Published: March 13th 2012February 17th 2012
Waking at 4 am really is not the best time to start the day. But then being piled into a bus, sitting shoulder to shoulder and having to endure full blast Cambodian Karaoke versions of Beyonce songs makes getting that extra bit of shut eye even more difficult.
Add to this the fact that every few seconds the bus driver pushes down the horn. You have to let go of your Western senses that a head on crash is about to happen and trust that the busdriver is just merely warning the slower smaller traffic of his presence.
Suprisingly though, you eventually get used to the chaos and drift off to sleep. Well, as good a sleep you can get sitting upright on a bus. Part way through the bus ride, we discovered that the Scrubba wash bag also works as a great pillow on buses! With the grip surface against the window, it didn't even slid as we drifted off to sleep.
At the border between Laos and Cambodia, there was a bit of trouble as one Dutch tourist started screaming about the injustice of having to pay a departure tax of 2 dollars. For a moment,
it was looking like he could jeapardise the entry for all of us and we'd be stuck at the border over $2?? Yes it probably was an indication of corruption but it's the way it is. Perhaps $2 is a significant amount by local standards but was it worth the trouble it almost potentially caused? Either way, he inevitably lost the battle and left the border calling them thieves. Priorities seemed a little eskew.
At dusk, we arrived at a small village close to the 4,000 islands in the middle of Mekong. We also discovered that there was no ATM in the village or on the islands, or anywhere remotely close. Scrambling through our bag we scrounged up all our Aussie dollars and leftover notes from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. $120 was going to have to last us the next few days!
While a little worried that this may not cover our accommodation, food for three nights and a ticket off the islands, our options were limited so we boarded the boat as the sun began to set. 20 minutes later, we set foor on the island of Don Khon and sought some affordable accommodation.
All worries quickly evaporated as the tranquility of the island set in. None of the usual hawkers, restaurant and shop owners hassling you to buy, buy, buy. Instead, a relaxed atmosphere and extremely friendly and happy locals. We chose a couple of rooms that were surprisingly affordable and overlooked the palm lined river. Time to sit back and suck up the first silence.