Crossing over the border from Laos to Cambodia and the “Passport Visa Stamp Charge”

Standing In Laos looking south to Cambodia.

The rumors are true, crossing the Lao Cambodia border has some hick ups, be prepared to pay a “STAMP CHARGE” of 2 USD not once but twice and an additional 1USD for some medical paperwork on the Cambodian side.  All in the game of Travel my friends.

Even for the wise traveler seeking a visa prior to will have to pay. As “everyone pays my friend”. Oh and the folks who like to overstay their welcome the allotted time on your visa may be 30 days, remember that each day you overstay you will pay 10 USD. So be ready to pay.

Southern Laos Cambodian land Border check out.

I heard about the “stamp charge” and or “bribe” whatever you wish to call it. I wasn’t thrilled and even questioned it, however eventually forked over 2 USD like the twenty some odd other European sheep crossing over the border. Once you cross the no mans land on the other side  you will be presented the “same same but different” Stamp fee.

As for the 1 USD charge I showed the lady my Yellow Fever booklet and said “No Thanks” to the extra dollar. I think she was confused as all the  other herding sheep just paid out of their fat wallets. She had her boss look at my yellow fever booklet, I was waived through.

Hello Cambodia! In addition to the visa in my passport is the arrival and departure card.

So maybe you can show your booklet too and save a buck to eat your next meal in Cambodia too.  A small price but it adds up after a while when you are on the road. Minor set backs like this seem like only 4 dollars here and there but when you are a world traveling backpacker for extended time away from making money every penny counts. So whether it is legal or not, right or wrong I had to respect both countries Laos and Cambodia because that is the way they handled the border, and  quit frankly I didn’t want to miss my bus on the account of not paying a “bribe/stamp charge”. It’s all in the game of travel my friends. Enjoy.

Card game with Lao locals

I was invited into a hut to watch a local game of cards.  Pretty interesting situation.

One of my last stories from Laos was one I’ll remember forever. Being invited into a dark hut never seems like a good idea when there are a bunch of small Asian men with machete’s squatting around smiling at you, waving you towards… This hut was used as the local corner store selling snacks and beer but today was the hangout where a group of village men sat around the floor playing cards on a dusty matte and old t-shirt as the playing field. I clearly was already standing out as the only white boy around for hectors, so I made the most of it, I weighed my options, I stepped inside to capture the moment. It was great, the sunlight found its way through the bamboo and thatch walls illuminating the small cramped space with enough light to play. With plenty of the local brew being sipped, voices pitched as cards were being slapped down. I was waved in closer; I squatted next to them and tried to learn the game. I wasn’t going to try and capture the moment with a few clicks of my camera, but then I felt compelled to share this with the folks back home. Cheers to all my Guy friends out there to one day we play a round of cards and think of the places in the world where there are people just like us living life, doing their thing while we do ours. The big picture is just that, Life is a gamble, no matter where you live in the world and we are all in it together.

How to capture the moments in your mind that you want to last a lifetime, without your camera, pen or paper.

Brain analysts have been saying for years that we only really retain 20-30% of our life which means roughly 80% can be lost in time over the course of your life. So how do we do our best to capture the moments, scents and feelings that we really want to stay with us forever? Through process of training your brain.

Here is my take on it, it may be different for others but it has helped me so far through my travels around the world and I hope to share the secret with you to enjoy your moments in time. This post is about how to and a story of an Old man playing guitar in Laos.

Lets take today for example I was with out without my camera, or pen and paper with just some money in my pocket and my keys as I passed an old barbershop with a gentle looking but weathered old man with an enormous smile on his face. I was drawn in to say hello, Sabadee- I said. He smiled Sabadee he replied while he was strumming his old worn guitar.

I thought to myself this would be a wonderful black and white or even a simple color photo. But I didn’t have a camera, I was let down by this. But remember many moments in my travels through Tanzania, India, and now Laos that I haven’t had my camera and used my click memory to remember the moments.

