middle of Laos

Central Laos

I’ve long been interested in traveling Laos and Cambodia, especially since moving to Bangkok.  They are often talked about and are typically a big part of a lot of peoples trip to Southeast Asia.  Both have quite the history, which is hidden by modern natural beauty.  They are considered some of the most bombed places in modern day history, mainly from the Vietnam War.  There are tons of undetonated landmines all over, and many guidebooks suggest staying on the beaten path to avoid any of those dangers.  Whether that is true or not, there were an obscene number of people walking around with missing limbs, so it was certainly an eye-opener.  With this said, the people are quite friendly and happy, contrary to what you may think.

In late June, my German friend Martin and I caught a night train from Bangkok, which would take us to Nong Khai, a Thai city along the border of Laos, near the capital city of Vientiane.  We boarded the train around 9pm, and after bringing our bags on board, we headed to the rail car that had the restaurant.  Martin had looked ahead of time and knew that a restaurant was on there, otherwise we would have never known.  Only about 10 others were at the restaurant, even though the train was basically full.  We ended up drinking beers, and conversed with an American couple from Michigan (who were very conservative). By 11:30pm, everyone in the restaurant had left aside from Martin, I, and the employees.  We ended up practicing a bit of Thai with them while they drank their whiskey and we drank our beers.  Around 1 or 2am, we headed to our beds because the employees were going to sleep. Martin and I played cards and chatted for awhile before going to sleep.

We woke early the next morning at Nong Khai, got off the train and paid 20 baht (or something very little) to catch another train for 20 minutes to Vientiane.  Once there, we had to buy our visas, and then a few taxi drivers were waiting.  2 British girls were also near us and wanted to share a taxi into town, so we did.  They got dropped off at some hotel, and Martin and I went to the Vientiane Backpackers Hostel, which we had booked prior online.  We had to go to the ATM to pay for checkin, and after dropping off our bags, we went and grabbed some breakfast/lunch at a small cafe nearby.  We then played pool for a couple hours, met a few fellow travelers, and relaxed.  Two of the employees were South Africans who lived in Vientiane (one had lived in Thailand for awhile).  We ended up making decent friends with them.

In the evening one of the South Africans got a group together and took us to a non-profit restaurant, in which all the cooks were kids taken off the street. Though expensive (lots of the proceeds go to charity), the food was excellent. We ended up meeting many other fellow travelers, including 2 German girls, a Laos guy who used to live in Aurora (suburb of Denver), and a guy from the eastern US who just got hired to work for Facebook in Silicone Valley.  After dinner, we went to a rooftop bar to have some drinks, and then played foosball and pool at another bar.  I had never seen 2 girls more interested in foosball.  Afterward, we all headed back to the hostel.  Martin and I played some pool there while others went out to a club.

Vientiane, Laos

Vientiane, Laos

The next day we woke early and showered, and played a couple games of pool.  The owner of the hostel bet 50,000 ($6) kip in a game of pool.  So I played him, and beat him twice for 100,000. He was worse than I thought.  Afterward, we rented some electric mopeds, and drove around the city.  It was the first time Martin had drove a moped, and it was my first time driving an electric one.  I learned a good lesson this day: don’t rent electric mopeds.  Through the day we drove all over Vientiane.  About halfway through the day Martin’s bike would cut out and then start up again.  Over time it got worse.  We eventually switched bikes, and I couldn’t get it to work at all.  Luckily there was a moped shop across the street (they only had gas-powered mopeds though) and we asked them for help.  They then charged the bike battery for us.  They were very friendly.  One of the women was a mid-30’s woman who lived in Los Angeles for awhile. Her family was from Laos, so she now lives there.  After waiting about 20 minutes for the battery to charge a bit, we headed up and returned the bike to the place we rented from.  Oddly, the charge gauge showed the battery as being fully charged.  We got a new bike, and continued to drive around.  We ate lunch along a lakefront, and explored much of Vientiane.  In the evening, around sunset, our friend Stella arrived into Vientiane for a visa run (from Bangkok), so we met up with her and some of the people who were also on the run with her.  Martin and I returned the bikes, then met the group at the rooftop bar again.

