Cambodia – Laos border: or the journey to hell

After fireworks of crazyness we safely arrived on Don Khon, in the best accomodation we had so far (large clean bungalow with balcony). So now that it’s all over, let’s laugh about the journey to get here.
We hopped on a tourist bus from Ban Lung in Cambodia, to Stung Treng, a travel hub. There was no way to avoid the tourist bus, we hate that but whatever. We pass a really nice food market where locals get off but we, foreigners, are required to stay. Joy, we’re dropped off at a shitty and expensive restaurant where other foreigners are waiting. Four hours later, the second bus arrives and we get started on the absolute worst road AND bus I’ve ever seen. The bus looks like it’s coming back from hell, not one seat is not broken. The back seat of the guy in front of me slowly falls down on me until there’s no room left and it’s litteraly on me. I move to a new seat where there’s no cushion. New move, the seat is broken again but it’s more bearable. The ride is so bumpy that it feels like we’re all dancing on House of pain “Jump around” much more than enjoying seated transportaion. At the Cambodia – Lao border, the driver asks us for $40 to take care of our visa. I refuse and say I’ll handle it myslef since I know it’s only $30. The driver becomes aggressive, especially since some people decide to follow me. Silvère says I started a riot again (the same thing happened at the Vietnam – Cambodia border) but I can’t help it! So the driver asks us to take our bags from the bus, says it might not work out with our visas and he won’t wait for us on the other side. I ask to the passengers who happily paid the extra money to please not leave without us. On the cambodian side, the agent asks us a $2 stamping fee. A fucking stamping fee! Of course I refuse, “sorry, no money hihihi”. He stamps our passports for free. On the Lao side, the agent asks us for a $1 processing fee which is handing our passports to the 2nd agent 2 meters away. “Oh sorry, no money hihihi, only $30 for the visa!”, he hands the passport for free. The second agent asked yet again a $2 stamping fucking fee. Same again, “no money”. But this time, he has our passports and refuses to give them back. After making us wait for another 10min, he calls us again and asks us to borrow money from “our friends” (a couple of nice french guys who we were talking to and previously paid the fees with a $20 note…). This time we were a little frightened, so we paid… All of those fees are of course illegal, and can only be perpetuated because people accept to pay them! 
So we finally have our passports with the Lao visa. And then we wait for the rest of the bus, the guys who gave the $40. We wait so long that we wondered if there was another way they went through without us seeing them. They finally arrive, and we all expect the bus to pass the border too and take us further, but the fun was only starting! The bus never came into Laos, the driver didn’t tell anyone what was going on and simply left us, all 30 backpackers at a deserted border far away from everything with no tuktuk, bus, taxi or shop. When the night fell, we seriously got anxious about what was going on, we tried to talk to the custom agents but they refused to help us or let us use their phone. Later, they “shut” the customs and left. At some point people in our group started to pull out sleeping bags and decided there was probably nothing else to do than sleeping there and wait for the first bus the next day. And then, a shitty minibus arrived out of the dark, with an angry man telling us it was too late for the ferry to Don Khon because of course ferries don’t run by night, but we would be able to get a boat to Don Det, the closest island. He added, and I quote, “I need to find a driver for the boat who is not drunk and has experience, so it could take time”. He takes us to an ATM since there is none on the island. I go first, get the maximum amount authorized, and basically break the machine… I turn around with my 2000000 kips in hand, and see 28 pairs of very upset eyes looking alternatively at me, the notes I’m carrying and the “NO MONEY AVAILABLE” message on the ATM. Luckily for me there was another working machine, or I think I would have had a Lord of the flies experience that night! After that, we are asked to go on a “boat”, or more like a wooden floating thing with no freaking light on it or on the river. The minivan driver abandons us to a guy with whom we saw him having a beer and we’re finally on our way to Don Det. I look at the water, consider the distance and assume I may have to swim. Some of the other guys are freaked out, one of them uses a very strong head lamp to see what’s around us. I chose to just relax, as I always do since I’m roadtripping in Asia where transport is always terrifying, and look at the beautiful sky a night with no light pollution is giving us to admire. Then we touch something, a wooden stick coming out of the water says Silvère, but we keep going and finally arrive on the island! What a trip from hell! We got a bumpy tuktuk and arrived on Don Khon, linked to Don Det by a small bridge.


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