I asked him to pay a little more for me as I sat down on the step of his shop and with a smile  he came and sat on and old cement bench with his guitar.

He looked at me smiled spoke some Lao words then started playing. This was an incredible moment for me to just sit, reflect and obsorb the moment in the moment of my momentous life thus far. I gazed up at the old guitar and his hands strumming along, he was happy and singing in a gentle voice with a smile like non other that I had seen in this area. Gosh I wish I had my camera, but I didn’t.

So this is what I did and this is what you’ll need to do also. Close your eyes to imprint this moment my the mind. I opened them again.

Embrace the moment that you want to last, look at the details. Try to embroider the sum of all the parts and then the individual parts as a hole. As if you were scanning first then specific details of the complete puzzle.Look and observe, feel the feeling it gives you, smell the scents around you. Observe. Observe. Observe.

Then that is when you close your eyes and see everything in the darkness below your eyelids  Tell your self to remember this moment, take a deep breath and remember put the pieces together in your mind. If you cant remember everything do this a second time.

Then open your eyes again and see what is going on around you. You may do this a few times. Some times I click my eyes like a camera but hold the eyes closed for a couple seconds. Imagine that my memory card brain will seal it in time..

Depending on the experience, a flash in the pan or a lasting sensation, you can do it all, just close your eyes and imprint what you had observed.

This will not only help you remember but it will also stimulate your mind to add a bookmark to this moment in your history.

Try it out with a few things around your home, then when something important comes up you will be able to master this capturing of the moment without a camera, or writing/typing it out.

To me I remember this about the old man, I was sitting on the cool hard cement porch, It was hot outside, but the moment was perfect. I looked up from the round into his life, the street stand barbershop was wooden planked with one chair sat inside, I could also see from my spot one dirty old turquoise couch where a rack of Pepsi colas and cases of BeerLao stood in the distance behind him. The ceiling was also wooden planked adorned by and old white rotating fan. The wooden doors slid open to teak floors.

He seemed to have an old soul about him, a sensation that had seen previous lives before this one. Perhaps he was someone before this life, he knew where he was and he excepted it for all that it was. I remember his white button down shirt and worn dress pants, his feet sat bare on the cement ground, his fingernails bitten and the veins of his hands showed time. His guitar was scratched and written on. A small photo of a yong school girl who he said was “his kid” was slid in under the strings at the top of his guitar. This memory all was framed with his hand painted sign in the center of the outside shop doors that read BARBERSHOP in Lao and English. Fro where i sat the barbershop sign hung just above his head like a halo.

There was a blue tarp over our heads for rain and sun protection, the cement bench he was sitting on was warn and scratched, his hands were like my grandfathers, and his guitar was just as warn as him, aged in time and cared about by the passing time.

I wanted to capture this moment so bad – It reminded me of so many lives before this, so many people all in one song from his voice to my family, friends and lives I’ve touched, I could feel my entire journey flash by in the strum of his tune, the melody in his voice to words I could not understand. I closed my eyes I to remember this moment.

I sat watching and listening to him for what seemed like another twenty minutes until he strummed the last note. A deep sigh of joy was sighed with a smile. I think he was happier that I asked him to play than I was happy to listen and feel the emotion of the moment.

On my journey back to my home stay I decided to go back in a few days when I had time and see him again.

Today saw him, approaching his barbershop I could see he wasn’t too busy, as he was sitting outside alone. Would I have a chance to live the moment again this time of this special man and his music?

I walked up “Sabadee” I said with a slight bow and my hands clasped together, He in return said sabadee and smiled. I said Guitar? He said GUITAR! With a smile he sat on the old cement bench and started strumming. I asked him to play again, while I pointed at my camera and to him, to take a photo, he smiled nodded. I didn’t have much time but was able to capture a few photos that lived up to my memories, but even better.   So I know I used a camera when my title was how to without a camera, pen and paper, but I had to show you what it looked like from my memory. It is all part of the process. Enjoy.


The Barbershop Man with a smile bigger than the city.