A long day's journey into Laos
Pakse Travel Blog› entry 12 of 20 › view all entries
Back to Phnom Penh for a night, to move on to Laos. Hundreds of locals take the evening air, do aerobics, play badminton, play keepie uppy , in the parks and on the riverfront. We joined in the slow walking group.
Up at 5.30am, at the bus station by 6.30, and departure at 7.00, 15 minutes late. The "fixer" had been checking tickets, and the "boy"distributing breakfast - 2 sweet buns each. The bus headed out to the country through the small towns and past the 1000s of farmsteads. Vastly overloaded lorries headed for Phnom Penh. Most locals travel by minibus or pick up truck. These too are full to bursting with goods piled high on the roofs and sometimes a couple of men on top again. Motorbikes laden with dozens of chickens head to town.
Of the 30 or so on our bus, half were foreigners heading for Laos and half locals heading north. Occasionally the bus was hailed at a country junction, and sometimes it stopped seemingly in the middle of nowhere to let people off. We stopped at a couple of grubbyish cafes for drinks and loos, and had a couple of pee stops in quiet country areas too. We stopped for a few minutes at sleepy Mekong towns. By 4.00pm and 500km north we filled up with diesel at Stung Treng and headed for the border - the only official Cambodia/ Laos crossing. There was very little traffic over the 40km there.
On the Cambodian side, a pole blocked the road. We - by now only foreigners and bus crew - all trooped off to a shed, to be exit stamped. As it was "overtime" at the border post, this also involved paying over $1 each. We then walked the 50 yards to the Lao pole and hut, over which fluttered the flag and hammer and sickle of the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic. Here we were charged $2 overtime. The bus and crew then drove through the border to meet us. During the 45 minutes all this took, not one other vehicle passed by.
The crew were well known at the local Lao cafe/ bar. There was much banter and then a girl from the cafe opened two bottles of Beerlao - with her teeth - jumped on the bus and offered them around to about 20 of us to celebrate Chinese New Year. Most of us took a swig. 200 yards further on Lao customs consisited of a few wooden huts with hens pecking around. The fixer quickly dealt with the documents and we were fully in Laos by about 5.45. Another 140km to Pakse, reached in the dark at 8.00pm. The "VIP" Bus Station is a couple of miles from the town and we needed a tuk tuk. In Cambodia they are fair sized trailers seating 2 or 4 comfortably and pulled by a motorbike. In Pakse they are like an Indian pedicab but attached as a sidecar to a motorbike. The driver roped on our bags, we squeezed on, and $2 and 10 minutes later we were registering at the very pleasant Pakse Hotel.
It had been a long day, but a couple of Beerlaos on the rooftop terrace soon refreshed us. Southern Laos awaits.