4000 Islands and the border crossing to Cambodia

Another 17-hour ride south takes us to a place commonly called 4000 Islands. It may sound like sandy beaches and palm trees – slightly confusing, considering that Laos is a landlocked country – but in fact it is thousands of little bushes floating on the Mekong river, with a few bigger islands including Don Det, where we stayed for a night. It is nice to explore the islands by bicycle and relax, but except for this, it seems the main activities here are drunk tubing, eating “happy” pizzas and drinking “happy” shakes. The place has obviously become more interesting to people looking to get high or shitfaced, which does not really correspond to our current mindset. Also, we may be unlucky but most of the locals we deal with are rather unfriendly and couldn’t care less about their customers. Still, we manage to make the best out of our day there, get a bicycle and go see some waterfalls, enjoy yet another sunset, and chill on the hammock.

We decide not to spend more time around here and leave the next day for Cambodia. But before getting there, there’s the infamous border crossing to experience! It’s a whole story, but made short here’s what happens: when exiting Laos, you’re asked for 2$ for the exit stamp, going straight into the pocket of the border guard. Then, you walk the 500m to the Cambodian border, where they direct you towards a booth with a lady handing out “health questionnaires” that ask you whether you’ve experienced diarrhea or vomiting in the past weeks (Seriously? We’re traveling in South-East Asia and eating street food everyday, you think you get constipated with this?). Anyway they don’t care about the answers, they just ask you for 1$ of service fee for handing out the piece of paper. We somehow manage to avoid that one by showing our vaccination booklet. Then you go to the visa booth where they ask you for 35$ of visa fee (official fee is 30$). We try arguing a bit but rapidly give up – luckily because a guy after us pushed it too far and a serious fight almost broke out. Lastly, the entry stamp is supposed to cost you 2$ again, but that day the officer apparently felt like he’d ripped off enough people and didn’t charge us. He nevertheless wouldn’t believe that it was Quentin on his passport picture, but gave up after some time and threw the passport into Quentin’s face…

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Quentin doesn’t like corruption… but yay we’re in Cambodia!
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