TonyFats in Asia 2006-07 travel blog

The crossing to the mini bus

River life

We boarded a mini bus to Stung Streng where we were told we would board a boat to the Laos border and on to the Si Phan Don, Four thousand Islands. There were four of us on the mini bus, Fatima and I, Ursula from Switzerland, and a young lad, Christian, from the UK, half empty. The driver saw this as an opportunity to make a few extra Riel and pick up six more locals and drop them off at various locations on the way. Three of us were then dropped off at Riche's Restaurant, Stung Streng, leaving Christian on board looking very worried and puzzled as to why he was told to stay in the van. We waved goodbye, wondering if he was being abducted. Later we met him again in Don Det so he was not abducted, he could not explain why he was separated from us. At the restaurant we were told, oh no, no boat, no water, just to cross the river, then taxi to border, then mini bus to boat that will take you to Si Phan Don and Don Det Island. We smiled and said OK, no trip up the Mekong for us. Two more people were dropped at the restaurant that were also heading for Laos. They were an English couple that had been traveling in Cambodia for a month or so. Ted, the husband told me he was 73 years old and his wife Ann looked about the same. I admired them both. They appeared to be quite eccentric and disorganized. He had graze marks in his leg and arm and told us he collected them by falling off a motor bike. "A motor bike taxi," I asked. "Oh no we rented a motor bike to get around on. I think we were a bit silly," he said, "because the roads were really bad!" He also told me he had had a triple by pass operation, but was fine now. He complained about how difficult it was getting travel insurance. His argument was , I've been fixed so why not give me insurance. It's all the others walking around with bad hearts the insurance companies should worry about." Anyway" he said, "what does it matter where you die, here or there, it's always final" He asked us if we had visas for Laos. We told him we did and he said he and Ann had not and they would get theirs at the border . I told him that as far as we knew he could not get a visa at he border. He seemed to think he could because he had met people that had done so. The travel agent guy also told him that he would not get visas at the border. "Oh well", he said, "we will try, if we don't get them we will come back!" Gutsy old guy. (just listen to me)

We all walked down to the ferry to take us across the Mekong, boarded, after waiting for 20 minutes and crossed to the other side. There we thought we would get a mini bus but no, a Toyota Camery. There were six of us! We complained and complained and still we were bundled into the Toyota. Four in the back, two in the front, counting the driver. Off we went towards our destiny. We traveled by highway for about an hour and then we turned off onto a very bumpy dirt road that snaked through the jungle. What a terrible cart track it was. We asked the driver if he was sure it was the road to the border, he assured us it was. It was a little un-nerving. I could imagine at any moment armed bandits would appear out of the jungle and demand all of our valuables, or even worse shoot us. We arrived at some dilapidated wooden huts and were told to get out. Ted and Ann told the guard that they didn't have a visa and could they get one there. No, no, no! Said the guard, You cannot cross into Laos you must go back to Phnom Penh. They laughed and said, Oh well we tried. The three of us that had visas were treated with great respect, asked for the usual 'money for the pocket', $1 each. We said goodbye to Ted and Ann, and off we went in the taxi to the border another 200 meters of bad road. We got to the border, unloaded our bags, had our passports stamped with absolutely no trouble. There was another "money for the pocket' to pay. $1 US. We loaded our bags into a mini van and we were ready to be driven to the boat that would take us to Don Det, well nearly. Ursula decided she would like to have lunch first so we went to the roadside restaurant and were fed. Contented we left for Don Det. The roads in Laos seem to be in much better condition than Cambodia and so we had a relatively smooth ride, all the way to the ferry boat to Don Det.

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