Laos at Last - 4000 Islands
Trip Start Jan 31, 2011
297Trip End Dec 15, 2011
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09:29 Just a my legs were starting to hurt from being wedged into one position and having my heavyish bag on them for the last 2.5 hours, we arrived at Stung Treng where we were to swap to the big bus which had a very cracked windscreen that was held together by some advertising stickers! We got on the bus after half an hour as the driver appeared to be having a long breakfast and in actual fact the 10 or so other foreigners on this bus had just been waiting 45 mins for us already, so we had a further delay, im not sure. So we, on this fairly empty bus headed for the border.
11:27 We arrived at the border quite soon and were told we were swapping buses, although noone really told us what to do so we bumbled around sorting ourselves out. Essentially this meant- get your stamp out of Cambodia at one shack, walk across a bit of a no mans land to another shack to get your stamp into Laos.
A word on corruption. When leaving a country-Cambodia, when they ask you to pay $2 to leave, you can refuse and they'll probably crack and let you through. Victory to the foreigners. Their excuse was it was saturday. Coming into Laos the 7 of us who had successfully dodged the exit "stamp fee" or "Saturday" fee stood our ground and got nowhere, after a standoff of at least 10 mins, the bus was going to go and so we paid after much swearing, telling them it was corrupt and illegal and there being no signs etc etc
So now were on the bus, $2 poorer and our attempt at principles wasted, leaving the disgraceful border police to 'welcome' yet more people into Laos by corruption. Welcome to Laos. At least I'm not sharing my seat with 20 other people.
11:46 Sidenote-The Laos flag is very much like the Cambodian flag, blue and red horizontal stripes but instead of Angkor wat in the middle there is simply a White circle and the red and blue stripes are swapped. Laos is actually a communist country or I believe Laos full title is Laos Peoples Democratic Republic.
13:43 Not long after the border we got to a place where we walked our bags past some buses that looked like they were rocket ships they were so upmarket and wrong in this country, so that we could board a long thin motorboat to cross some of the Mekong to the island of Don Det. We arrived and found getting off our long thin boat was tricky, it wasn't at a dock to speak of and most people, wearing flip flops, had to just stick their leg over the side into the water and climb up the bank
She didn't have any rooms left but pointed us in the right directions and we went to have a look at what the local bungalow accommodation was like. They all had double beds and a fan, with a shared bathroom outside. We also didn't want to walk all the way up to town with our bags so took a bungalow each for 20,000kip each (about £1.50). After we'd put our bags away we had some lunch, I opted for scrambled eggs which were just fried eggs all chopped into little bit really, and Angela had lentil and pumpkin curry, which having not finished, I ended up finishing and it was delicious!
The bungalow room is basic but on river, on stilts in fact. It has a mossie net, balcony, fan, hammock and double bed. The shared toilet is a squat and the shower is basic and I think just rain water.
15:42 After lunch we walked up to town and met Paul and Jane from Brighton who we'd met/went room hunting with initially. They walked up to town and are staying in a very nice place, we think called malinah, where they have ensuite rooms with hot water and a sit down toilet and 2 singles for 50000
Aside: Paul and Jane are from Brighton and spent 18months living in New Zealand and are returning home, Paul is in IT Recruitment (yay for me as I'm going to send him my cv when I get back) and Jane is in Garment Technology so a buyer for shops essentially.
Did I mention about Angela? She's Italian, been living in Shenzhen, China (border if Hong Kong) as a Italian-Chinese translator and is also having a bit of a month and a half trip before going back to Italy for a few months then returning to China.
17:50 I spent all Afternoon and evening with 3 new friends, followed by another Aussie couple, who arrived in time for dinner, laughing and drinking and watching the sunset on the Mekong and a distant lightning storm in the clouds. Tomorrow we will spend day together as well renting a bike and going to find a waterfall and a Sunday roast dinner! It was a wonderful evening and a dark walk back to our bungalows at the end of the night, fortunately i have a petzl head torch my wee sis bought me for my birthday which I always have on me, so we got back without falling in he Mekong
I came back to my room, put my mossy net down, lit a mossy coil (which I put out at about 2am because my room was getting so smoky!) and watched tomb raider, and my inside head kept saying "I went there!" when I saw the bits in the temples of Ta Prohm.
Best: new friends and an afternoon of drink and chat on this small chilled island
Worst: anger at corrupt border post men
Beautiful: sunset on the Mekong and distant lightning with stars above us.