In the guide book it says that crossing the border into Laos in the north at Voen Kham is for the adventurous. It did take 3 buses, a walk on foot over no mans land and two sets of ‘bribes’ but other than that it was really straightforward.
We’d got our Laos visas back in Phnom Penh at $45 each (it costs more for the Brits for some reason) but we knew that at the border it was useful to have some $1 bills handy to ease the path across. Interestingly you can take the name of the officer who asks for the extra money at the border and complain but we thought we’d rather get across into Laos.
I still thought of ourselves as adventurous having made it across the border and as we drove away into Laos I was a little surprised to see a golf course and luxury holiday resort. It turns out that the area in Laos is very close to the Thai border and it is one of the most visited areas by the Thais on holiday due to some major attractions.
We started to walk through the rice fields avoiding the odd buffalo and barking dog. It didn’t take long for me to build up a healthy sweat as it was definitely the most humid place we have stayed- I guess an island surrounded by water during the monsoon would be a good candidate.
After a couple of pit stops we spotted water and what looked like a bridge as we approached. I jokingly said ‘wouldn’t it be funny if the bridge no longer existed’. As we got closer it became all too apparent that the bridge did not exist anymore, it just stopped a few meters into the water. Sweating, hot and tired both of us weren’t in the best of moods but we just about held it together and managed to find a boatman to take us over to the island we wanted to get to for an extortionate price.
We could have stayed on the first island but wanted to stay at a particular guesthouse and that’s where we were dropped off. As we wandered through the courtyard of the guesthouse no one seemed too bothered and there were none of the usual offers of ‘do you want to see a room?’. I asked whether a room was available and I was told they were full. We did eventually find a room at the Auberge Sala Don Khone - a lovely place even if the bathroom smelt of cabbage.
After our successful cycle ride in Kratie we hired bikes again and toured both the islands. It was a little bit muddier this time and some of the routes were impassable. We were stopped by some fellow travellers who were covered head to foot in mud warning us not to go down a particular track. We had a great time even if we were a little muddier by the end. I did also get a bite on the foot - I think it was a spider but not sure. The foot’s swelling up nicely and at the moment it’s really painful to walk on. It’s not spreading so I’m keeping an eye on it and hopefully the swelling will start to ease soon.
I think Laos will be something of an acquired taste, so far it’s like Cambodia but to coin the phrase you hear a lot here – ‘Same same but different’