Long Way to Laos

Though we planned to leave after one month in Cambodia it was easy to procrastinate a few more days before booking an ambitious overland border crossing, that would take us from Siem Reap to Vientiane, Laos. We both suffered from colds while in Cambodia. James’ came on first starting with a fever and he took antibiotics which cleared everything up but mine developed gradually and I got progressively worse though not bedridden. The night before we left for Laos I had a low fever and I threw back a few acetaminophen (Tylenol), making sure I had plenty for the 20+ hour journey ahead of us.

It was a bad sign when the 4am van arrived over an hour late to pick us up. The van drove us about 2 hours before dumping all of us, wordlessly, at a roadside where we got on a new van. We drove for 4 hours until making a lunch stop in a town not far from the Cambodia/Laos border. At this point my fever had probably broken 100 and all I wanted to do was sleep away the painful throbbing that had developed behind my right eye. During our "rest stop" James tried to persuade me to eat something but I refused, choosing to sleep in the van instead and clutching my ginger ale substitute, Sprite. After another 1.5 hours drive our group of 12 people crossed the border, bags in tow, without any complications. Waiting at the Laos border was a new van and driver. Everyone else was going to Si Phan Don (“Four Thousand Islands”) and trouble started when we told the driver we were “booked” to go straight to Vientiane through Pakse. The driver spoke absolutely no English but made it clear that he would only take us to the same location as the rest of the group, Ban Nakasang. James argued with the driver and we called the agency that sold us our tickets, who basically told us “yes, yes, yes” go with the driver.

After the rest of the group got off at the ferry crossing for Si Phan Don, we were driven up the road to a “guesthouse” where James and I were told to get out of the car. Yelling, cursing and delirious, we were abandoned at a seemingly empty guesthouse. Our Cambodian sim cards no longer worked, so without phones or internet we had no choice but to sit and wait – relocating with our bags was not an option for me. I wish I could say that we banded together in our misery but that was not the case. After arguing about how we wound up in this miserable place we stopped speaking to one another as the crazy resident dog ran in circles around us barking nonstop.

Eventually a man drove up to the house and explained in a few words of English that we were to spend the night there at his guesthouse (not for free) and tomorrow we could board a bus for Pakse – he would even drive us to the bus station in the morning. That evening James ventured down the road to buy food, new sim cards and fluids for me but his English was greeted with blank stares and silence. Thankfully he succeeded in getting a dinner of fried rice and sodas. We had a terrible night’s rest on the thin foam cot and I felt my fever climbing but I really didn’t want to prolong our time in Ban Nakasang.

We woke up early for our ride to the bus station only to learn that the owner of our guesthouse ALSO ran the bus station and our bus to Pakse wasn’t for another 4 hours.  We were not amused that the guesthouse we were stranded at was owned by the same person we now had to buy new bus tickets from even though we paid for “straight-through” tickets.  Hmmm, welcome to Laos!  

Our only pictures from this bitter stop is this Instagram video James made.