We ate dinner there, and had some (or too many) drinks.  I met a guy from Colorado who just recently started working in Vientiane, and he went to CU Boulder, very close to where I went to university.  He also worked with a few people from CSM, the small university that I went to – small world.  We ended up hanging out there for a few hours, then late at night Martin, I, and a fellow from Australia went to the hostel to and played pool.

The following day we had to wake early because we wanted to head north to Vang Vieng, Laos, a place known for its mountain adventures and drunken slow tubing.  The bus ride there was rough – quite hungover, quite tired, very bumpy, and really cramped.  The entire time I felt like I was going to puke, but somehow survived. Once we arrived, we checked into the first hotel we could and napped for a few hours.  We hadn’t slept much the past 2 nights, and it was nice to have a bed to relax in.  In the evening we headed to an Irish bar nearby for a couple drinks, dinner, pool, and live music.  We ended up meeting a couple people that we had met in Vientiane the previous day.  After a few hours there, we called it an early night to refresh ourselves.

Heading to the Blue Lagoon

Heading to the Blue Lagoon

Vang Vieng is quite beautiful.  It is no wonder it is a tourist town – it is quite small, but there is a lot to do.  We rented like-new, gas-powered mopeds, and drove around the area.  Our first stop was the organic farm, where we knew a couple people were staying.  We drove there, had some fresh juice, talked to the owners, and then left.  The people we were going to meet weren’t around.  When we were leaving, they pulled in, and said they just came from a cave  about 15 minutes down the road.  They said “drive down the road and look for a sign that says ‘big amazing cave'”.  So we did just that.

After turning by the sign, the diry road crosses a wooden suspension bridge, and then T’s.  Left goes to 1 cave, right goes to another (the one they recommended).  We decided to go left to explore.  About 10 minutes down it, the road got really muddy, but we figured we push through it.  Martin nearly slipped off the road into the canal to our right, but somehow he managed to stay on the road.  We were literally lifting our legs straight into the air while sitting on the bike, trying to balance the bike on the slippery road, while slowly handling the throttle.  It was muddy and difficult, but fun.  After about 20 minutes of driving down the road like this, we reached a gate that showed the cave was closed.  It was low tourist season, so very few, if anyone, goes down that road.  Even if it was high season, I doubt many would attempt to go down the road – it was not easy.

So we headed back, and went to the other cave.  This one cut through small Laos villages with little kids bathing in the canal.  We then came upon a little hut with a guy sitting in there handing out flashlights, and charging us a couple dollars to get in.  He said it would take 30 minutes.  So we parked our bikes, and hiked in.  It was a bit scary.  It clearly hadn’t been climbed much recently.  There were massive spider-like insects on the walls.  After spending quite awhile climbing through little holes making our way in as far as possible, we reached a point where we couldn’t go further.  It seemed like we were quite deep into the cave.  We had several flashlights in case a couple burned out.  We then headed back out.  When we reached the light of day, the man was pacing out front.  He said we had been in there for like 1.5 hrs, and was starting to worry.  Nonetheless, we handed the flashlights back to him, and got on our bikes and left.

mud vang vieng

Driving through mud. If you stop, you sink.

We then headed back to the city and tried to cross the river.  However, they charged like $1 every time we crossed, so we headed to get our swimsuit, then crossed.  We wanted to checkout the blue lagoon. After riding down a dusty, bumpy dirt road for 20 minutes, we arrived upon a canal, surrounded by a few hostels and restaurants, along with a decently sized tree that had a larger branch hanging over the canal.  A foot bridge crossed the canal about 30 feet from the tree.  The gap between the tree and the bridge is what is called the “Blue Lagoon” – a large deep hole in this canal.  A couple locals were jumping off the tree into the lagoon, so Martin and I did the same.  It was great.  Aside from a couple locals, Martin and I were the only ones there.  And it was sunset – it was beautiful. After swimming there for an hour or so, we drove back to the town, dropped our bikes off, showered, and then headed out for dinner and to the Irish bar.  It was a nice relaxing night.

