Don Khong, border crossings and Stung Treng
Right well I made it to Don Khong - nice spot, very laid back.. in fact maybe a little too laid back, as I wasn't able to enjoy it completely because I knew in the back of my mind that I would have to move on to Cambodia soon and didn't really have the right frame of mind to "take it slow"... basically because I'm starting to run short of time (I need to be in Vietnam by the 22nd of this month to start my tour that I booked before leaving N.Z) - It was very picturesque and after arriving there at about 2pm I ended up just sitting back and having a few beers with a British couple I met in my guesthouse, chilling out and discussing the scary phenomenon of "Dance Troupe" in the U.K.
The guesthouse was called Villa Khone Khong I think... I really liked it, and the guy who ran it was very nice - though he spoke very little english - the rooms were big, teak with shuttered windows and a dodgy looking bathroom - I think the setting was
probably romantic, though It would seem strange to muse about such things while I sat back reading a copy of catch 22 I'd swapped for another book with some other Traveler and drinking beer Laos.
Don Khong is quite a big Island (did I mention it was an Island on the Mekong) - about 18km's one way and a bit less the other way... After a big storm that night I awoke in the morning and decided that I would rent a scooter and have a look round, as
there really didn't seem much else to do (unless you count spotting the elusive freshwater dolphins in the area) - It's the first time I've ridden a scooter, as opposed to a
motorbike, it was a mighty 100cc Honda Wave.. with no clutch and and downward gear pattern.. confused the hell out of me as I grappled for an imaginary clutch lever and dropped the bike into fourth to take off ;o)
Still I think I could've used just 4th gear as it would cruise at 40km's an hour, or, at full tit...an amazing top speed of 66km's - which really isn't a good idea as the tires seemed to be going a bit.. umm... squishy at that speed.
At any rate, the rainy season has really kicked in - so my bike riding was interrupted by rain.. in fact it's raining in Cambodia as I post this..but I digress.. so at any rate I woke up this morning and decided it was time to leave Laos before I didn't have any time at all to see Cambodia.
To enter Cambodia from Laos normally requires a trip to Voen Kahm, where you get stamped out, pay a small bribe, get in a boat and cross to the other side and get stamped in... My crossing was umm.. a little less orthodox, as I got a lift with a Soldier
(with the obligatory Kalashnikov pressed between myself and him) on his motorscooter, then got a lift with a Cambodian family that he introduced me too who were driving a truck to Cambodia along a "road" that appears to be under heavy construction by the
Chinese (???) where the two border posts are only 100 metres from each other in thick trees... the road isn't sealed and was bollix, but it certainly was a bit of an adventure - albeit weird, I did feel a little anxious as other then a little bit I read on the internet after arriving in Cambodia it really does seem like this route is sorta "non-existent" and definitely not used by many if any tourists because it's by luck that you'll get a ride this way, in all I think I would not have saved more then a couple of dollars doing this vs. coming down on a speed boat, though it's probably safer then a speed boat.
I think also what raised my alarm bells was the fact that the teenage kid who sat on the rear of truck with me took his shirt off.. and had lashes and ragged scars all over his back like he'd been whipped - I do not know what the hell that was all
about :( but it wasn't cool... at any rate, I dont think at any point it was a dangerous crossing - the cambodian family seemed quite friendly - just confusing as I didn't really understand alot of what was going on. *shrug*
Arriving in Cambodia
So after riding with the Cambodian family for about 2 hours I arrived in a little village on the opposite side of the Mekong to a place called Stung Treng (which is quite a big town, by NZ standards) - which is where I'm typing up this post on a dodgy dialup connection (they had to start a generator just so I could turn the computer on!).
So far I haven't seen any westerners, but I'm sure they come here - as even if you take the alternative route - which involves a getting a speed boat- you still end up in Stung Treng - maybe it's just because it's low season?
Stung Treng is at least briefly mentioned in the Lonely planet books (though it basically only points out that it's kinda pants) and I've booked a bus ride to another city tomorrow at 7am, Kompong Cham, which is no doubt a rip off at $13
US - but I really didn't feel like trying to find the bus station and sorting it out myself as I seem to have picked up some more dodgy food in the last couple of days... weee .. fun fun fun - I can't imagine travelling without Imodium now - the alternative would be too repulsive to consider... At any rate, at the new city where I can eventually catch a bus or taxi to get myself up to Siem Reap/Angkor Wat - so all seems wellish, basically after this initial bit of my travels I'll be hanging out in the bigger cities, surrounded by electrickery, good food