It all happened on an early Friday morning. At 07:15 am we were ready for our pick up by the minivan which would take us to Don Det, Laos. It would take us 7 hours took get there, but since we’re in Asia we took into account that it could take us much longer than that, so we were prepared for a heavy journey. But we weren’t prepared for what was ahead of us…
The waiting began…
After we got instructions from a nervous hippie-guy at the Asia Van Transfer (don’t travel with them!), we waited for our minivan to arrive. We paid 23 dollars each to take us from Siem Reap (Cambodia) tot Don Det (Laos), a quite expensive ride. All the other tourists who were waiting for the ride got on a minivan and drove off, and we were told by the hippie that our transportation would arrive soon. Then it finally did: there was the vehicle we would be stuck in for hours to come. Together with our backpacks we were cramped into a minivan which seated 11 people, only we were in there with 15. When we entered the minivan, the locals already seated stared at us wondering what we were doing there. We were asking ourselves exactly the same question. When the driver started the engines we prepared ourselves for the long drive to Don Det – but we shouldn’t get too excited just yet: the driver had other ideas. We drove from location to location, picking up one load after the other. Food, supplies, plastic tools – you name it, and they shoved it into the van, as if it wasn’t crowded enough already. When they wanted to put on even more baggage I tried to tell them it was full, and luckily they listened. Almost two hours late we took off from Siem Reap to our final destination, Don Det.
Bumpy, bumpier, bumpiest!
As if being cramped into a van with 14 other people wasn’t enough, we hit the most bumpy road you could imagine. And of course, we didn’t drive straight for Don Det but made a lot of stops to drop off some of the supplies or people which were on the van. At 14:00 we arrived at the last stop in Cambodia, where we were rushed to get some lunch because we had to get on another van which was about to leave.
Not such a van-tastic ride
We met with other tourists who were also planning to cross the Cambodia-Laos border, and their stories about the past few hours were less adventurous than ours. Apparently, we were the only ones who were dropped on a local bus. The road ahead of us was even more bumpy than the road we already survived, making it impossible to sleep and making me thank god for the pills I took for travelsickness.
Crossing the Border
When we finally arrived at the border, we were asked to get our of the car and get our backpacks. First we had to get past the Cambodian border. We handed in our passports and about 10 minutes later we got them back with stamps, and were allowed to leave beautiful Cambodia. Then we had to walk for 500 meters in the burning heat towards the Laotian border. We received the customs forms (for which we had to pay 1 dollar ‘administration fee – long live corruption), filled them in, handed them over together with 35 dollars and a passport photo, and started the waiting game again. After 30 minutes we were able to collect our passports including a brand new visa, but only if we paid 2 dollars extra. Again: corruption, yay!
Are we there yet?
We got on another bus, a bus which would take us to the river so we could cross the Mekong and finally arrive at Don Det. After a 40 minute ride, again bumpy bumpy bumpy, we arrived at the pier, where we took a small boat towards the other side of the river.
It was a long day but in the end it was all worth it. Don Det is so relaxed and so so beautiful. I’ll tell you all about our first day at this lovely island in my next blog.
Note: no photos this time. Everything moves at a slow pace at Don Det, and so does the WiFi 😉