Penniless in Poipet; Dean Morrison talks about how he ended up in...

Penniless in Poipet; Dean Morrison talks about how he ended up in a Budhist monastery for refuge.

by -
0 713

www.flickr.com

Sometimes the road less travelled leads us to places that veer far from the realm of comfort and convenience.  Join Dean Morrison as he narrates an experience from his wanderings in South East Asia that had him truly drifting with the wind and praying to the Buddha for some compassion…

Being told by an ATM machine that your request for cash has been denied due to insufficient funds is never a pleasant experience, but when you’re standing on the Thai side of the Cambodian Poipet border crossing, relying on the cash withdrawal to purchase a Cambodian business visa, and needing the business visa in order to take up the English teaching job you’ve been offered in Phnom Penh, the year being 2004 and there being no ATMs in the entire country of Cambodia, when you’ve travelled all this way, and entered Thailand on a free one month tourist visa just to get to this ATM, when you have less than one US dollar in your pocket, and you are hungry– it’s downright devastating!

I was weary from the eight hour overland bus journey and really wanted to just get back across the border, into Poipet, and a guest house, and then back on the Phnom Penh bound bus the next morning, but was told by an automated teller machine that there are insufficient funds in my account which is a little more than unpleasant .

I had been praying for the past two days that my older brother had actually received my email and request for some emergency funds to purchase the required business visa, the business visa I hadn’t realised I would need when I had come stumbling through the Vietnam Cambodia border crossing hung over, sleep deprived and almost penniless three weeks prior, but by the morning that my bus set out from my guest house lodgings in the PsarO’Russey district of Phnom Penh, I had yet to receive a reply. The fact that I had racked up on credit three weeks of food, lodging, and Internet usage and the one-way ticket to Poipet at this guest house in Phnom Penh only served to strengthen my anxiety upon approaching the ATM.  In those days before smartphones and 24 seven email access, I was truly in the dark, and found myself praying to some higher being as I nervously keyed in my PIN number…

 So there I was, standing there with my day backpack, an overnight change of clothes and my passport, the afternoon light already starting to fade on this long late April day, reeling at the implications of the news the ATM had just offered, when, to add a touch of comic irony to the whole scene, along came a little ragged looking barefoot boy with his hand out, begging me for money!

I’d finished off my last banana before crossing through the border post, and had a few scrunched up Cambodian riel notes in my pocket, maybe about 25 US cents if I was lucky.  In hindsight I’d like to be able to say that I handed them over, freely and in the name of accumulating some much needed good karma, but at the time they represented my ticket to at least one last bowl of soup, so I just smiled and shook my head, thinking the little beggar was probably carrying more cash than I was.  What to do though?  Where to go?  There had to be some reason why my brother had not responded to my email, something had to be up, and all I could do in the meantime was wait it out, and somehow get by.  I hit upon the idea of a Buddhist monastery, that would have to be the answer, I would try to stay in a monastery for the night, so I walked through the dusty little Thai border town streets until I found a travel agency…

The twists and turns in the path that the fates had laid out for me at this point would fill the pages of a small novella, so in the interests of brevity, let me just summarize by saying that in the following twenty four hours I would be given food and lodgings in a Buddhist monastery (only to be chased out by the rampant mosquitoes), a ride into the nearest major town on the back of a moto, a glass of straight whiskey, a room in a nice hotel, and a hearty lunch and a bus ticket to Bangkok, all free of charge and thanks to the unswerving generosity and compassion of the various Thai people I ran into along the way.  When I eventually got to Khao San Road in Bangkok, and spent my last five baht at an Internet café in order to check my emails, I had nothing left but my gratitude. Gratitude of course for my brother, who, after being sick and off work for a few days, had finally checked his emails and moved a couple of hundred dollars into my account, but above all, gratitude for the Buddhist hearted characters I had met along the way who had helped me out in the small ways that they could.  Pay it forward, I thought to myself, pay it forward…

NO COMMENTS

Leave a Reply