Every blog post and travel article I’ve read relating to the southern border crossing between Cambodia and Laos makes it sound like an episode of the Walking Dead. Some say it’s the worst border crossing of their lives – they clearly haven’t crossed between South Africa and Zimbabwe!
I spent my last few days in Cambodia in a town called Kratie, which the Lonely Planet completely oversold. There’s very little to do with the exception of catching a boat to a large sandbar in the Mekong River and cycling around the mini-island. That was nice enough but would I write home about it? No.
You can also go searching for some rare Irrawaddy dolphins there. They’re critically endangered and live in the Mekong near Kratie. Viewing them means catching a boat right up to them which sadly enhances their endangered status, which defeats the purpose. As a result, I decided not to go.
I did meet up with a fellow backpacker and decided to brave ‘the worst’ border crossing to Laos together. You can’t have too many friends when it comes to being a lone English speaking person at any border! Everything I’d read about this crossing mentioned the high likelihood of being stuck there for hours as well as the fact you’ll be paying a number of dollars for bribes.
My experience was hardly this bad. In fact, I’d go as far as saying this was one of the easiest border crossings I have ever done. If you’re thinking of doing it, you have 2 choices: do the border crossing yourself, or get some help from your bus driver which speeds things up and possibly costs $2 more.
There will be the mandatory rip offs: a $1 ‘overtime’ fee (despite being there at 10am), a $2 photo fee, a $1 ‘health’ check fee. Your bus driver negotiates around most of this for you. All in all, I paid $45 to enter the country. Having a South African passport costs $2 more!
My first impressions of Laos? I’ve literally just been chilling at a pool in Don Det, in Si Phan Don (also known as the 4000 Islands), for the past 4 days. There isn’t all that much to do here apart from taking it easy and enjoying the Mekong River. One victory was finding a bungalow to stay in on the river for the grand sum of $2,50 a night! The budget is loving it as Cambodia wasn’t as cheap as I was led to believe.
My plan is to start heading north tomorrow and getting myself to Vientiane to meet a good friend on the 19th. Time is flying a little too quickly for my liking at the moment!
Cheers for now.