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To the Vietnamese Border and Back

sunny 33 °C

Early in the morning we left Phnom Penh by TukTuk Express and drove 140 km to the border of Vietnam. The drive took about four hours and was extremely tiring due to the bad condition of the road. We were happy to finally have reached the border. The town where we planned to spend the night lay 20 km into Vietnam.

Everyone had told us that it would be no problem to import the TukTuk to Vietnam since we already had a Visa, would only stay for one month and had an international driving license. We had been assured that we would only have to fill out some papers and pay a small fee at the border. Since this country lacks all sorts of rules, regulations and formalities, this sounded very plausible and we believed it. It would have been better to check this though!


Upon arrival at the border we were greeted with loud cheering and starring since no one had ever seen a white person driving a TukTuk before. We went to the Cambodian passport control and asked them which papers we had to fill out for the TukTuk. After trying to communicate by sign language for a long time, we found someone who worked for an English company and was waiting for them at the border. He was very helpful and served as an interpreter for us. He took us to the Vietnamese customs office and they told us that it was impossible to take our TukTuk to Vietnam without the papers issued by the Vietnamese customs office at the Embassy in Phnom Penh. We tried to negotiate for a while but were assured that even if they would let us pass, the Vietnamese transport police would stop us after the first 20km in Vietnam and take everything away from us. Without any other option, we started heading back 140km to Phnom Penh.

We arrived at the Vietnamese Embassy at five past 5pm. Exactly five minutes after the closing time! The next morning, we went back to the Vietnamese Embassy. We asked where we could find the Customs Office and after a lengthy conversation amongst his colleagues, the officer directed us to the Cambodian Customs Office. Having clarified that we were after the Vietnamese one in the Embassy and that we had been sent here form the border, an expression of utmost astonishment rose on his face as he declared, “It’s in Hanoi.’ In short, there was no way that anyone at the Embassy could give us the document we needed.

He told us that it is possible to take the TukTuk to Vietnam but that we would have to apply by email or post to the Customs Office. We did this but figured that it would take much too long to wait for approval so instead we adapted our plan.

Now we are en route to Laos. Afterwards we will travel through the north of Thailand and back to Bangkok, from where we will send the TukTuk home and fly to Vietnam. It was either this or having to part from the TukTuk immediately, so we preferred the chosen option.

Posted by Bouts 02:20 Archived in Cambodia

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