So Long Cambodia, Sabaidee Lao!

P1050575I would love to tell you that leaving Cambodia was  a difficult decisions and that when the day came, it was emotional… but that would be a lie. When we crossed the border, I didn’t know what Lao would hold, but I knew that it wouldn’t be much worse. Don’t get me wrong, Cambodia was fun, but it was also stressful, dirty and full of hassles and annoyances. We booked a meddley of transport to take us from Kratie, through the Cambodian/Lao border and essentially, we got what we paid for. It was a early morning to mid afternoon deal consisting of a very (unsurprisingly) cramped mini-bus and then a big bus to the border. As part of the service, the bus operator collected everyone’s passports, photos and visa fees and whisked them all off to be processed. We were overcharged for the visa by a few dollars as well as being charged a ‘stamping fee’ of $5. Obviously, this just disappeared into the ether but as usual, if you wanted to cross the border, you had to pay the fee. While this miscellaneous processing was all taking place, we had to get off the bus and wait in a ‘restaurant’. In actual fact, this was some plastic chairs and a broken fridge in the woods that served overpriced fried foods and cans of drink for a whopping $2! I also made the mistake of using the toilet. By using the toilet, I mean weeing on the mud behind the ‘restaurant’ shielded on two sides from the road by a muddy tarp. It wasn’t just me though, this was the official border toilet. Oh, Cambodia.


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Eventually, we were all processed and walked across the border into Laos with a sigh of relief. One short bus ride and a ferry ride later, we arrived on the island of Don Det. One of 4,000ish islands in Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands). Stopping in Don Det was an impromptu decision. I hadn’t previously know much about it but it seemed like a natural break in our journey and as soon as we set foot on the island, I knew that we had made a good choice.

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We followed a couple of water buffalo down the main street until we found a suitable guest house. Obviously they knew where they were going because this place turned out to be ace.

We got a bungalow with a balcony, directly on the river  (sunrise side)  for just 50,000 Kip per night. That’s like, $3 each. The only power socket was outside the room though which was a bit inconvenient and there wasn’t any wifi AND the bathroom was a two minute walk down the road but it didn’t matter. To make things even better, on our first morning on the island, we ran into some friends who we met at The Elephant Valley Project a week or so earlier and they checked into the bungalow next door to ours.

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Mekong says relax!

By Day, we chilled out on the beautiful Mekong on tubes we hired ($1/day!). These pics were taken from our balcony! We also ate, lots. Most of the places along the street (the only street) have terrible service and in true asia style, nothing you order is ever what you expect it to be. Having said that, there is a small place run by an Aussie guy and his wife called the Street View cafe. Decent service, great BBQ food and excellent music.

According to Lonely Planet, only one place on Don Det has wifi, but when we arrived every other restaurant and bar had it for free.  The guy from Street View (who has been there 15 years) told us that the island only got internet 6 months ago so it’s still really new. Don’t expect fast or reliable, but if you just want to get an email every now and again you should be good. Skype: forget it.

For sunset, we headed over to the Eden Bar balcony. The food/drinks were overpriced for what they were but still pretty tasty. The real draw though…. well, take a look.

And then this happened…

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Then this…

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Then the sun turned the most vivid shocking pink…

But the real breath taker was this strange shadow cast across the sky, every sunrise and every sunset.

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I was briefly overly-admired by a small preying mantis…

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Then snorted at by tomorrows dinner…

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before topping it all off with some dark beer Lao, friends, laughs, games and a moonrise to end all moonrises on our private balcony.  Ahhh..

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