Rules (or lack thereof)

There are not many rules in South-East Asia and if they do exist, there always seems to be a way around them anyway.

Today I was lucky enough to witness Thai police at their corrupt best.   While on the way to some white water kayaking excitement, our minivan full of travellers from Pakistan, Switzerland, China and Australia (me) was pulled over to the side of the road for a 'random police check'.  We were a bit surprised when the minivan door was flung open and a very official-looking photographer with a really big camera took a quick photo of us all, then hurriedly closed the door.  Our driver and his license were taken away.  Feeling a bit like accomplices to a crime, we waited.  And then we waited some more.

Eventually our driver returned, with his official receipt stating that he had paid a fine of 10 Baht (about 30 cents).  In reality, he had paid 2,000 Baht ($67).  None of us (including the driver) were really sure what the fine was for, but we must have convinced the lovely policeman that we were not part of a human trafficking racket and were allowed to continue on our way to the river. 

Lack of rules is what draws many travellers to this part of the world.  There is a certain feeling of freedom about doing things that are "not allowed back home".  No bike helmets required, no seat belts necessary (very safe drivers evidently), totally fine to sit in the back of an open truck with the wind blowing in your hair - you can do pretty much anything. 

So we travellers shouldn't be surprised that waivers don't really mean much either.  In Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, you need to sign a waiver for any type of higher risk (i.e. anything fun) activity.  Roughly translated, they all read something like this:  "I am totally responsible for anything and everything that might happen to me including equipment malfunction, negligence by guides and acts of nature.  And I will pay all costs for fixing myself and any of your equipment that breaks, which will all be my fault regardless".   And so we sign.

That's the thing about rules - they work both ways.