Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Last of Laos

Well we’ve left though we could both have stayed another day ‘chilling’ on Don Det, and we probably had enough kip but we didn’t want to risk running out and having to do an ‘ATM run’ by boat to get more cash, at vast expense, having had many discussions about the border crossing, we were still stressing about which bus ticket to buy before coming to the conclusion that it probably didn’t matter what we bought, it would all be rubbish anyway! While waiting outside the ticket office we’d decided to go with I was pointed at three tiny kittens which was fab, only for the guy we’d decided not to go with appear as his brother whose office we were at was out for the afternoon! We knew it was all a conspiracy!

Anyway, ticket booked, more chilling before last beer and sunset and then off down the ‘sunset side’ for dinner. We’d seen a board advertising steamed fish in a banana leaf and thought we’d give it a go. As with most meals in Laos it took a while as ‘mum’ was doing all the cooking, but we did get chance to see ‘dad’ going across the path to ‘harvest’ the banana leaf for the fish – something you don’t see every day! Interesting meal, though not necessarily one I’d repeat, but a good last meal.

So up bright and early at 06.30 as we had a boat to catch at 08.00, along with all the other people heading into Cambodia, many of them going much further than we were Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. We had decided to stop in Stung Treng, the first town you get to as our real destination of Ban Lung was another 4 hours on! No problem in theory, we’d be in Stung Treng by 11.00! Hah!

Waiting at Nakasong, just on the mainland from Don Det while the man in the shirt with the white collar takes all of our passports and $40 each and arranges all the paperwork. It's very worrying to hand your passport over to someone and not see it for about 3 hours!
The route from Don Det to Stung Treng. 1hr 6min Google Maps says - Hah!
Caught the boat just after 08.00, 20 min journey, and then hung around filling out immigration forms till 09.50, finally got crushed into three mini buses having, most of us, given passports, forms and money to the guide (this is a big discussion, do you do it yourself, or let the man do it? Save a dollar perhaps by the time you’ve paid for exit stamp, entrance stamp, and another ‘health check’ - waft of a thermometer in your near vicinity, on top of the $35 visa fee!) 3rd minibus, with guide and passports never turned up, but finally turned into a bus load of people and our ‘guide’, we walked across the border 200m waited in a 'restaurant' and waited and waited. 
We left the border finally at 1300ish and arrived ST about 1400. We were dropped off at our hotel 14.45! Another 6 hour bus journey anyone? Oh yes, most of you! S0 glad we decided to put off going to Ban Lung till tomorrow, except the bus man was very keen to sell us a ticket $15 each collection from our hotel, prices from near here seem to be about $8, but would we have had to make our own way to the bus station? At what cost? Haven't dared ask as don't want to know how ripped off we were!

This is the Cambodia Visa Issuing Office!
Welcome to Cambodia! We have just met a really interesting Californian man at dinner though, he’s been in Cambodia since 2002, now has a Cambodian wife and two children and works for the International Red Cross trying to humanitise the prisons here in Cambodia. The world really needs more people like him, I just felt guilty we’d made him talk all through his dinner which was probably long cold!
the white building in the distance is the Laos border crossing, the nearer blue building is the Cambodian border crossing, the bit in between is No Mans Land. We got off the minibus the other side of the Laos border crossing and walked with our luggage to this crossing and then waited in a cafe for 2 hours for all the paperwork to be done
The first Buddhist temple in Cambodia, this one in Stung Treng
Guess which river this is that runs through Stung Treng? It's the Mekong! A bit further downstream from where we last saw it at Don Det
Our hotel for the night in Stung Treng, it's the Golden River Hotel. Oh, you're staying at the posh, expensive one our taxi driver told us. Well, it's $17, which doesn't sound that much, but it probably is here

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