Crossing the border between Laos and Cambodia.
I really felt sorry that we were leaving Laos, I did enjoy a lot travelling across this country. But it was time to go on and to see something new. Our next destination was Cambodia, the country of the Khmer people. You might have heard already about the tragically famous Khmer Rouge which under the leadership of the crazy Pol Pot killed about 2 millions of the own people. Nevertheless this was “just” an ideologically missleaded group and didn’t really stand for the centuries old Khmer nation living in these regions.
We wanted to get as fast as possible directly to the Cambodian capital Phnom Pen because of several reasons.
The main one was that Sergej still needed a re-entry visa for Thailand. Due to the New Year celebrations the Thai embassy in Vientiane was closed of course.
The border stone.
To save time we decided to book the whole trip till Phnom Pen by a travel agency on our island Don Det for 23 USD each. Veronique, our new French friend decided to join us as she planned to go to Cambodia anyway. We would have probably all made it cheaper if travelling on our own but as I mentioned before we were a bit in a hurry. The arrival wouldn’t be anyway earlier then in the afternoon and we were pretty sure that the applications for visas had to be submitted in the morning. The plan was following, we hoped to arrive in Phnom Pen Tuesday afternoon, apply for the Thai visa on Wednesday morning, get them latest Thursday morning and leave immediately to Siem Reap.
Nice plan, wasn’t it? Of course it didn’t work out, what did you expect?
Arriving at the Cambodian side.
And it started everything so well. The boat that was supposed to bring us from the island arrived just with a little delay, we said goodbye to Mit and hopped on. Back in the dusty village we arrived our first day, we spent our last Lao money on some food and water. And then waiting. The travel agency guys were collecting first all the tourists who booked this trip, at least we weren’t the only foreigners.
If you’re backpacking around countries like Laos or Cambodia you shouldn’t expect things going fast, being patient and easy going makes your life so much easier here, hahaha.
About 45 minutes later suddenly the driver gave us a sign to get into the minibus. Well, just one hour later we were asked to get off again. The border was already close and the Lao guy told us that he’s not allowed to drive until the Lao checkpoint, whatever. It was close anyway. The passport control on the Lao side ran pretty smoothly, just by Sergej’s (recently wet) passport the officers held on and asked with a big smile “Lao New Year?”. Sergej nodded and everybody around laughed. Obviously these guys were already used to meet victims of the water fights taking place during the New Year festivities, hehe.
Crossing the river Mekong.
We were in the middle of a dry jungle walking on an unpaved path direction the Cambodian side, strange feeling, it was like being in the middle of nowhere. Then we suddenly passed the border stone and discovered soon a ramp and some guards.
Welcome to Cambodia.
A Cambodian town on the way.
Our passports were controlled again and then we were asked to wait…again. We hanged around for an hour maybe when our connection minibus suddenly arrived.
The minibus on the Laotian side looked already pretty shabby but still fine compared the one we had to get in now. The front window had a couple a flaws and when Pavel pointed it out the driver just said “don’t touch the window or it may fall off completely”. He wasn’t kidding, we saw later on the road such a fallen out front window another car lost. Might sound scary, but honestly, as far as we were moving we didn’t care too much.
Don’t ask me how many stops we did to change our vehicle, I don’t remember it exactly.
Were all these vehicles able to drive short distances only or what? But obviously they were good enough to carry lots of people. We had even some Cambodians sitting on the roof.
A Cambodian town on the way.
I have to mention at least the stop by a gas station. Except of the fact that I saw here the most loaded minibus in my life (people and luggage), I got the “pleasure” to try also one of the local specialities. Actually it was Sergej who started and bought a…black fried tarantula. No kidding. Me and Pavel decided to try at least a little bit, we were curious, OK? I had one leg, Pavel had two if I remember well and Sergej…well, Sergej ate the rest. OK, he didn’t finish the spider, but only because he meant that there was something on its ass that implied him to believe that they caught the tarantula when it was…ehm…making its “business”. I’m sure you want to know how it tasted like. Well…like potato chips without any flavour. Not too bad.
After travelling for a couple of hours suddenly we arrived at a city called Kratie.
Another of the million of stops on our never ending trip to Phnom Pen, ufffff. While we were sitting around and waiting for the next shabby minibus a guy appeared, he seamed to be one of the agency organizers. What he told us wasn’t funny at all. Our next minibus got apparently into some kind of accident by which some people got killed. The police took the monibus over and wouldn’t return it before next morning looking for evidences. Damn, was this guy kidding? Obviously not, he said that there’s no other transportation for us and that we had to stay overnight in Kratie…of course in his hotel which was opposite the place we arrived. Dang. And of course not for free. Double dang. He wanted at least some 16 USD from each of us for the night. Triple dang. So far the highest price we paid for our accommodation on this trip was some 8 USD for all of us together. Veronique was just tired and gave up. She walked slowly direction the hotel.
When there is just one bycicle, but lots of brothers and sisters...
Nevertheless, us three were in trouble anyway.
We needed to get as soon as possible to Phnom Pen to have enough time to apply for Sergej’s Thai re-entry visa. We started to complain, the same some other passengers. It didn’t help of course, obviously we had no other choice and decided to organize a transportation on our own. The agency guy offered us to organize transportation for the 3 of us only, but the price he asked for was just ridiculously high. We were walking around and asking, but because of the New Year which was celebrated in Cambodia now as well, we couldn’t find any connections. Meanwhile the agency guy started to behave suspicious. He was following us on his shabby motorcycle trying to convince us to stay in his hotel. It was really weird, he came to us and disappeared again a couple of times. By that time we decided to separate, while me and Pavel were still asking for some transportation, Sergej went to find a cheaper accommodation if we weren’t successful.
Effectivity in trasportation.
The agency guy seemed not to like our activities at all.
Suddenly he decided that it would be a better idea to follow Sergej and left me and Pavel in peace. Couple of minutes later Sergej reappeared with an incredible story. He found a hotel nearby with free rooms where we would pay only 7 USD together. While he was talking to the old lady from the reception the agency guy appeared and started to shout at her in Cambodian. If her son didn’t appear and send the guy away, maybe he would manage to scare the woman enough not to give us the room. Crazy. We started to be convinced that the whole story with the minibus accident was just invented. Our doubts were confirmed when we later met a couple of foreigners who told us that exactly the same happened to them 3 days before. They got stucked in Kratie too (well, at least they didn’t care so much) and the explanation they got was exactly the same we received. One of the guys even meant “Did he mention the killed people by the accident?”.
However, we couldn’t move from this place until the next day.
At least that guy didn’t earn on us staying at his hotel.
Oh, though we had a nice dinner in our hostel, after a short walk through this city we realized quite quickly that there’s not much reason for travellers to come here…except for getting stucked in a Cambodian misadventure.