

And then Jose pointed out something in my passport:  those final 3 pages are not for visas.  The first 14 or so pages are for visas and entry/departure stamps, but the remaining 3 pages are for amendments and endorsements (and by all means, go get your passport right now and check this out).  Well, what on earth is a visa if not an endorsement that the Powers That Be reckon I'm non-threatning enough to enter their country and poke around for a few days?  While this logic made perfect sense to me, Jose was having none of it.  Nope, I was going to get deported unless I forked over $40 and kept my fingers crossed that Cambodia didn't deport me, anyway.  F@#%.

"Hey Dan, can I borrow $40?"  Dan handed me $40 with a grin that gave away exactly how much he was going to make fun of me for this later.  I grudgingly handed it over to the boat guy.   And I got my Cambodian visa.  I bet that punk bastard kept $35 and gave $5 to the Cambodian border official along with a story of the latest stupid tourist on his boat.  Whatever.  Giving in to his demands was cheaper than deportation.  And Cambodia was completely worth it.

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