Martin's South East Asia Trip chapter 8 - Cambodia


Thai tourer
Jul 22, 2008
Nakhon Ratchasima
Here is the next chapter, from ISAN and into Cambodja. There are pictures updated with comments on my home page if you want to follow the trip.

I went back to South Laos on a rainy day in Isan. As I approached the border the rain stopped. It was a non trouble border crossing back to Laos where it took me half an hour with the Laos immigrant office. The officers in Laos were more interested in making money and watching TV then check me in. I bought an insurance as all international don't work in Laos and if something happens with all the kids on the road you ought to be insured. I received a note saying that I am insured in Laos language. Good to have an inexpensive!

Back to Laos the roads were full with life again but in quite good condition actually. I drove up to the Mekong and crossed it on a nice new bridge. Landed in the town Pakse where I make it for the night. There was a nice modern castle buildt on the edge of town by a prince aome yers ago. It was now converted to a luxury Hotel with grand rooms and all you could wish til the facile price of 30 US$. I took a walk in town, had some good dinner and a massage at the Hotel before I laid my head on the pillow.

Next day was headed south towards Cambodia. As usual in Laos no signs, I followed the main road which was headed East before I recognised I was going the wrong way. Never mind, I got to see some places I would not see else and found a nice cafe with a view over a water fall. This however made me to take a decision to stop on the 4000 island. I found a small ferry (see pictures) and went over to an Island where I found a really good place in colonial style but modern where I could spend the night and also get to wash off my bike that was really dirty by now. There are so much good places in Laos if you enter more touristic areas.

I had a good nights sleep with the sound of Mekong outside and started up in the morning by making a couple of kilometers to the Cambodia border. No problems, doing some paperwork in Laos Eexit and Cambodia enter point (there was a couple of kilometers between the stations). Then it was nothing, just forrest and a house once and a while. I actually saw a naked woman walking on the road, probaply going for a shower on the usually empty road. First town I hit was Stung Treng, probaply the dirties town I ever seen with a open place in the middle of town with garbage all over the place. The town was small and smell, I was beginning to doubt if Cambodia was something for me.

I continued to the next town which was Kratie and followed the (old) road along the Mekong river with lots of life and people everywhere, it felt like more urban than Laos but at the same time more unorganised. Kratie was about the same as Stung Treng but I was forced to stop as it's beginning to get dark. The river road was slow. I walked around the town which was a chaotic place. You can really see the lack of education by the way they run their cities. Garbage, dirt and holes everywhere in the streets. I can't say I even found it interesting, mostly unpleasant. I started up quite early next day and the plan was to go down to Vietnam just for a short visit to Saigon and the coastline. I was encouraged by the easy border crossing elsewhere and should test the possibilities.

After two days on the border including one tour to Phnom Penh for VISA and a night in a surrealistic "Las Vegas" environment it was clear that Vietnam did not want me to enter. It was possible, but it had to be prepared a couple of weeks in advance and you need a drivers license and special permissions that is not guaranteed. At the Vietnam embassy in Vientienn where I asked for procedure they told me to just go to the border. But for the adventurer, get prepared and with all the papers in order there is a nice road from Pakse in Laos to a Vietnam border station. It's doable, just that I didn't want to wait for a week on the border. Las Vegas, by they way was a Hotel town close to the border in best Las Vegas style made for travellers coming by bus from Vietnam to gaming in Cambodia, the night at a Casino Hotel with Vietnamese is worth a story of its own. but I leave that for now.

So I get back a bit disappointed to Phnom Pen, I don't know what it was but I fell in love with that town. I stayed for nearly a week enjoying myself with nice locals and good living. Phnom Pen was not even close to the dirty eastern towns even if there was a "backyard" where the UN money did not reach. But the vibes in town and the places was tremendous, I think we can see a new grand tourist town here. I also learned about the Cambodia story during this week and saw the traces after the Khmer rouge. The best word I can find is tragedy. This is what can happens when extreme politics got support in any country. We seen it in Europe with Hitler and we seen it here with Pol Pot, tragic! And the Cambodian people still have a long way to go until they are back on track. They badly need our help. I really recommend a visit to Phnom Pen. It's less poor than Laos but more chaotic.

After the up-shaking experience of Phnom Pen I headed west towards the coast and "Riviera" of Cambodia, namely Sihanoukville from where I was planning to go North and back to the Thailand island along the coast up to Bangkok. It was amazing how all the roads close to Phnom Pen was a disaster but a couple of miles from town was really good.

That was it for today, hopefully see you again next week.