The following day we planned to do the infamous tubing.  We woke somewhat early, and made our way to a place that rented tubes.  Prices varied throughout the town.  Once there, we signed some paperwork, got into the back of a truck, and they drove us up the river. Tubing in Vang Vieng is known for partying along the sides, barhopping down the river in your tube.  However, within the last year it has been virtually shut down since too many people were being killed.  There used to be tons of bars, slides, etc. but 32 people died in a year, so someone came in and shut down almost all the bars and removed the slides.  Apparently tourism has dropped a lot since.

In our group there were 2 Canadian guys, 2 people from Texas, Martin, I, and an older man from Estes Park, Colorado (small f’ing world!).  The 2 Canadian guys had owned a couple of the bars along the river, and this was their last time floating down, as they were going back to Canada.  They had lived in Laos for like 6 years running these businesses, making a million+ a year.  It was huge.  All that remained when we went were a few small bars.  The one bar that had ping pong, basketball, beer pong, etc. was packed – almost everyone was there.  After having many drinks at the first bar, we headed to the packed one, and we played ping pong and a few games of beer pong.  Then the Canadian guys led us down to a couple other bars.  By this point everyone was feeling pretty good.  A large portion of the group couldn’t get to the side of the river in time to get out, so they kept floating down.

When we signed the paperwork for the tubes, it was a gimmick.  The price is like $10 for the tube, and a $20 deposit (something like that, though I don’t remember the exact numbers).  The $20 deposit you only get back if you return the tube by 5pm.  At the last bar, we looked at the clock at 4:30pm and decided to leave while everyone else stayed.  We barely made it back in time – which means we were the only ones who got our deposit back.  Everyone else paid the $20 “fine”.  When we got out, we saw the old drunken man from Estes Park along the side.  Apparently he fell off his tube and had a hard time getting out.  He broke his glasses, and looked tired.  I guess he made the mistake of drinking too much and tubing.  Luckily, he was okay.  Martin and I then went and ate some food, and showered. In the evening we walked to a different area of town exploring, and came across an old pool table in an older bar.  There were quite a few people there, and the place smelt like pot.  There were drugs flowing everywhere, but it was a laid back atmosphere – everyone was friendly, and we played pool with a few people there, as well as a bit of foosball.

Exploring Vang Vieng

Exploring Vang Vieng

The following morning we rented mopeds again, and drove up to a different cave (actually 2 next to eachother), which was on the same side of the river as the blue lagoon.  It was off a side road, that was quite narrow, and clearly hadn’t been driven on in awhile.  When we got the end, there was a little house with a guy and his girlfriend/wife, where they charged us a couple dollars, and gave us a flashlight.  We then walked through some farming to get to the caves. Martin and I got lost a bit since there was no trail or anything, so we had to backtrack and go over a different bridge.  Once we were hiking there, an Australian guy we had met the previous day ended up hiking behind us, so he joined up with us to explore the caves. The first cave was quite small, and we made our way through it in 10 minutes.  The second cave was very narrow, so we didn’t push our limits.  After looking around the area a bit, we began to hike out.  We remembered seeing a sign saying something like “can swim in front of cave”.  So on the way out, we jumped in the canal by the caves (though we weren’t sure if that was what we were supposed to swim in).  We didn’t have any swimsuits, so we swam naked.  We jumped off a large tree that hanged over the canal.  It was a nice little break from the heat.  Shortly after, we made our way back to the main dirt road.

