The dreaded day had arrived, the journey from Siem Reap to 4000 Islands in Laos. Deep breath!
The tuk tuk arrived bang on time, wait, a tuk tuk? I hope we are not travelling 100’s of kilometre’s by tuk tuk. Pulling up at a hotel / travel agency we saw a mini bus and loads of tourist waiting to leave. Fortunately we were first to get on the bus and had pick of the seats, I chose the front row as it had a lot of space in front of us, what I didn’t see was that it was over the front wheel wells and I had to sit for 5 hours with my feet high up, putting a massive strain on my glutes, ouch!
The 5 hours went by quite quick, the first 3 hours we was talking to a really nice English couple who were the same age and traveling with a goal to end up in Australia and work on the 1 year visa. The last 2 hours we spent drifting in and out of consciousness between the terrible bumps in the road. I forgot to mention, we didn’t stop once in the 5 hours!
5 hours to reach a small town just shy of the border, wow, this might actually take 7 hours! Turns out we was stuck at this little restaurant for an hour so we grabbed some fried rice and continued the conversation with our new friends. The food was good and surprisingly cheap for a tourist trap.
Over the hour a few more mini busses turned up and eventually a large bus that we all boarded, we was then on this one for another hour to the Cambodian border. For those not keeping track, that’s 7 hours total now.
This is where it started to really become hard work. We filled in our forms payed the “stamping fee” of $5 each (total rip off, but we knew about it) and $40 each (should have been $35) for the visa. I had to pay in a combination of Baht and US as I didn’t have enough.
Then some guy in a red football top grabbed everyone’s passport and drove to the Laos side of the border to get our visas, this is a total con, but if you want to get on the bus the other side you have to play along. This is when the waiting starts. I think we was there about an hour before he came back with our visas, then had to wait another 30 minutes for the bus. I forgot to mention, we are in a shack, the other side of a big concert wall, in the jungle with insects and mosquitoes everywhere. We waited outside trying to keep our patience in check.
Finally we can go, so we walk across the border into Laos, no checks from the Cambodia people, no checks from the Lao people, weird! Recap we are now 8.5 – 9 hours in to this now. Ow look another shack we can wait in for a further 30 minutes before the bus turns up. 9-9.5 hours. But the bus does not leave right away, it take another hour because some Cambodians can’t decided on something, sounds like they have come over the border but might want to go back. 10+ hours now and the bus finally leaves.
30 minutes later a few people get off, one person who wanted to go to the capital is told he cant go because he is the only one going and it’s not cost effective, I hope he managed to find his way. Nearly 11 hours now and as we go to pull away the guy stalls the bus. “ can everyone get off a push please” what? Turns out the bus does not have a working starter motor or clutch. It takes 4 tries with us all pushing the bus to get it to start, everyone gets on, he stalls it again! Dear lord.
10 minutes or so later we arrive in Nakasong and all get some money out and walk to the boats to take us over to Don Khon. This actually went really smoothly and we didn’t have to wait at all.
All the waiting has some small compensation, we was on the water as the sun was setting, its was absolutely beautiful, but I was way to tired to get the camera out so just took a couple of snaps on the phone.
Finally after the 12 hour trip we was greeted at our hotel entrance by the owner, knowing who we was she showed us to our room that we left instantly to get food even though we was not very hungry probably due to the fatigue. I had a poor attempt at sweet and sour chicken whilst Hayley had spring rolls that were also terrible and swimming in oil. Little did we know that this was a sign of things to come in Laos!