The van pulled into the side road next to a restaurant (of cause) we would make our way down to the boat landing, then left to the ramp, handover our bus tickets and receive a small blue Nakasang-Don Det boat crossing ticket in exchange. Most of the passengers that travelled in the van from Pakse were on the boat that was now weaving its way to the Island.
Our first glimpse of Don Det would be the rusty tin roofs of the restaurants that surround the landing. Your wet feet will carry you to a makeshift timber walkway that crosses the sand, pointing the way to the largest piece of concrete on the Island.
It was here within the first few minutes of our arrival on the Island, that we would meet Darren. He informs us that he has been living on the Island for the last ten years. Originally a sandgroper (a native of Western Australia) he now calls Don Det home. He offered his assistance with anything we needed in regards to transport or accommodation or just information. He pointed out the direction of a couple of the newer two story guesthouses in the vicinity. Then he arranged for us to leave our luggage inside the shop next door, while we went to have a look at a couple of these places.
We would settle on one of these new guesthouses. 180,000 kip a night for air conditioning, cold water and a hard clean bed, they were just far enough away, that we wouldn’t be disturbed by any of the noise coming from the bars.
Over the next couple of days we would explore the Island and its surrounds.
On one occasion while walking along the track we would be startled by a sickening thud, turning around we would see a coconut sitting on the ground only meters from where we had just been. A vessel for pounding rice and a clay oven sits alongside the track. Men in the process of building a traditional long boat take a break. A woman weaves a fish trap, unaware of a prying lens. Futile attempts to hold back a river are inspected by their owners.
It turns out that Darren was the owner of The Street View Cafe. He was in the process of building a new structure that overhung the river. There are many of these being built along the track. He also tells me, that the government owns the first eight meters from the waters edge, “but everybody’s doing it” Then I wonder, what happens when the erosion of the riverbank (that’s quite evident at the moment) comes within the eight meters of the homes on the other side of the track.
He blames the sewers that have been dug out underneath the bungalows as a major cause of this erosion. A boatman would say, swimming after heavy rain wasn’t recommended, now I know why (they won’t be fishes you’ll be swimming with)
The bars on the Island remind me of a poor man’s Vang Vieng and it’s time to move on.
Bus to the Border
A ticket to the Laos/Cambodian border would cost us $5 from Mr Mo’s; this would include the transfer to Nakasang by boat, and then a bus to the border. That’s all we want. We’ll make our own arrangements once we get to the Cambodian border crossing.
Once we get over to Nakasang we make our way to the Nakasang Tourist Bus Terminal, it’s just a short walk up the road. Here they would swap Mr Mo’s ticket for their own and hand us a Visa on Arrival form for Cambodia. Other passengers that booked all the way through with this bus company would be asked for their passports and $30 US for the Visa and a processing fee (the bus companies processing fee) we were not asked for such a fee. The one guy that asked why $30 was given the reason that’s how much it would cost and if he didn’t like it, he could find another bus. Some of these people would pay as much as $90 to get to Siem Reap. It would cost us $28.
Two minivans and one large bus would make the trip to the Nongnoxxheane check point. Here we would grab our luggage and be stamped out of Laos, the fee for this ink would be $2. There was a shady looking guy sitting on a motorbike asking if we were going to Siem Reap, I didn’t answer him, I didn’t think it was any of his business where we were going.
From here we would walk the 50 meters to the boom gates and the Cambodian Border.
First we had to apply for a VOA; this office is located to the right and beyond the boom gates. VOA application form and photo, next back to the boom gate, $25 yes! $25 and we’re done.
Turns out the shady looking guy on the motorbike was Mr Hourt, he was to be our contact at the border for ATV (Asia Van Transport) our van to Siem Reap. He wasn’t shady at all; he was in fact a gentleman. He would sell us tickets from the border to Siem Reap for $23 each.
So that’s, $5 to the border then $23 to Siem Reap, $ 28 all up, not some of the ridiculous prices that others had paid for the same journey.
It was around 12:30, before the 16 seat Mercedes shuttle van would transport my wife and I along with the three other passengers (they had booked the trip. we hadn’t) into Stung Treng. We would wave goodbye to many others that were still waiting for their transportation to arrive.
In Stung Treng we would have some lunch and then wait for the 2 o’clock departure for Siem Reap, ETA 7:30pm.