Once there, across the way was a small hut with a place to park bikes.  So we stopped, bought some water, played around with a baby monkey, relaxed a bit, and then headed back into town.  We stopped to eat dinner at a place that advertised schnitzels.  It was owned by a Chinese-German man who spoke fluent German, so Martin had a bit of a conversation with him.  He was quite interested in cooking, and described a lot of cool things about the food he makes.  He then discussed some business-related things about Vang Vieng.  The food portions were a bit small, but it was tasty.

Fruit sale in Luang Prubang, Laos

Fruit sale in Luang Prubang, Laos

In the evening we showered, and planned what we would do next.  We decided to catch an overnight bus to to Luang Prubang. We booked through a guy on the side of the street, and he told us to be there around midnight or so.  So after eating dinner, we played some pool, had some drinks, and relaxed.  Around 11:30pm we made our way back to where we were supposed to meet so we could finish our beers and food.  Right when we sat down, the guy drives up on a moped without his shirt on, seemingly drunk, and tells us we need to hurry and that he has been driving around looking for us.  So we rush to get our bags, and throw them into a truck that came along with him.  They take us about 10 minutes to a sleeper bus that is waiting.  It appears full.  Martin and I each have our bags on us, a beer in 1 hand, and food in another.  We hop on, and the guy points to the back.  There were 2 people already sleeping in the back, so somehow we had to fit in.  So Martin and I throw our bags up on to the bed, and sleep between 2 random guys.  For the first hour or so, we were sipping our beers and eating, telling jokes and stories to each other.  It was a bumpy ride, and after an hour I felt a bit sick so we decided to fall asleep for a bit.

We woke a few hours later to the sunrise in Luang Prabrang.  We paid the fees to have a tuk tuk take us to a hostel (note: guys who sit at bus stops must make good money.  They can charge almost whatever they want and tourists have to pay, there is no alternative.  Luckily they still charge a fairly reasonable price).  We ended up going to a small place near the central part of town that had a 2 person private room.  Martin and I quickly jumped on it since we were tired.  Once there, we took a nap for a few hours, woke, showered, and then went and explored the city a bit.

About to watch the sun set in Luang Prabang, Laos

About to watch the sun set in Luang Prabang, Laos

Near the walking street was a small park, and in the middle was a small bar, which had excellent music, a friendly Laos bartender, and cheap, good beer.  We had a few bottles of the dark beer lao, and then walked the street looking at all the goods for sale and sucking in the culture.  We ended up running into a guy and girl that Darunee and I had met in Burma a few weeks before – small world! In the evening we ate at a place near our hostel, and then went to the Utopia bar.  The Utopia bar is the bar in town where everyone goes – it sits along the waterfront, is big, has a great design, and a great selection of beers.  It is a great place to meet people.  I ended up having a conversation with an older Dutch guy who lives somewhere in SEA and we were talking about women and money.  It was a funny conversation, and it was clear he had been around.

The next day we woke and it was raining, but we made our way around town and ate breakfast along the walking street.  We met an Austalian women traveling with her young daughter, and she told us the previous night someone had stolen the moped she rented.  She asked the night before if her hotel could lock it up, and apparently while the security guard was sleeping, someone stole it, and were caught on camera.  Nonetheless, her hotel paid for the bike.  After an excellent breakfast there, we met a group of travelers that suggested going to the waterfall nearby, but with how bad the weather was, we passed it up.  So we went back to the bar in the park for a couple drinks. There we met a few guys who wanted to watch the sunset, which we wanted to as well.  So we hiked up to the top of the hill and watched.  It was cloudy so there wasn’t really a sunset, but the views of the surrounding area were excellent.  It was well worth the 10 minute hike up the stairs (and $1 charge).

After the sunset we ate dinner together, had a couple drinks, and then headed to Utopia again.  We were with 1 Candian guy, 1 Dutch guy, and 1 German, all guys studying engineering. After Utopia, we went drunken bowling, which apparently happens after Utopia closes each night.  It was quite fun, though I got a nasty blister on my foot from bowling in bare feet.  The night ended with all of us crammed into a tuk tuk being driven around town, with 1 guy puking out the back.  I remember searching for a place to eat, but everything was closed.

