Beyond Borders


Along with my experiences traveling in various parts of the world, one of the most I like is state border crossing overland. Many things can happen here, especially if we are in countries that are economically included in third world countries. In the two neighboring countries, there is vacant area that commonly referred to as “no man’s land”. This place is usually filled by many currency traders, ranging from an honest to fraudsters, criminal, tout, etc. In addition to my border crossing overland, I also have crossed border by sea but the sensation is less thrilled. There are 13 border states that once I crossed during my journey. 

1.  Jordan-Israel.
I do think the border of both countries is one of the most heavily guarded in the world especially in parts of Israel. I crossed through the “Friendship Bridge”. In the immigration post I was asked by Israeli immigration officer with the same question repeatedly. The main questions are about the name behind the great-grandfather, grandfather’s last name, father’s last name and so on. After being asked repeatedly without giving wrong answers, the officer gave me  a piece of paper that should not be lost during my stay in Israel. My passport was not stamped by Israeli immigration. After crossing the border, I saw  seem Israeli soldiers with heavy armor on top of the dunes. I also got to see some machine gun nests. 

2.Thailand-Cambodia
For some travelers Cambodia Thailand Border is the tout ghetto. In the border so many people offering so many things such as: currency exchange, transport to the border, visa application, etc. It is better to have a visa prior to cross border to Cambodia. If possible, do not use direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap because it is usually very disappointing way of travel.  In addition, usually before reaching Aranyapathet, the bus driver would stop at a local restaurant where the someone there will tell you that Thai Bath money and the dollar does not apply in Cambodia and the last exchange is only available here. Obviously this person is a cheater. Thai Baht and Dollar are widely used for trade in the border and most of Cambodia. From the restaurant there is usually a truck (not buses) that pick up to border (immigration). After going through the immigration process in the two countries,  there will be a bus  which was rusty and no air conditioning (not as promised in Bangkok).

The best practice is to ride on bus to Aranyapathet, take transport to the border and hire a share taxi from Cambodia side to Siem Reap.

 3.Malaysia-Singapore and contrast.

Nothing to worry about the border between these two countries except you try to smuggle drugs. I guaranty that you will be hanged to death. I cross Malaysia-Singapore border several time when I lived in Kuala Lumpur. The only one unfortunate event happened to me when the bus left me while I am waiting for the immigration process.

The best way to cross border is by train. No one will left behind except if you intended to do so.

4. Vietnam-Cambodia
I crossed the border first time in 2006 . It used to be the most simple crossing border in the world. I took direct bus from ordered a bus from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) to Phnom Penh. All immigration matters at Moi Pet was arranged by bus conductor. We just sat in the bus.

In December 2010, I crossed the border for the second time and found the rules were different. All passengers has to get down from the bus and go to the Vietnam immigration with the rucksack, same procedures with the Cambodian Immigrastion.

5.Vietnam-China
One of the most unlucky transboundary I have ever experienced. I ordered the train and bus ticket directly from the guesthouse where I stayed in Hanoi. It was a mistake from beginning. I was too lazy to find the good travel agent. Train ticket from Hanoi to Lao Cai is consistent with all I ask, sleeper train. Problems arise when I arrived in Lao Cai. Guesthouse in Hanoi did not immediately give me the bus ticket from the border town in China Heikou to Kunming. I have to take a ticket from someone who would meet me in Lao Cai. I bought VIP bus tickets but was given economy class ticket instead. I was enraged because I was ripped off  but the person who gave me the ticket pretended speaking English .

 In the afternoon I crossed from Lao Cai to Heikou after several hours walking around Hmong villages in Sapa (about 2 hours from Lao Cai). There is no problem in Vietnma Immigration, but not with the China immigration. Problem comes when a pretty female immigration office ask me about the travel gook guide. I show him my China  Rough Guide book.  She checked for a while and decided to keep it because she figured out that my Rough Guide book doesn’t put Taiwan is part of China. I’ve cooed the beautiful Miss immigration officer but she  did not want to restore my Rough Guide book.  In the end, I traveled around China without a guidebook…:-p.

Best practices: Never ever buy China buy bus tickets in Hanoi….!!! You will be ripped off like me.

6. Tibet(China)-Nepal

 There shouldn’t be a problem when I crossed the Tibet-Nepal border. We arrived in Zeikhou, the border City without any problem. We passed the China and Nepal Immigration China easily. I was traveled with a couple of American traveler and one Chinese traveler. Problems arise when we start to bargain hiring a jeep from the border to Kathmandu. At that time civil war Nepal was about to be over. I  didn’t know exactly how it started when suddenly someone start shouting, “Fuck Tourist! Fuck America! We will of kill you!.” I just know that Ben, my American friend did the bargaining with some of the touts there. Maybe Ben said something to the one of the touts there  that make him so angry.

