The second country on our Southeast Asian journey was Laos, which meant our first border crossing! To be honest, we didn’t really know what we were doing… We knew that we wanted to start in Vientiane, so we just asked our Guest House to book us a ticket to the Laos border. We packed up our things and headed out the next morning on an all-day adventure. We took a mini-bus ride for a couple of hours to a town where we were told we would wait for 1.5 hours, which turned into almost 4, where we picked up a bus that drove us to the border, where we waited for 45 minutes, and we had to pay the “stamping fee” totaling $5 to exit Cambodia and enter Laos – basically a tip for the workers that you have to pay because they have the power to accept or deny you, even with your visa. Then, we walked across the border just to get back on a bus. To be honest, we had no idea where we were going, but Stacey and I ended up in a town we had no intention of visiting, then on a river taxi, then on the island of Don Det, Laos- a cozy, quirky, extremely westernized island.
To be honest, I spent a lot of time in the Guest House room because I had a pretty bad cold with a fever, so it’s no surprise that my personal favorite moment was shortly after getting off the boat in Don Det. We found a room and then made our way back to Burger Kong because I saw veggie burger on the sign as we walked by. Stacey had hurt her back at the border, so we were quite a pair: she was stiff & in pain and I was snotty, coughing & delirious with fever. Paul, the owner, was amazing and made us feel better just by being himself. He made us laugh, told Stacey he would try to get in touch with the “island doctor” (a masseuse who sometimes dabbled in chiropractic services), told me that he didn’t know what kind of cough medicine I needed, but he knew where to get valium (which I passed on), we talked about Frank Zappa, he gave me- as he put it- “a lot of f*cking pickles” and then sold the boys who were on our bus weed out of the back window. It was just quite the experience! Oh, and the food was delicious too. Ha!
I managed to make it out a few different times but most were less than an hour because I would get dizzy & winded and need to rest again. I was pretty sick. I loved seeing the boats and the cozy houses & restaurants though.
The town was cozy, but it didn’t feel real, and after 7 am didn’t feel much like a place in Laos. There are activities like bicycling to across bridges to different islands, kayak to waterfalls and view the river dolphins like the ones Stacey and I saw in Kratie! A lot of backpackers love the lax scene on the island, and it’s definitely a place to unwind and feel more at home in a foreign country.
The next night we made our way up to Vientiane in doing so we took our first night bus of the trip! It was quite a moment and we made quick friends with Mark (the photographer), Chloe and Emma, whom we met up with again in Vang Vieng later on in the week. It was a night of laughs, drinking rum and playing never-have-I-ever. It was a lot of fun with some people I won’t ever forget… More to come on them later on in the adventure!
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