Laos to Cambodia On A Bus
I am going to preface this article by saying I quite like travelling overland on a bus. Yes they can be hot and slow, and usually don’t stop enough for pee breaks but travelling on a bus really gives you an insight to the country and its people…in my opinion its a far more ‘real’ way to travel.
BUT the trip from Champasak was one challenging trip…
We booked what we were told was an international bus from Paske (Laos) to Kampong Champ in Cambodia, as we were staying in Champasak we we told that we did not have go back into Pakse but rather would be picked up in Ban Lak.
Now to get from Champasak we caught a boat across the Mekong (well it was sort of a canoe type thing) and then got in the back of a ute to take us the 3 or so KM to Ban Lak. So far all good.
We were picked up on time by a mini van so we assumed that as it was the quiet season there were not enough passengers for a bus so they were running a min van which had already happened a couple of times on this trip. At this point we were told it was 250,000 kip not 180,000 kip as quoted, when questioned they said the 180 was to 4000 islands – a lie but we shrugged and payed the extra as the mini van was clean, fast and comfortable and we just wanted to get there.
After a stop to drop off / collect passengers from 4000 islands we went to the border where we were dropped off and met by another driver who said he would meet us on the other side after we have cleared customs.
Clearing customs went smoothly – this particular crossing is called a remote crossing, and it really is remote, the Laos office is at least a brick building on the Cambodia side it is just a wooden shack! On the Laos side the officials charge you $2 to stamping your passport and on the Cambodia side you have to pay $1 for a ‘health check’ before they will will process your passport BUT US$25 gets you both your Cambodian visa AND the stamp (or it did the day we were there). Now these ‘fees’ are just how it is in these countries and you know they are going straight in someones pocket but there is no point arguing, of course a couple of the backpackers on our bus had to dispute everything and then claim they had no money..seriously its a few $ and all they achieved was it held everyone else up!
After clearing customs we climbed into an older mini van for the trip south. The road from the border to the closest town (Strung Treng @ 25km) is atrocious. On the outskirts of Strung Treng Cambodia we were loaded on to a very old very dodgy bus which took us to a bus terminal in Strung Treng where we were told to wait for 15 minutes for the next mini van – it was about 2.45pm.
We were still waiting at 5pm…So with no mini van in sight and no desire to arrive at our next destination in the middle of the night we opted out of the trip and found an hotel for the night where we re-organised our onward journey through the hotel.
We were back on a hot old mini van the next day which circled Strung Treng for 2 hours picking up people and goods. The road from Strung Treng to Kratie is ungraded most of the way and pretty rough going (regardless of what a certain guidebook claims). It is sealed after Kratie.
At some point after Kratie we were dropped of at a service station and told to wait, which we did until finally being loaded onto another hot, overcrowded mini-van – we finally arrived in Kampong Champ at 5pm in the afternoon.
This journey is not interesting, it is not pretty, there is nothing to see, and the travel is tough going but we did see a lot of the countryside…