The tuk tuk driver showed up promptly at 7:30 a.m. We went to the head office of Asia Van Transfer where a Spanish hippie explained exactly how it was going to work getting across the border to Laos. He had a binder with photos of the border crossing, the minivans, the rest stop and explained the process in excruciating detail. So much the better.
I piled into a minivan with about 8 other people all backpackers and we set forth to the Laotian border. The road was good but it was crowded. I prefer a bus to a minivan, I decided.
We made a rest stop after 3 hours and after another 2 hours stopped for lunch in Stung Treng.
Despite the morning briefing, no one remembered every detail of the plan but together we pieced it all together and remained absurdly confident it would all work out.
Back in the Day
Once upon a time, backpacking was a more convivial experience where you swapped stories shared tips and bragged about how cheap your last hostel was. No more. Now everyone is lost in there own digital world, their heads buried in their smartphones, not talking or interacting with other people on the trip.
The Border Crossing
After about an hour we left for the Laotian border packed into another minivan with even less space. We bounced along for about another hour over a road that was not so good at all. Then it took about another hour to exit Thailand and enter into Laos with a lot of formalities stamping of passports and extra fees that were clearly not official. The Spanish hippy had warned us about this though.
The embarkment point for the boats to the 4000 islands was a dusty disorganized strip of riverfront. We finally got it sorted out which boat I should be on I climbed into the boat.
Sunset on the Mekong
Gliding down the Mekong River at sunset surrounded by innumerable lush islets and islands was unforgettable. It made the whole uncomfortable day more than worth it.
Night had just fallen when we docked in Don Khone. I was happy that a local stepped up to call the guesthouse as it would have been tough to wheel my suitcase on a rough road. I remembered the advantages of a backpack.