To Cambodia on a Shoestring
Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
374Trip End Mar 15, 2007
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Waiting at the small beach area, Shirly from Israel who I'd met while out touring the island 2 days ago turned up followed soon after by Mark from England who I'd met the previous night with the three of us planning on making it to Phnom Penh for less money than the $26 they were touting on the island.
Running Total: $1
Things got off to a good start anyway with us getting shuttled over to the mainland on time at 7am for $1 each landing in the small market town (more a strip of wooden shacks) by the riverside to then hoof it the 2kms up the dirt track to the main road
Running Total: $1.5
From here we hoped to get a bus to the border but were told by our motorbike guys that there was no bus despite us standing below a sign that said 'Bus Stop'. A few minutes later though a pickup truck came down the road which we flagged down and hitched a lift to the border for $1 each riding in the back alongside it's cargo of about 15 large jerry cans of Lao Lao (rice whiskey) which they were going to sell over the border.
Running Total: $2.5
The short drive to the border took us through a wooded area down a dirt track with the border checkpoint appearing in a small clearing with just a few wooden huts. At this point we were stamped out of Laos, with a $1 exit stamp fee (ink must be expensive here), to then be told we should cross at the other checkpoint at Dom Krolor if going by road so we hopped in a conveniently waiting taxi for $1 each to then drive back into Laos, with no visa now, to the other border point
Running Total: $4.5
Driving down an even more out of the way dirt track we bumped our way along the track (road would be too good a description for it) to arrive at the other border where I easily got my visa on arrival for Cambodia for $20 plus another $1 fee for the form this time, paper must be expensive too. With the third Cambodia visa stuck in my passport we were stamped into the country with another $1 stamp fee which considering we had heard some people being charged anything up to $5 for the privilege we didn't argue too much.
Running Total: $6.5
By chance our taxi was going all the way to Strung Treng, the first big town over the border, taking a Lao guy who owned a restaurant there. After thinking we had struck lucky we drove about half a km down the road before the driver, who had nails the size of knifes, informed us he wanted $20 to take us there. Each.
Stopping the car and trying to negotiate a better rate we tried to flag down another pick up that had just crossed the border which stopped for us but after a few loud words from Edward Sissorhands who frantically waved it on it continued down the road with us immediately deciding not to go any further with the taxi and got him to take us back to the border
With a small travel agency by the border (convenient) we began a long negotiation of trying to get to Strung Treng cheaper than there asking price which after some consulting between the agency and the taxi driver who had stuck around the price was not shifting at all.
Thinking we would have to give in at this point our salvation arrived in the form of the mini bus from the island which we had gone to this trouble to not have to take. This time though we managed to agree on $15 each all the way to Phnom Penh which with the bus driver getting the taxi driver to take us as far as Strung Treng since the bus was full at this point. Satisfying.
Running Total: $21.5
The road to Strung Treng was not much better than that leading up to the border which we were just thankful there had not been too much rain over the last few days otherwise it could have been a lot worse.
Arriving in Strung Treng we had a bite to eat before boarding a mini bus which would take us to Phnom Penh along more dirt roads but a little flatter from here with evidence of them trying to improve the road along the way
Further down the road we suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere for some guys to come out of the bushes and load some containers of liquid onto the bus before retreating back to where they had come from with us just hoping it was more Lao Lao to make the journey pass quicker.
Next stop was Kratie which I had originally thought about stopping in but in the brief time we were there I was glad I didn't with appearing about as run down as the road we had just driven along. Maybe a bit unfair to describe it that way giving the short time we were there but it certainly didn't appear like I was missing much in not stopping here.
At this point we boarded a different mini bus for the last leg to Phnom Penh with the bus pulling up beside us as we looked at it then at each other then back at the bus as we wondered if it would ever get all the way there. It had rust all over it like a cancer with the front lower half of the bus missing altogether with the inside not much better with no paneling left or proper floor to speak of and a shoe string being the only thing holding up the back of Mark's seat. To top it off there was for some reason a wardrobe strapped to the roof which was about the only thing on the bus that looked in a decent condition
The road from here to the capital was paved thankfully but was still a good number of hours journey to go to get there during which the shoe string broke twice sending the seat, and Mark with it, crunching into the knees of the poor guy directly behind.
With Phnom Penh almost within reach we had one more unscheduled stop with the left front wheel coming loose having to stop to tighten it before we at last rolled in to town just after midnight, after dropping off the wardrobe at some house, half expecting the doors and wheels to fall off when the bus stopped like a cartoon.
So after 18 hours of traveling on some of the worst roads so far in by far the worst transport so far with only a few hours sleep in the last 2 days we did the sensible thing on checking into our lake side guest house. Immediately went out for a few drinks.
Final Total: $21.5
Saving: $4.5 - was it worth it?
Well it was an experience.