The very green mountains of Laos.

The very green mountains of Laos.

Our plan was to sleep for an hour or two, and wake up to catch our bus down south, which we had already booked.  However, even though we had both of our alarms up max volume sitting right next to our pillows, we somehow didn’t manage to wake (and the people who were supposed to pick us up didn’t knock on our door). Somehow Martin woke up about an hour late saying we missed our bus.  The plan was to bus south, but in order to do that we had to go back through Vientiane, then catch another bus there.  Because we had booked both buses in advance, and we missed the first one, we immediately booked another one such that we wouldn’t miss our second connection.  So we packed up from our hostel, paid for the new bus ticket, and headed off.  We had to switch vans in Vang Vieng, and ended up riding to Vientiane with what seemed to be a Laos family.  After they dropped each Laos person off, they stopped somewhere in Vientiane and asked where we needed to go.  We showed the our ticket and told them about our connecting bus.  He insisted we pay him another 50% to take us to the bus station.  We were confused, but had little choice.  So he took us there, then asked for money.  We made sure it was the right place before paying him.

There, we grabbed some quick food, then waited for the bus.  It was quite confusing where we were supposed to catch the bus.  They told us slot 21, but slot 21 was already full with another bus going elsewhere, so we wandered the parking lot.  Finally, about 30 minutes later, a bus showed up and it was indeed going south to Pakse (a town southern Laos).  It was a sleeper bus, 2 to a bed.  It is a very tight fit. Martin and I managed to fit into 1.  One English guy near us was traveling alone and ended up having to sleep with an awkward Laos man.  It was hilarious, as was the English guy.  The people across the aisle from us were 1 Canadian guy and 1 Australian guy, who had just met, but luckily got along.  We ended up playing cards for a couple hours while the bus made its way down south.

Eventually we arrived in Pakse, and everyone got off.  While we would have enjoyed exploring the area, we wanted to get to Cambodia as soon as possible since we were running out of time.  So in Pakse, we booked another bus directly south to Phnom Pehn, Cambodia (a 12 hour bus ride). The group of people in the sleeper bus with us were going to the 4,000 islands in southern Laos, so we were on another van with them for a couple more hours.  It was quite entertaining.

Border crossing into Cambodia.

Border crossing into Cambodia.

We eventually made our way to the Cambodian border.  Once there, the driver of our van said to get off, pay the $25 visa fee (actually supposed to be $20, but requires a $5 bribe), then 2 $1 bribes for other bullshit.  Once the first guy collects the $2 for some stamps, we walk about 70 meters across the border to another booth, where you enter Cambodia.  The first counter is a “health check”.  They literally hold some thermometer to your forehead, hand you a sheet with health info, then charge you $1, required.  Then you proceed to another counter, where they issue you the visa.

I passed the guy my passport and payment of $25, then waited.  He grabbed my passport and called me over to a table.  He said my passport was full and he would need another $15 if you wants me to put it on another page (overwrite an existing page).  I told him I had 2 blank endorsement pages, but he refused.  So I was forced to pay another $15 to put a stamp over other stamps.  The border was basically run by a family of Cambodians, and it was totally corrupt.  It is shocking that tons of foreigners go through it everyday, and they steal from each one of them.  It is a shame the government doesn’t do more about it.  It was a bad intro into Cambodia.

