How much?!

Trip Start Jul 11, 2005
Trip End Apr 04, 2006

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Sunday, September 18, 2005

The traveller may feel assured, he will meet with no difficulties or dangers, excepting in rare cases, nearly so bad as he beforehand anticipates. In a moral point of view, the effect ought to be, to teach him good-humoured patience, freedom from selfishness, the habit of acting for himself, and of making the best of every occurrence. . . Travelling ought also to teach him distrust; but at the same time he will discover, how many truly kind-hearted people there are, with whom he never before had, or ever again will have any further communication, who yet are ready to offer him the most disinterested assistance

- Charles Darwin

Another Special Occasion
Well, as I said in a previous entry, I don't normally write entries detailing bus trips but this one, just like our bus crash, deserves it own entry, but for reasons I'd rather not be reporting on.

The Cause
I'd be fibbing if I said I remember getting to bed the night before, our last in Vietnam, but I sure remember the feeling I had when Pat came knocking on our door at 8am telling us the bus to Cambodia was leaving in 5 minutes, with or without us. Somehow I managed to get a shower and get my stuff onto the bus which eventually left some 15-20 minutes late thanks to myself and Cal. I was on auto pilot at that stage so I barely noticed the looks of disgust myself and Cal were getting from our fellow, punctual, passengers.

The bombshell
The one and a half hour trip through the northern Mekong Delta passed off uneventfully enough, as did the crossing at the Vietnamese Cambodian boarder. It was only after we crossed over the boarder into Cambodia and we were back on the bus heading to the capital, Phnom Penh, that it hit Cal. In the rush and confusion leaving the hotel in Ho Chi Minh city he had left his money under his mattress. This wasn't somewhere he normally stashed his money; he normally carried it with him. He only did so on this occasion because the last night in Vietnam was always going to be a 'big one' and leaving the money in the room for the night was deemed the wise thing to do at the time. So how much did he leave behind? Well, you probably picked up on the hint in the previous entry? All in all it was about US$6,000. In cash. Apart from the $60 in his pocket, it was every penny he had. I can only imagine how he felt. As soon as I saw him rummage in his bag, stop and look at me before saying "Dave, I've left it in Vietnam" I knew what had happened. My heart sank, but not as much as his did. Yes, you can question, and people have questioned, the stupidity of carrying so much cash with you in Asia. But we did try to buy travellers cheques shortly after leaving Korea (in Macau) only for the banks to refuse saying it was too much money. We managed to contact the hotel in Ho Chi Minh City using the cell phones of Pat and a fellow traveller. But in hindsight that was a bad move. We knew, as did the hotel, that we were on a bus in a different country and that there was very little we could do from where we were. Alerting them to the fact that there was so much money under a mattress in the hotel was always going to result in a "no, no money here" response. Cal sure did pick the worst possible time to leave his money behind; having just crossed over the boarder into Cambodia meant he couldn't just go back to Vietnam as a visa is required. And even if he could have secured a visa there and then he had visa pages left in his passport, having used up his last remaining visa page getting the Cambodian visa (he was waiting until we get to Bangkok to get a new one). So, pretty snookered all round.

Some figures
The trip the rest of the way to Phnom Pehn was, as you can imagine, a solemn one. We lightened the mood by throwing a few numbers between each other regarding the amount Cal had just lost/forgotten; we reckoned it was about 15 years salary for the average Vietnamese worker, or the equivalent to about €300,000, or about half a million Canadian dollars. And we also learnt that winning the lottery in Vietnam nets you 50,000,000 Vietnamese dong; what Cal left behind amounts to about 75,000,000 dong.

The Consequences
All in all Cal took the whole situation extraordinarily well, certainly better than I would have taken loosing a fifth of that amount. But we couldn't ignore the fact that the money was gone and this was inevitably going to change our plans from here on out. India, Nepal, Tibet, China and everywhere scheduled to be visited after that was now not possible for Cal. I had to decide my route from here on, although, truth be told, that wasn't a very tough decision. Something had been playing on my mind the previous few weeks that made that decision a lot easier than it could have been.
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