Day 130 – 20.11.2015
Laos – Cambodia – border crossing
Taxi to Siem Reap
Today was the day. We were leaving Laos and wanted to cross into Cambodia. All those horror stories were making me nervous. We had breakfast in our guesthouse on Don Khong and I overheard another couple taking about also crossing into Cambodia that day. So I just made contact to find out how they were travelling and they had thought of taking the bus to the border and in Cambodia they were actually travelling with the same company as us – AVT. When they heard that we had a private taxi to the border they asked if they could join us and I had the opportunity to give my thank back to them by agreeing. Because of Rachel and Alain, who had talked a few nights ago to another group, I had heard of AVT and because of that we had booked AVT. So the Universe gave me a chance of showing gratitude.
All six of us left around 7:30am the guesthouse and had a very comfortable 1h journey to the border. There we just went to the counter. Showed our exit piece of paper, paid each 2 US Dollar and we had left Laos. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Then we walked to the Cambodian side. There was a booth and two other travelers were already staying there filling out some paperwork. Opposite there was the “quarantine unit“. One of the scums to get more money. They take your temperature and then charge you 1 Dollar for that. I just kept saying I am healthy and then those two travelers told us we needed to go around the booth to another one for the visa. Not obvious but clever. As long as you stand there you are an easy target. As soon we were in the second booth, we quickly filled out the visa paperwork, paid the expected 35 US Dollar and NO OTHER ADDITIONAL FEE, walked back to the first booth, filled out our entry paperwork and voila we were in Cambodia.
There we were already expected by the AVT guy, but had to wait, because our departure time was 11:30. We drank something, played cards, talked to the others… and I could finally relax.
Then the AVT guy told us, there were so many people that day, that four of us could already go to their office in Stung Treng. So we four left. The first part of that trip was amazing. The street to Stung Treng looks at places like the moon. These were not holes but craters and our driver was trying to find the best possible way through. After an hour we arrived and could leave our bags in their office, which is also a guesthouse and try to chance some money.
To our surprise the ATM only gives US Dollars. So we had to go to a money exchange to get our last Lao KIP changed into the Cambodian Riel. Done that, got a water melon, took some US Dollar from the ATM and then changed them into Riel in the bank and went back to the office to have lunch. There something similar happened. They told us, they had too many people and would we mind going in a taxi with a fifth person. Theoretically not. But would we all fit into the car? Stéphane took the bags to the taxi, we ate our sticky rice and the water melon and got into the car. But where was the fifth person? The taxi drove around the corner and we picked up a guy. So Stéphane was in the passenger seat. And on the back seat there was me, Alina, Lara and that guy. From that moment on I was really squeezed and uncomfortable and that for the next 5 hours. But now we had agreed and we left Stung Treng.
Around 5:30pm we arrived in Siem Reap and were given a free ride to our guesthouse. I can recommend AVT but make sure they don’t put too many people in the car. Their special offer of 15 US Dollar for the trip from the border to Siem Reap must have attracted a lot of tourist. One day later the offer on the internet had already changed to 18 Dollars. The whole trip took altogether 7 hours and here is the map.
So now we are in Cambodia. The women are not wearing their nice skirts anymore but something that looks more like a pajama. The local currency is a joke, because everything is advertised in US Dollars even laundry. We won’t change money again but just pay everything with Dollars. And Siem Reap is not cheap.