Based on advice from a fellow traveler, we decided to book an organized ticket all the way from the island of Don Det in Laos to Kratie in Cambodia via the border crossing at Voen Kham. This included a boat to the mainland, a deluxe mini bus to the border and an AC coach bus the rest of the way. Pretty much the only thing that was as advertised was the five minute boat ride.
After arriving on the mainland, we had to wait with dozens of other tourists heading all over Laos before boarding our cramped minivan for the hour trip to the border. Our first task was getting an exit stamp from an office located in an old train car. The stamp was supposed to be free but because it was a weekend the corrupt stamp-giving men decided that there was a $2 per person fee.
Next, we walked through a gate onto a 500 meters long road that was neither in Laos nor Cambodia. Why they couldn’t just put the two country’s offices next to each other we will never know. Anyway, once in Cambodia we had to get a visa on arrival from a dinky shack off to the side. Next, we walked to another shack to get our entry stamps.
It literally took three men to give us our stamps. One person checked the visa, another collected more corrupt money and a third one’s sole job was to make sure that the first guy had actually stamped the passport. Unreal. Finally, we had to fill out a health declaration form stating that, as always, we had no contact with swine flu. However, this time the guy at the health office asked for our immunization history cards…good thing I had ours in my bag.
In all our travels around the world, this is the first time anyone has ever asked for our cards. The best part…he just glanced at them and gave them back. No checking to make sure we had the proper shots or anything; I guess he just wanted to make sure we had them?
Finally a legal visitor to Cambodia, we found a bus waiting on the side of the road. After talking with other travelers heading to all parts of the country we determined that we were all supposed to get on, but there was no driver to confirm this for another half hour.
Shocker, the mystery bus had no AC and only took us as far as a nearby town before we had to wait for more than an hour for the travel agency staff to figure out where everyone was heading and put us on yet another hot and stuffy bus to conclude our journey. I would say I was shocked by all of this, but by now it is really just standard operating procedure.
To walk through the whole border crossing process, just click the first image then use the on-screen navigation to go through them all.
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