Nonetheless, after that ordeal, we got onto a bus which would take us to Phnom Pehn.  I sat next to a Mexican guy who just finished spending a year working in New Zealand.  He had some interesting stories and thoughts.  After many hours driving 25 mph on a dirt road, we arrived in Phnom Pehn in the evening. Several tuk tuk drivers were waiting, so we hoped on the first one along with a Vietnamese guy (who was a paraglider), and the driver took the 3 of us to a place called the Happy House.  It was busy with travelers, the prices were reasonable, and the place looked cool.  It seemed to be owned by a Cambodia guy who definitely enjoyed his pot and alcohol.  He was super friendly, and was passing out joints to everyone there.  I played him a few games a pool, and the deal was if I win, he buys everyone in the room a drink, and if I win, I buy him a beer.  Luckily I didn’t lose.  That night Martin and I relaxed and ate at the hostel.  The next morning, we woke and ate breakfast at a nearby cafe, and then took a tuk tuk to Choeung Ek, the site of a former killing field during the Khmer Rouge.  However, before getting there, we got dropped off at a site that had guns and explosives.  You can rent them and shoot them – everything from RPGs, to grenades, to M60s.  There are even places where you can buy live cattle, and pay like $300 to shoot a rocket at them.  Messed up stuff, but welcome to Cambodia. It has quite the recent history.

Sad remanent of the Khmer Rouge.

Sad remanent of the Khmer Rouge.

The Khmer Rouge was quite the event.  It would definitely be worth stopping what you’re reading right now, and looking into it.  It took place from 1975-1979, right after the Vietnam War (in which Cambodia was heavily bombed), where the leader, Pol Pot, did a mass genocide of Cambodians. 1 in every 3 people, 33% of the country, were murdered.  Some where tortured, others forced single file out of trucks not knowing where they were going, to end up being killed. Choeung Ek is one site of many of the “killing fields”, and it is the most well known.  There are holes still there where people were killed, and trees where babies were beaten to death against.  Bones still lay around the site.  It is open to tourists, and it well worth visiting.  The craziest part of all of this, Pol Pot ended up living along the Thailand-Cambodian border as a free man until his death in 1998, almost 20 years after killing around 3 million people.  He got married and raised a family during this time. This was only 15 years ago! It is absolutely crazy that someone who killed that many people lived free for so long.

After spending a few hours touring that site, we left and headed back into town, and decided to go to the Kingdom Brewery.  There are a few different breweries in Phnom Pehn, but the Kingdom was the only one that we were told we could check out.  It appeared to be mostly closed, but there was still a woman inside, who served us a couple beers for a couple dollars. There was 1 other guy there, who was an American in the military, based in Bangkok, but doing some type of work in Phnom Pehn for a short while. The 3 of us were able to convince the woman to give us a tour of the brewery.  It was quite small, but very neat nonetheless.

After the brewery, our tuk tuk driver took us back toward our hostel, and we had him drop us off near some restaurants.  Once there, we had some excellent food, some drinks, and then walked along the water front. There were so many Cambodians out walking and playing games along there.  It was great to see. After that, we headed back to our hostel, played some pool and relaxed there.  We met some other travelers and had some chats with them. Our plan for the next day was to bus to Siem Reap (which means “Thailand Defeated”).  We got a few hours of sleep, woke early the next day, and after checking out we hopped on a bus to Siem Reap. Because the roads are so terrible in Cambodia, a trip that shouldn’t take more than a couple hours ends up taking all day.

Fruit cart in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia

Fruit cart in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia

We arrived into Siem Reap in the evening.  Like in Phnom Pehn, a tuk tuk driver took us to a place in the central park of town.  The place was nice, and even though we had to pay commission, after a bit of negotiating we got a private room for like $10/night. Once there, we headed out and walked down pub street, which was a 5-10 minute walk away. We had a great dinner there, and then played pool at a place down the street. Once there, we met a group of Danish guys who wanted to go party, so we had more drinks at a nearby bar area (which also had a club).  We seemed to be the only white people in there.  After that, we took a tuk tuk to get some street food somewhere.  It was a pretty strange experience.  I remember seeing a topless older woman dancing, and then a couple lady boys.  One of the Danish guys ended up leaving with the lady boy.  Martin and I then headed back home.

