Some and none of my favourite things
4000 Islands and the Laos/Cambodia/scam border
After the epic adventure of the Thakhek loop, the plan was to head to Pakse, the town is the gateway to visiting the Boleven plateau, I was of the understanding that you could trek in this area, so, we got a bus to Pakse, catching the bus was weird because, the buses are actually coming from Vientiane, and only pass through Thakhek, so the ticket agency we brought the ticket from, drove us out to meet the bus on the road, so we essentially caught the bus from the side of the highway, we arrived in Pakse in the early morning, decided to see if we could find a tour agency doing trekking right away, 30 minutes later it looked like, the only options were expensive tours, not treks. As the only bus to 4000 islands departed at 8 am every day, and at this point it was 10-15 to 8, an executive decision was made, and 20 minutes later we were on the bus to 4000 islands!!
It was only 2-hours bus, but it was a minibus, which some people prefer, but I hate, as the drivers always drive faster and being a smaller lighter vehicle, are as bumpy as all hell. After a couple of long hours, and a few hits to the head, from the side of the bus, we arrived at the pier, for the boat transfer to Don Det island. Found accommodation pretty quickly, nothing special but super cheap, with hammocks on the balcony by the river, sold!!
There’s not a whole lot to write about in regards to 4000 islands, I was tired after a couple hectic weeks including fighting an infection, I was still trying to shake a cough, so nothing days were in order! So basically, I spent a few days working on my tan, discovering the joys of hammocks, enjoying some pretty sunsets, and cycling around the island of Don Det and its neighbour Don Kron, both are small enough to comfortable explore on a bicycle, but too big to walk, the sun was intense, and I got burned for the first time in over two months. Some interesting history, about the rail way, through 4000 islands and the various powers that be/were, including the ties with trade in china, the French colonisation, and later the Japanese military.
The waterfalls on Don kroon are very pretty, and there is a good spot for swimming, I think the waterfalls would be much more impressive in the wet season, as I visited in the middle of the dry season, I missed the best they had to offer. After seeing the sights, the decision was made to head for the Cambodian border on the 1st of April. The last night in Don Det included some sad goodbyes to fellow travellers, heading in different directions, but it was still fun, playing cards, some intense Jenga, a couple drinks, as it should be…
Cambodian border/scam central
The bus to the border from the Pier was less than an hour, it was in the short amout of time we discovered that the bus was really a trap, one of these scams I’d heard about, the problem was, we had no choice, it was done. Essentially, I had read that this border crossing is dodgy and you have to bribe (so called stamp fees) the officials to get through, I was prepared for this. What I wasn’t prepared for was someone, self-made passport control, scam artist, whatever he wants to call himself, arrived on the bus as we were departing, he proceeded to inform us that it did not matter if we went through immigration ourselves or he did it would be the same cost, (in reality he was pocketing a few dollars off everyone on that damned bus, bus as the route they took, prevented us from simply getting off the bus, we were essentially trapped, and had no choice, if we wanted a Cambodian visa. At the end of the day it was just a few dollars, at home its nothing, but when backpacking it’s a couple of meals. Not to mention its shit being scammed, and even worse when you know it’s happening and cannot avoid it.
So, not the best start in Cambodia at all, the bus from the border to Siem Reap was about 6-ish hours, it rained most of the way, we got into Siem Reap, after dark (around 7 pm I think). Aside from the sour taste in my mouth after this experience, I’m am enjoying Cambodia, and the street food in Siem Reap made it possible to balance the budget.
I am currently writing a Siem Reap + Angkor wat specific post.