13 hour bus ride to Laos

We left Phnom Phen at 6 am for a 13 hour trip to Don Det, 4,000 islands, Laos.

Our bus ride was quite scary and long but still fun because we met a great British couple, Steve and Lou, traveling for 10 months as well! We met because Lou stepped on my foot when she was stowing away her backpack and I said patiently: “Maam … my foot…”. She apologized and the rest was history. After a 13 hour bus ride, you really get to know your neighbors and we learned “loads” about them. They’re engaged and will be getting married on their return to England .. yea, the smart way to do a honeymoon, before the wedding! They are only one month into their trip and have 8-9 months left! So jealous! =) Of course Sara and I could not keep our mouths shut with all the recommendations we could give them about India and South America. We had so much fun on the bus that we decided to look for lodging with them and plan activities together in 4,000 islands.

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The scary part of the trip comes when we hear a big “POP” and smoke starts coming out of the bottom of our feet! The bus takes like 2 minutes to come to a full stop and finally stops in the middle of butt fuck nowhere Cambodia. The sun is shining and it’s HOT! The passengers get off the bus and run to look for shade [not before taking a picture of course]. We had recently learned that a tourist bus similar to the one we were on had a similar incident but that story did not turn out too well. 30 injured and a couple dead. =/

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We chill under the shade and eat lotus flower seeds while we wait for the driver and his friends to change the tire.

Our next stop was at a place where the driver gets to eat for free for bringing these tourist to buy some snacks. It’s ridiculous how much these places take advantage of the situation. It reminds me of the inflated prices at airports and theme parks but 100 times worse. I mean, I could buy a whole pineapple on the beach for $1 and here they’re charging $4 — in Cambodia!!! So far I’ve enjoyed South East Asia but this whole getting scammed, haggling, and always fighting is quite annoying.

It’s close to 6 pm, when the border closes, and we hope we don’t get stuck for a night at the border. We’re tired and really want to get to our destination. As we’re getting desperate, the tour guide / company worker gives us forms to fill and says we’ll arrive to Laos in 30 minutes. He says that the Laos visa for US citizens is $40 and that for him to obtain our visa, his service fee is $1. Sara had read that the visa for us would be $35/person so we tell him we’d like to do it ourselves. Since we’re budget travelers, but more importantly hate getting used, we get off the bus with one other person to walk the border. The rest of the passengers decide to give this guy his fee plus their visa fee for those that needed a visa.

So were we wrong in taking the extra time to walk the border instead of staying in the AC bus? Of course not! People here just see you as a fucking jackpot or a tree that grows money. We saved $13 by doing it ourselves. There were around 40-50 people on that bus, that dude made lots of money for one days work!

Anyways, we finally arrive to the Laos border, cross and hop on the bus. 30 more minutes to our destination! 30 minutes later, the bus stops in what seems like the middle of nowhere again and tells us that we need to change transportation. By now it’s dark and like 20 of us hop the back of a truck to take us to an ATM and then to the pier where we need to take a long fish boat to Don Det (one of the 4,000 islands).

It’s funny because it feels as if we’re being moved like sheep by some Shepard to go get some food and shelter.

Alas, we arrive after 13 hour bus, truck, and boat trip!

We start looking for accommodation with our new friends walking around the islands but nothing we see is appealing (wooden bungalows next to the river with cockroaches on the bed for $2/night OR bungalows in the middle of the jungle with no windows and mosquito nets with shared bathroom for $10/night). After an hour of looking, we’re frustrated, hungry, and pretty tired. We finally find a place with AC and decent for $20/night. We’re happy with it and hope the next days here are better than today. =)

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