The people started to surround Ben when I got out from the immigration office. Luckily, one of the jeep owners suddenly offered the price according to what we want. I immediately pulled Ben from the crowds. Ben still wants to argue with them but I just snapped him. I told Vivian’s (Ben girlfriend) and Jerry, my friend from China to enter into the Jeep while I pulled Ben into the jeep. Before the situation getting worse, I asked the driver to go immediately. Maybe in a matter of minutes if we did not get going, we may already beaten by dozens of people.

7. Macao-Hongkrong (By Sea)

Hongkong and Macao are still part of China but yet you still need passport to cross border. You only pay 175 Hong Kong dollars for a comfortable, quiet and fast ferry.

8. Jordania-Egypt (By Sea)

 In one of the guide book, it is said that the trip across the border from Aqaba in Jordan to Nuweiba in Egypt with ferry will take only 1.5 hours travel time. Actually, the guide is not wrong, but the book does not explain about immigration process in both side who can take up to 4 hours in both sides. So the total length of the trip reached 5.5 hours. The ticket also quite expensive, $ 50!

9. Tanzania-Malawi

Border crossing from Tanzania to Malawi is one of the most insane in my travel history. I was traveled with my American friend, Tim from Mbeya by public bus. About 1 km from the bus station, “the bus driver brothers and sister” jumped into the bus and hold our bags. As I and my American friends team arrived in Tanzania-Malawi border and off the bus, about 40 people who immediately surrounded us.  Our bags are still held by the “bus driver brothers”. All the people who surround us offering taxi, bus, bicycle to the borders. They said the border is about 8 miles from the bus station. Everyone was talking. It was chaos.

 All these people tried to mislead us. I once experience a lot of border crossing. One of my motor in border crossing is “Never trust the one who offering help”. They asked 50 dollar for the transport to the border and going down to 20 dollar when I insisted to go to the border by walking. Tim followed me from behind. We keep walking to the border while some of this touts walking with us. After 10 minutes walking, we arrived in the border. The last tout who walk with us to the border asking for 10 dollar. The reason is because he accompanied us walking to the border. I just don’t believe in this people. “Go to hell!”  That is my answer to him while I am walking to the immigration office.

10.Tanzania-Kenya.

At the moment I crossed the border from Kenya to Uganda, the unrest in Kenya has just about ended. There are still ongoing unrest in several towns in Kenya. I took direct bus from Arusha to Mombasa. I was traveling alone and the only foreigner in the bus.

 Eventhough there is unrest in the country, I experienced the most simple border crossing in Africa in my travel history. It was  simple and not complicated. I applied Kenya visa at the border, Taveta. I pay the visa fee for $ 50. Tanzania-Kenya border in the region is practically deserted, almost no interference except a few money exchangers.

11. Kenya-Uganda
It was just like my experience crossing border from Tanzania to Kenya. There was unrest in Kenya and I am the only foreigner in the bus. Border town Busia is quite.  The border in Uganda side is more arranged. Money changers is also equipped with official clothes. Almost no interference here except some beggar children who expect voluntary donations.

12.Uganda-Rwanda
The border in Uganda side is relax but in Rwanda side is one of the most strict cross-border during my travel in Africa. Once completed passport control, the bags will be checked one by one by the Rwandan Immigration Officer. Rwanda has policy “no plastic in Rwanda”. All the bags contained a plastic package were dismantled. The checks causing a very long queue in the immigration. So, before entering Rwanda make sure no plastic inside your bag to save time.

13. Thailand-Laos
For the first time I crossed the border with my wife. We took bus from Udonthani to Nongkhai and met two travelers from New Zealand in the bus. The are still young and looks nervous because this is their first border crossing. I invited them to come with us. Arrived in Nongkhai, we hired Tuk-Tuk to the border. The Tuk-Tuk driver try to make some money by taking us to a travel agent to arrange Laos visa application. My wife and I already have a visa but both of New Zealanders ddin’t have it. I told the tuk-tuk driver to continue to the border because the travel agent will charged the New Zealenders wit some money for the service. Both the New Zealand agreed to take care of the visa directly at the border. Thailand immigration is easy, no problem at all. Laos immigration is the same but we have to pay 2 dollars before get out from immigration

In the Laos side we were lucky to hired a Tuk-Tuk by only 50 Baht to take us to Vientiane. Usually 50 Baht is for 1 person but we only pay 50 baht for 4 people.

 
Copyright: Jhon Erickson Ginting

Sources: Personal Experience