The road to Laos from Cambodia.

The way that our trip from Siem Reap, Cambodia to the 4000 Islands, Laos began should have been a sign off things to come. 

We had bought tickets the day before opting for the “faster”  7-hour trip on the newly built road that goes across northern Cambodia. This route requires taking minibuses, but the normal bus route goes south then back up north and takes 12? hours. Ticket guy told us to be waiting at his office before 6am for pickup to the bus station. 

We got up at 5, at the office at 5:45. 6:15 comes around, nothing. We got nervous because we’ve already almost missed buses in other places because of miscommunication between middlemen. We call our ticket guy, “wait there,” he said and hung up. OK, we wait. Five minutes later, nothing. We call him back, “driver comes 6:30-7.” Then why did you tell us 6?

6:45, still nothing so we call the bus company. 5 minutes later a tuk tuk arrives and takes us to the “station” which was just a hostel where 12 or so other backpackers were waiting. 

An hour later (7:45 now) we finally get on the minibus. With all of the backpacks squeezed under the seats and under our feet we squish in to the full and barely air conditioned can for what we think will be 7ish hours. 

Around noon we stop for lunch and it looks like we aren’t far from the border, I guess about an hour away from my map. Nope. 

Around 1pm we pull up to a gathering spot where clueless travelers like us are dumped without any explanation. They say at 2:30 we go. OK. 

2:30 we pile into another minibus, wait. We’re told they lost the key to the van so we must switch. We switch and drive two minutes before turning around and have to switch vans AGAIN. At this point the sun is really beating down, we are all almost delirious from heat and this exhausting mess of a trip. 

Finally we go, but despite the apparent short distance to the border it takes almost two more hours because the roads are torn to pieces (see photo). We get to the border at 5pm and are scammed and bullied into paying $10 more for our visas. Welcome to Laos! 

6pm we walk across the border and a storm is brewing right behind us. 30 minutes later we arrive at the town where the pier for the ferry to the islands is and we have to change buses again. We pull up to the pier and as if on cue it immediately starts pouring buckets and thundering. But, but, but we are so close!!!

We get beers and just sit and wait. Nothing to do at this point. Finally around 7 the rain slows and we can get on the “ferry,” which was just a nice word for “rickety old longtail boat.” We pile in, the boat sways side to side in the rain with no light anywhere except for the lightning and small flashlight that our driver keeps pointing in every direction, probably checking for crocodiles or something equally terrible. I’ve lost hope at this point.

Then we see the shore of the island! We are getting closer to land and beds and food! When suddenly the boat putters to a stop and starts floating backwards in the river. “No battery.. No fuel!” Ha ha ha seriously? They refill the tank and we slowly crawl to the coast, jumping out the first second we can. 

Thankfully we found a decent place to stay and we made friends with our fellow hostages on this terrible inescapable disaster of a journey.

The road to Laos from Cambodia.

The way that our trip from Siem Reap, Cambodia to the 4000 Islands, Laos began should have been a sign off things to come.

We had bought tickets the day before opting for the “faster” 7-hour trip on the newly built road that goes across northern Cambodia. This route requires taking minibuses, but the normal bus route goes south then back up north and takes 12? hours. Ticket guy told us to be waiting at his office before 6am for pickup to the bus station.

We got up at 5, at the office at 5:45. 6:15 comes around, nothing. We got nervous because we’ve already almost missed buses in other places because of miscommunication between middlemen. We call our ticket guy, “wait there,” he said and hung up. OK, we wait. Five minutes later, nothing. We call him back, “driver comes 6:30-7.” Then why did you tell us 6?

6:45, still nothing so we call the bus company. 5 minutes later a tuk tuk arrives and takes us to the “station” which was just a hostel where 12 or so other backpackers were waiting.

An hour later (7:45 now) we finally get on the minibus. With all of the backpacks squeezed under the seats and under our feet we squish in to the full and barely air conditioned can for what we think will be 7ish hours.

Around noon we stop for lunch and it looks like we aren’t far from the border, I guess about an hour away from my map. Nope.

Around 1pm we pull up to a gathering spot where clueless travelers like us are dumped without any explanation. They say at 2:30 we go. OK.

2:30 we pile into another minibus, wait. We’re told they lost the key to the van so we must switch. We switch and drive two minutes before turning around and have to switch vans AGAIN. At this point the sun is really beating down, we are all almost delirious from heat and this exhausting mess of a trip.

Finally we go, but despite the apparent short distance to the border it takes almost two more hours because the roads are torn to pieces (see photo). We get to the border at 5pm and are scammed and bullied into paying $10 more for our visas. Welcome to Laos!

6pm we walk across the border and a storm is brewing right behind us. 30 minutes later we arrive at the town where the pier for the ferry to the islands is and we have to change buses again. We pull up to the pier and as if on cue it immediately starts pouring buckets and thundering. But, but, but we are so close!!!

We get beers and just sit and wait. Nothing to do at this point. Finally around 7 the rain slows and we can get on the “ferry,” which was just a nice word for “rickety old longtail boat.” We pile in, the boat sways side to side in the rain with no light anywhere except for the lightning and small flashlight that our driver keeps pointing in every direction, probably checking for crocodiles or something equally terrible. I’ve lost hope at this point.

Then we see the shore of the island! We are getting closer to land and beds and food! When suddenly the boat putters to a stop and starts floating backwards in the river. “No battery.. No fuel!” Ha ha ha seriously? They refill the tank and we slowly crawl to the coast, jumping out the first second we can.

Thankfully we found a decent place to stay and we made friends with our fellow hostages on this terrible inescapable disaster of a journey.

Bun oc, or snail soup, in Hanoi.

Bun oc, or snail soup, in Hanoi.

Egg coffee in Hanoi. It’s a little bit of delicious Vietnamese coffee covered in a kind of meringue. I must learn how to make these!

Egg coffee in Hanoi. It’s a little bit of delicious Vietnamese coffee covered in a kind of meringue. I must learn how to make these!

Dragonfruit, papaya, guava, baby apples, watermelon, green mango and cassava. A tropical fruit feast for just over $1.

Dragonfruit, papaya, guava, baby apples, watermelon, green mango and cassava. A tropical fruit feast for just over $1.

Not only were our hosts amazing, but their place was one of the nicest we’ve stayed at on our trip.

Not only were our hosts amazing, but their place was one of the nicest we’ve stayed at on our trip.