Tuesday 26th December
Miles: 53 Climbing: 1224ft
Today I did actually manage to leave Don Det, and Laos, just 5 days later than planned.
I had a bit of a feast for breakfast as I still had a bit of currency left and I was leaving Laos. I had completely forgotten to save enough money to pay for the ferry, as I had my bike they charge extra for a private boat. However, after speaking to the man who appeared to be organising the boats and literally turning my pockets and giving him everything I had left (which was a bit more than enough for a single trip without a bike) he told me to wait. Half an hour later I was ushered on board the island “landing craft” alongside a moped.
The journey south, back to the border with Cambodia, was fairly uneventful but I was getting more and more concerned about the border crossing. I really hoped that I wouldn’t meet the same border official as last time. If he recognised me he could possibly make things very difficult, and i’m a very recognisable person.
Just as I arrived at the border a tourist bus also arrived. The way the tourist busses work plays right into the border officials hands and help them to get bribes. At some border crossings the bus can cross, on others it is not allowed. Either way, tourists must cross by foot so they get dropped off on one side and then picked up again at the other. If they refuse to pay a bribe then they are made to wait and therefore miss their bus. It’s a well known trick but there’s not much you can do about it so most people end up paying a bribe, although negotiation does appear to work sometimes.
As I approached the first window, where I was supposed to be stamped out of Laos I realised that in all the trouble on getting into the country I had not managed to keep hold of my exit card. I’m sure this wasn’t much of a problem and probably happened all the time. However, for the inconvenience of having to write my name on a piece of paper instead, the border officials wanted to charge me 20$. Unfortunately I only had enough for my new Cambodian visa and an extra 5$. Luckily they were happy with just the 5$ bribe, and they probably wanted me out of the way so they could get as much money as they could out of the travellers on the tourist bus.
Just 50 miles of the worst kind of dirt track to go and I arrive back at the last place I stayed in Cambodia. Luckily they accepted my 5$ per night offer again and I even got the same room again. It felt a bit strange to be on my own again after spending the last few days surrounded by people. I enjoyed the solitude and freedom but it did feel a bit lonely.