We hope everyone had a lovely Christmas.
We had a brilliant Christmas Eve that included dancing on tables, face painting and lots of Santa hats. Needless to say it was quite a heavy one, so we didn’t feel that brilliant on Christmas day. We managed to get up for breakfast (still a little drunk I think) and then exchanged presents. I stuck to the budget and treated Sam to a new pair of swimming shorts and a Cambodia vest top (lucky boy) and Sam blew the budget and bought me a ring (not THE ring) which I had seen and liked a few days earlier.
We headed out to find some greasy food and had a pizza for our Christmas lunch which was delicious. After an afternoon nap and watching the Christmas Carol on TV we headed out into town to meet some friends we’d met the night before. After a few beers we decided to eat locally and had BBQ and fried rice as our Christmas dinner.
Boxing Day was mainly spent sleeping and packing for our trip to Laos the next day.
When we bought our ticket to Laos we were told that it was a VIP bus and would take 10 hours. Our friends Seb and Sophie were also heading to Laos that day but had booked a regular bus which apparently would take 12 hours. We were picked up at 5.30am and taken to our bus which was a small mini bus, not what I would call VIP but it was half empty so we managed to spread out a bit. About 3 hours in we got a flat tyre which was quickly fixed to be fair, but then the gear box broke so we were starting to think that the journey was going to be a bit of a nightmare. Somehow the driver got the bus back up and running but then suddenly told us to get off in this small town we were in as there was another bus coming to take us the rest of the way. By this point we were thinking that we were never going to make it to the border on time and worried because our Cambodian visa ran out that day. We were right.
We arrived in a place called Stung Treng at about 5.30pm roughly 60km from the Laos border and told that we would not be going any further as the border was shut. After a few harsh words we were told simply to go and find ourselves a guest house and meet the guy at 8am the next day. We were stranded in the middle of nowhere. We found a cheap guesthouse, had some noodle soup for dinner and went to bed. Actually I went to bed leaving Sam watching the Arsenal game which was on TV in our room (glad I didn’t stay up).
The next day at 8am we met the driver who piled us into his minivan, literally drove round the corner and said he was picking up 2 more people at 8.30am so we had to wait. After about 40 minutes of not moving anywhere we were told to get on another bus which would take us to the border. At this point we were also told that there was no use in complaining as this was very normal for Cambodia and Laos and that nothing would ever be done as they simply didn’t care. At least they were honest. Anyway this bus didn’t leave until 9.30am so we had literally gone 50m in about 1 ½ hours. Finally we were on the move when the driver decided he needed petrol and then we had to stop to pick some more people up (we hadn’t even left the town at this point and it was 10am). We had to laugh though, especially when we saw that it was Seb and Sophie that we were picking up. They’d had the same nightmare trip, and they hadn’t arrived until 9.30pm the previous evening.
Finally we made it to the border, paid over the odds for the visa plus a $5 fine for over staying on our visa, but we were on our way to the 4000 islands; our first stop in Laos.
As the name suggests there are literally 4000 islands, and we were headed to Don Det, one of the larger islands. After a short boat ride across the river we landed and decided that the boys should go and look for a suitable guesthouse while Sophie and I sat and had a drink. The rest of the day was spent wandering around the island and finding a suitable spot for some sunset beers.
The following day we hired bikes and cycled to the south side of the island and onto another island called Dong Khong where there was a waterfall, some beaches and dolphins. The waterfall was pretty impressive and apparently the locals believe it’s full of dead spirits. We wondered past the waterfall and found a lovely beach with VERY hot sand and cooled off with a dip in the river. We then decided to look for the dolphins at a different part of the island.
We came across another beautiful beach with a couple of small restaurant shacks and saw that they offered boat trips down the river where they guaranteed a sighting of the famous river dolphins. We landed at a small island in the middle of the river where we were told to get off and look for dolphins. We did see some but they were too far away for any pictures but the boat ride alone was worth the trip. We cycled back before sunset and finished the day with a curry and some beers.
All four of us checked out the next day and headed to Pakse, the next big town in southern Laos. Seb and Sophie had planned a three day trip across southern Laos on a motor bike which sounded pretty cool, so we thought we’d tag along for the ride. So today we have hired a bike as a practice run and have slowly gained some confidence first on a dirt track and then on the roads. Sam was a little wobbly to start off with but seems to have got the hang of it now. We’re going to get our own bikes as I don’t think either of us will be very good passengers!
Helmets will be worn, and we’ll be in no rush to get around the Southern Loop.
Tonight is NYE and we’ve found a bowling alley by the river, so that’s the plan. It won’t be a late one as everything closes at 11am here, so we’ll probably see in the New Year on our hotel balcony, listen to some Whitney Houston (as we did last night at Seb’s request) and grab an early night.
We’ll probably be off line for a few days as I doubt there will be much Wi-Fi, so we hope you all have a good night tonight and Happy New Year!