The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Travel Day–Kratie, Cambodia to Si Phan Don, Laos

Day 378, December 10, 2011

There is only one land border crossing between Cambodia and Laos and for the longest time it was a painful one to cross. While most other land crossings into Laos would have visas available on arrival, this particular one did not.

That all changed a few years ago and according to the owner of a restaurant in Kratie, it has had the effect of boosting business like crazy. More travelers are making the journey in that direction as it has become easier and more convenient. It is not without its challenges though!

For starters, finding transportation across the border. While not difficult to find, it is difficult to determine whether you are getting a fair price or being ripped off. The guesthouse we were staying at was attempting to sell us a ticket all the way to Si Phan Don, aka the 4000 Islands, at a cost of US$22 each. Lucky for us, at breakfast one morning, we mentioned our plans to the very drunk and flaming owner of the Red Sun Falling restaurant.

He made some phone calls and managed to connect with a friend of his that does that particular journey. For US$11, his friend could get us all the way to the docks that would take us to the 4000 Islands. Needless to say, we took this one.

The morning we left, we piled onto a little 12 seater mini bus. They proceeded to stuff all our luggage and and additional 6 people into the tiny vehicle. It was quite cramped for the two and a half hours that we were driving to the town of Stung Treng. But then a miracle! We were ushered off the mini bus and onto an empty big bus for the rest of the journey!

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I’m not sure how long this second part of the journey lasted as it wasn’t uncomfortable at all. It couldn’t have been more than an hour though as it didn’t seem like much time had passed before we were ushered off the bus once more at the border.

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Lucy, the English lass, had already got her Laos visa back in Phnom Penh because, according to the guys at the Laos embassy, she had to. The gentleman on the bus that collected us “Visa on Arrival” passports was highly confused as there is no requirement right now for British passport holders to get one beforehand.

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But for us getting the visa on arrival, we didn’t have to do anything except sit in the shade while the guy did all the work for us. We did have to decide, however, which island we wanted to go to so he could write us our boat ticket out. That boat ticket wasn’t included in the US$11. It cost a whopping US$5. We still came out ahead.

Before long, someone yelled to our group that we could walk across the border where the guy from the bus was waiting with our passports. We piled onto another bus and traveled for ten minutes to the docks for the 4000 Islands.

The boat itself was a lovely little ride. We had chosen to go to Don Khon as it was supposedly the quiet of the three islands. We arrived on the shores of the island and took off to find a guesthouse/bungalow. It didn’t take too long and we were able to settle in and head for lunch.

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All told, the journey from Kratie to the 4000 Islands took about five or six hours and cost us $17(plus money for the visa).

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