The next day we woke late, and went to the local crocodile farm. I had been to an crocodile farm before back home in Colorado, but this was a different experience.  This was much less regulated.  There were lots of baby crocodiles in buckets when we first arrived. We were the only ones there, and bought a few kg of fish to feed to the crocodiles.  We first went to feed the smaller ones, then to the bigger ones.  You could even buy live chickens and ducks to feed to the crocodiles.  Some of them were massive, and it was quite crowded with alligators.  Afterward, we went into the shop where they sold tons of items made from crocodile skin. It was definitely directed at tourists, as the prices were very high ($300 for a pair of shoes).

Feed the crocodiles

Feed the crocodiles

After the farm, we went to play pool near the pub street. There was a bar on the far end that was always empty, but had great music, 2 decent pool tables, and a good selection of drinks.  It was great for us. In the evening we had dinner on the pub street, and ended up meeting a Russian guy who was very suspicious (wouldn’t tell us what he did for a living, and spoke in a very odd tone).  Later in the night he played pool with us, and when we got into a debate, and he said he had to go to the bathroom but never came back.  We ended up running into him at dinner again the next day – awkward.  After pool, Martin and I got massages along the street.  $1 for 30 minutes, another $1 for 45 minutes and it included a beer.  Done.

Along the pub street are many children begging.  They say they don’t need money, they just need milk, and they take you to a store to buy milk for like $20.  Apparently the manager of the store keeps that money, and the child later returns the product.  I saw a woman carrying 2 kids with another behind her.  When I ran up and told her that it was a scam, the children tried to push me away.  Later that night while eating, Martin and I saw some guy come by and pick up all the children.  They were clearly being worked by someone, probably being paid to sit there all day and drive tourists to that shop to scam them – when all the tourist wanted to do was help.  Such a shame people like that exist in the world.

Inside Angkor Wat - near Siem Reap, Cambodia

Inside Angkor Wat – near Siem Reap, Cambodia

The next day we went to the infamous Angkor Wat. Our plan originally was to wake up early and catch the sunrise there, but after a late night we decided to wake up a couple hours after sunrise and spend the day exploring Angkor Wat.  We had a tuk tuk driver waiting when we woke, and he took us to buy a day pass, and then drove us around.  He would take us to a stop, and then tell us where he would meet us after.  We had as much time as we wanted.  As cool as Angkor Wat is, I think it is highly overrated.  Much of what is there is rebuilt, and it does get very redundant.  Even though we spent only 1 day there (you can buy 3 day and weekly passes), I was quite tired of it by the end of the day.  It was the same things over and over.

In the evening we setup our bus for the next morning back home to Bangkok.  We then played a bit of pool, ate some excellent dinner, and called it a day.

The bus the next morning picked us up near our hostel, then took us to a play where many others were waiting.  The bus then picked us up there and took us to the Thailand border.  The Thailand-Cambodian border is an interesting one – there is a small strip of land where loads of casinos are.  It has a lot of odd laws and whatnot which enable that to happen, and there also tons of scams in the area.  The bus literally dropped us off on the Cambodian side, we waited in line, got the stamp, and walked 500 meters, through the odd strip of land with casinos, and to the Thailand border, where we got another stamp.  A bus on the other side then picked us up, after a long wait.

Crossing back into Thailand, leaving Cambodia.

Crossing back into Thailand, leaving Cambodia.

Though we rushed through southern Laos and Cambodia, it was an excellent trip.  I would love to go back and explore southern Laos more, and explore Cambodia more outside of the 2 cities we briefly saw.  The Laos language was very similar to Thai, and most Laos people could understand Thai and vise-versa. However, Cambodians understood no Thai.  Quite interesting considering both border Thailand – but it has a lot to do with the history of the area.

The trip was fast, as always, but definitely a good one.  It was great to finally be able to travel with Martin, since I had known him for nearly a year and we hadn’t yet traveled together.  If I was to do it again, I’d plan out the route a bit better so we didn’t waste so much time moving between places, and I would have planned a bit of extra time.  Since I had a trip booked back to the US shortly after, we couldn’t extend our trip, and since Martin had to finish his teaching, we couldn’t leave earlier.  Nonetheless, with the time we had, it worked out.  Another excellent trip in the books.