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Notes from a Wandering Daydreamer Life as it should be...

farewell laos, hello cambodia..

THAILAND | Wednesday, 8 August 2007 | Views [729]

well once again I find myself for some reason in the grimy hole that is Bangkok. For the third and final time I have to endure the relentless offers of tuk tuks, taxi, suit and god knows what else, dodging manic traffic and choking on the pollution. This city seems to be like one giant magnet that pulls everyone towards it, me included.

However the news is not all bad, for tomorrow night I meet the people that I will be heading to Cambodia with the following morning.
I arrived only 7:30 thismorning, after a long 24hours journey from Don Det island which is on the middle of the mekong river, right on the border of Lao and Cambodia. [yeah, it does seem silly to have to come all the way back to bangkok when i could have just swam a couple hundred metres to cambodia, but then again i would probable have stood on a landmine the minute i got there]

I'll take it back a few days.......... After a boring wait in the boring town of Pakse, I caught the bus down to Nagasan where boats left for the islands. The area is called four thousand islands, because in the dry season when the river is low, there are thousands of little islands and sand banks - 4000 i'm lead to believe - however during the monsoon season - now - all you can see of most of these islands are the tops of trees poking out of the water. it's amazing that they can hold on for so long under such a torrent of water. some trees were really big and tall, while others looked only small.

I arrived on Don Det, one of the larger islands to find that it did infact have electricity and internet. i later went to use the internet, but after the guy had started the generator, he couldnt get the sattelite dish to work, so I didnt bother, and gave into the new sensation of no outside contact.
There isnt much to do on Don Det except lounge in hammocks with a good book. The next day I was going to hire a bike and go exploring the island, but of course it decided to start pissing down rain all morning, and when it finally stopped in the afternoon, all the paths [no roads] were puddles of water and mud. Netherless I paid my 8,000 kip for a bike (nearly $1US) and headed off. There is an old abandoned railway from one end of the island, down to the other end, over a small bridge to the next isalnd and it ends at a long since abandoned landing pier. In fact, it is the only railway ever built in Lao, [by the french] and it last ran in the 1940s. All that was left now is a VERY rocky road and the bridge. Although the view from the road was very beautiful, i didnt get much of a chance to take it all in, as the shoddy old bike i was on wasnt the best vehicle for a track that was either big rough rocks or large puddles and mud.
On the way I met a guy called Aek, who was out for a bit of a ride. He had grown up on Don Det and took me on a shortcut accross the island to see the waterfalls. Even he wasnt exacatly sure where we were going, as we rode into the thick jungle on a barely used track. we came to a farm growing stickyrice and had to hoist our bikes over the fence. the noise of the falls kept growing and growing, and eventually we came out on a better used road and passed a foreigner, so I we knew we were close.
The falls were absolutley amazing. The land between Lao and Cambodia drops at this point, and this causes massive rapids as the mighty mekong thunders down over rocks. Standing nearby you could feel the sheer power of the water flowing down over the rocks. The roar was so loud, but even more amazing were the local fisherman, who venture out and set traps in these rapids. To go to that much danger to catch fish, you must love your seafood....

The next day it rained even more, and the river started to rise. I had heard that there was flooding in India, so I hoped the same wouldnt happen here. I was also out of clean clothes, and had even gone through the dirty ones a 2nd time, so I decided to pack my bags and head back to Bangkok a day early.

I was lucky because it was not raining the next morning, so I got to enjoy the 20min boat trip to Nagasan where the bus back to Pakse left. There seems to be no concept of bus stops here. The bus [a big truck with benches in the back] drives along blaring his horn, and if you want to get on, you run out and try to stop it.
From pakse to the Thai border I shared another bus with a few locals, a couple hundred egg cartons and a single chicken sitting under my seat. I was a bit worried for the chicken's sake...


Crossing into Thailand was a bit of a strange experience. I had to walk a few hundred meters up the hill in the rain, got stamped out of Lao, but before I left I knew that i had to exchange my kip to bhat, as kip is worthless outside Lao. I got to the thai border without finding anywhere to exchange, so i headed back to the Lao point to try again. I was getting worried, as I was in no-mans-land, wondering about in the rain. Eventually i found the exchange hidden away at the back of the building in a corner. I dont think they wanted it to be found. Then I made my way back towards Thailand.
The point of crossing into Thailand was quite bizzare. you had to go through a strange walkway similar to that of the cattle pens at the saleyards, and without realising it, i almost fell flat on my face from Lao into Thailand. The border was simply a single metal bar at shin height cutting across the pathway. Is it to stop people in wheelchairs fleeing the country maybe???

The difference in crossing the border was amazing. while everything had seemed so cheap and underdeveloped in thailand before, suddenly it was all so expencive and well devolped. new roads, new cars, traffic lights.... english signs.

Anyway, I got on a bus which I was led to believe was headed to Ubon Rathathani, where the train station was. I dont know where it took me. When we got out, a sangthew picked us up to head to the station, which I assumed would be 5min away. I have never been in such a crammed sangthew. at the front were a heap of little kids, in the middle me and some other thai adults, and at the back and hanging out the rear were a heap of teenagers who seemed to be cadets in the army or police by the look of their uniform. Although we were jammed full, we still stopped to pick up more people...who sat on the roof.
An hour later, just as it was getting dark, I saw a sign saying that we were still 20km from Ubon. I still have no idea where I had just been. After a while longer, the truck stopped in the middle of nowhere.... the driver had to take a pee on the side of the road. when he came back and tried to start the engine...nothing. flat battery. we all piled out and had to give it a push start down a dark highway, somewhere in eastern thailand. luckily it started again.
just as my hope was fading, we pulled into the station and i managed to get a sleeper ticked to bangkok, and the train left in 30 min. talk about timing. There were a group of foreigners infront of me buying tickets and it suddenly occured to me that i had not seen another foreigner all day. [now i cant go 1 minute without seeing a foreigner here]

well thats about all i can think of from the past few days. now i have 2 days to rest and recover before doing it all again in cambodia...

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