Our way to 4000 islands (south of Laos) started with a crazy disco bus: extremely loud music with a bass that many clubs would envy. Only some phone calls made the young drivers stop the music for short periods. Luckily, despite their fast and dangerous driving, we arrived to what we thought was the home of some of the drivers.
Note: never leave your wallet alone in the bus, we did it and in the 5 minutes we were outside the bus someone managed to open the bag of one of our traveling friends and take around 70€ in Lao currency.
Having left Takhaek at 5pm we had arrived at around 2am to somewhere in the south of Laos where the bus stopped and we had to wait 1 or 2 hours until a public bus, very old and full of freight and some Lao people, took us. Then, in the middle of the monzoon rain, they took some more packages and in the morning we arrived to Muang Khong, where we had breakfast and then took a boat to Don Det, our final destination island.
Don Det is a small island in the Mekong river, a river with the brownest water we had seen in a very long time (due to being rainy season). However, we swam there and, maybe against the odds, we’re still alive. The island is a quiet place with not many more things to do than relaxing in a hammock, and many people spend some time smoking weed there.
We rented some bikes to visit the neighbour island and confirmed that there aren’t many things to do around the area. Some waterfalls in the Mekong river, the rests of what had been a french freight train (due to the strange geography and waterfalls, Si Phan Don is the only part of the Mekong that is not suitable for navigation, so the French built this few kms of train to carry the boats on it and being able to continue the navigation upstream), many cows, and many mosquitoes… Not the paradise we expected regarding some other travelers’ advice.
Don Det, in 4000 islands (south of Laos), was our last stop in this peaceful country, and after this we headed to the temples of Angkor, Cambodja. Not without passing a corrupt and disappointing border before…
Going from 4000 islands (Lao) to Cambodja
Despite the many buses ofered in the island of Don Det, we found on the internet that the best way to go to Seam Reap (Cambodja) was with Asia Van Transfer (www.asiavantransfer.com), because they were using a new route opened a few months ago that shortens the trip by some hours.
First, we had to go to the border on our own (we could easily buy tickets in Don Det island) and in the border Asia Van Transfer would take us.
After leaving the island by boat, we arrived to the bus station where the “problems started”. A guy, much more well dressed than the average Lao people, wanted us to give him our passports and many dollars to help us cross the border. He was supposed to work for the government… Hehe
Despite most of the people relied on him, we didn’t and this made us not have place in the first bus to the border. So we had to wait half an hour for another one, with the fear of having been scammed and be waiting for an unexistent bus.
Finally the bus appeared and took us to the border. There we found the well-dressed man that wanted our passports, and whom by mistake we had given our filled entrance papers to Cambodja. When we asked him for them, his answer was taking the papers and tearing them off in front of us. Luckily, those papers were not important and we could get new ones in the Cambodjan side of the border…
At the end we managed to leave Laos and headed to the Cambodja side of the border, where we had to pay 25$ to get the visa. However, we were told later than the real price of the visa is 20$… And the one that costs 25$ is a different type of visa and not the tourist one… Typical borders stuff…
Finally in Cambodja, we took our van to Seam Reap. There, Ramiro, the boss of Asia Van Transfer, told us that his company is the only one that has the permit to travel on the new road (it seems many buses go on the old one, what makes the trip much longer). Then, the other vans that make this travel are not legal and also don’t have any insurances. In fact, he told us he had already put many denounces against the well-dressed man in the border and his colleagues…
Expenses per person after 11 days in Laos: 170.000 LAK/day (aprox. 16€/day). This including:
– Accommodation: 30.000 LAK/pax & day.
– Food & drinks: 60.000 LAK/pax & day.
– The rest was spent in renting motorbikes, tickets to places, tours, etc.
+ Long distance Transports: 360.000 LAK in total (around 3 €/day more).