From Laos to Cambodia - a roadtrip from demi-Hell
Trip Start Oct 09, 2007
98Trip End Aug 01, 2008
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Since this is my last entry for Laos, we have some last thoughts about Laos that we would like to say: Laos is an amazing country. The scenery is beautiful, with rivers and limestone cliffs and caves, but most importantly, the people are genuinely nice. Even though the average Laotian only makes $1/day, we didnt see any one poor: everyone had a roof over there heads, everyone had something to eat and clothes on there backs - there was NO ONE begging. Everyone is taken care for, and that is seen throughout the villages. There is no word in Laotian for "me" and "mine"; their words all have a meaning towards "ours" and "communal". This is the only place that I have seen like this in the relatively small amount of travelling that we have done. We know that Laos has developed greately in just the past year (only one year ago, ATM's were only found in Vientiene [now they are in every major town]and also many of the roads that we rode were not paved just 6 months ago!). Anyways, we love Laos and the people and the culture: they found a very unique, successful way of living. Anywho! CAMBODIA!!!
This roadtrip was straight from hell, but we are relaxed people, so we were ok; but let me tell you about it:
First, let me tell you that we already knew that this border crossing was "sketch" to begin with: as depending on the guidebook you read, it would either say that it wasnt an "official" border crossing or that it "just opened up". To lessen the stress of this factor, Mathew and I wisely picked up Cambodian visa's in Vientiene (so all we needed to do was cross the border, "hopefully"). Also, an important factor is that Cambodia is still strained by the mass-genocide it experienced just less than a few decades ago, and has only been open for tourism since the mid-90's and has had border closings and coup's since then. Anyways, one should expect "hiccups" while travelling through Cambodia!
So, from Don Det, Laos, we bought a mini van ticket straight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia (the capitol) which was supposed to be an 8 hour trip. Anyways, as we were already BORDERING Cambodia, we should have reached the border in 10 minutes- 1 hour later we FINALLY get to the border. At the border, people in our group get hassled for not having visa's already but are able to pass. And we all are extorted $1 US dollar each to the Laotian border patrol AND the Cambodian border patrol. These dollars were just going to go into their pockets and we knew that and they knew we knew that: thats just how it works, I guess. SO we cross the border (which was just a table stand in a shack with a lot of patrol men), and realize that we are in the middle of the woods and our minivan has driven back to Laos! What do we do but wait around? We are in the middle of NO WHERE. After asking around a bit, we just "relax" and sit around like we are expecting to get picked up by someone.
1 hour later another group from Laos arrives and are dropped off just like us. About 40 minutes after that, a 15 seater van drives up: and there are 19 of us. I immediatly shouted out to Mathew and the group we came with and we put our bags in the van (we were here first!) Of course, there had to be drama and this one lady from the second group (and Canada, hehe) started freaking out. After much debate (her SCREAMING that there wasnt enough seats for everyone and us saying that it doesnt matter and for all of us to sqeeze in), she got the best seat in the van while all of us were sharing seats and the floor.
The drive was rough to say the least. Just a red, dusty road that got all over everything. It was so tough to breath, that we eventually wore rags around our faces to protect us from the red dust. The towns were all red as well, all covered in this red dirt. Meanwhile, this Canadian woman would NOT SHUT UP! She would constantly complain about how unsafe all of us were. Finally we all spoke up - did she look around? How was everyone else travelling around in this country? They were all travelling on the roofs of buses/vans and the back of pickup trucks! They were practically falling out of the moving vehicles! We were just fine.
Anyways, to make tentions worse, the drivers refused to drive over 2 hours at a time: what would happen, is that we would drive about 2 hours, he would stop, make a phone call, we would get out of the van and stretch our legs, and then about 20 minutes later ANOTHER driver would pull up, we would have to unload the van, reload the NEW van and then all try to pile into the new van which would either be smaller or bigger. THis happened FIVE TIMES. One van, actually was holding chickens and pigs in it just minutes before, and we had to sit where they were sitting, with flies and red dust EVERYWHERE. Another van, we actually had to take a motorbike out or it! nice stuff, but what I like to think about, is that Mathew and I just looked at each other and smiled the whole time. We have learned A LOT of patience. The real thing that was getting on our nerves was this woman who acted so haughty taughty, telling everyone how she has been travelling a whole month now and knows everything. PLEASE, if you need everything up to Western standards, why would you think to go to Cambodia, do you know where you are?
Anyways, after a total of 6 van changes, a mandatory lunch break no one wanted to take, and a ferry crossing, we finally reached Phnom Penh, Cambodia 15 hours later. So, here we are in the city and the driver of the van wont let us out of the van. He doesnt speak any English, but from what i realized, was that he made another phonecall for his "friend" to pick us up and take us all to his overpriced guesthouse that we wouldnt want to stay in. Well, enough was enough, and that woman SNAPPED. She got out of the van, got a knife and cut down everyone's bags. Meanwhile, while she was yelling at all the local standbyers, some older strangers came up to me and we talked for a while (apparently they couldnt understand the whole mess, and they really appreciated my friendliness/calmness). Since, now that I proved myself to be a "nice" tourist, they helped me get my bags and pointed me and Mathew into the right direction for backpackers. Mathew and I grabbed are stuff and started walking towards a room and away from the yell-fest.
We didnt have to walk far (only being about 150 yards/meters away from the guesthouse we chose to stay). It was already 10:30 at night and Mathew and I just wanted a soft bed. The guesthouse was called Guesthouse #10 and had a 24 restaurant, a pool table, TV and free movies and a 2 story floating boat on the lake to lounge in. Just as we start looking at the rooms, the "yell-fest" crew comes following us into the hotel - no!!!!! so, instead of showing us rooms individually, we get a "guided" tour. I LOVED the beds! SO extremely soft (simple rooms, just a REALLY comfy bed, some with an attached bathroom), but for only $3 or $4! whats to complain about? Well, all i could hear was this group complaining about this and that and they eventually left just to come back an hour later and ask for a room again! But what really made our night was finding out that our friends from Don Det (the ones we shared our lanai with) were staying in the rooms right next door!!! HOW COOOOL!!!!! SO, thats our first day in Cambodia. A mix of Drama and Patience - - lesson previously learned and tested today: keep a smile on your face, breath, know how lucky you are, and that everything DOES work out. IT DOES!
Where I stayed