“That’ll be $2,” we were told by the border agent. We asked for what and were told that it was the ‘holiday’ fee because it was a Sunday. Never mind that neither Cambodia nor Laos are Christian countries or that any such fee officially exists, this is the way this border is run and there is no choice given but to participate. Requests for receipts go unanswered as the border agent, wearing his undershirt, can’t even look you in the eye. The bus who arrived the next day, late because of mechanical difficulties, was charged $7 per person.
We arrived to Laos around dusk and were let off of our bus in the dark. Somehow we made our way to the island ‘paradise’ we were set to explore for the next few days. We found Don Det to be so wonderful that we couldn’t stand to wait to leave…so the next day around noon that’s what we did, and that’s when we started to have even more problems.
Once on the mainland I realized we’d left the cell phone behind and called for it to be sent over on the next boat. We’d left it behind at the agency who sold us our bus ticket and the agent still had it, identified it, and said I’d need to pay the boatman…to which I agreed. A few minutes later he called the person with us back and said it was ‘stolen’ in the 2 minutes he was on the phone with me.
Right. Not only was that @$$ probably talking to me while using our phone, but his accomplice, the man standing with me whose phone I was using, repeatedly asked me how much it was worth.
Next up. The bus was late. It should have arrived before 4pm. It didn’t arrive until nearly 9pm, about 5 hours late. Over that time, my friend the cell phone thief has had many beers. It is now very dark and we’ve been waiting on the side of the road for the bus for hours. Around 7pm he decides he is hungry and wants to put us all in his car and we’ll wait for the bus at the restaurant 3km up the road. He is drunk so we say no. He keeps trying. It is dark. I sneak around the side of the car and feel around for….yup….the keys are sitting right in the ignition. So I steal them. We’re not going anywhere.
Is that grand theft auto? Beats me!
I stay out of the ensuing argument, as I have the man’s car keys in my pocket. Somehow though, he realizes we’re not going anywhere and give up. Then decides to light a fire using rice stalks (fresh ones, ya’know, still green and filled with…water) and shake burning sticks at us as they go out. He is upset when we are unimpressed, you wouldn’t have been either. He was still drunk but as Winston Churchill might remark, in the morning he was still going to be stupid.
I ended up hiding the car keys right in front of the driver’s side tire. It was dark and they wouldn’t be seen until they were looked for. It was good I did this because as we were boarding our bus when it did finally come he came in our direction and started yelling and screaming about his car keys. I just told him he was drunk and he should go away. His friend quickly stopped him, we assume because he found the keys on the ground where I’d left them. He may have helped to steal our cell phone, but we got a good laugh at his expense.
IF YOU GO: On the Islands you will find nothing to do but sit in a hammock in a mosquito filled area. There are some waterfalls to look at (nice) and the river dolphins to see if you didn’t do so in Cambodia, but all this will only take you a day tops. When you decide its time to leave your mosquito and roach infested bungalow (cheap, but that is literally the only option) just take the VIP bus in the AM north, don’t take the afternoon bus that is coming from Cambodia.