Laos & Thailand. Day 1

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For details of the places I visited in Vientiane and Bangkok, with GPS Coordinates, see my books Vientiane: 20 Must See Attractions and Bangkok: 20 Must See Attractions.

Wow, time flies. Been over a year already in Cambodia. I read that Laos is cheaper to live in than Cambodia, as well as easier to extend your visa. I am currently on a work visa that is valid for one year, and expires in a month.

Cambodia immigration law allow you to be on a work or business visa for the first year without having a work permit as you are essentially looking for work. However, to extend my work visa, I will have to get a work permit. The permit itself is $100 a year, but you have to pay back fees for your previous years. That coupled with that I do not work for a company, means I will need to pay additional fees to “brokers”. Basically people that set up a front company and then say you work for them. Or I can form my own company, at some cost, in addition to the work permit fees and other “admin” fees.  But then I would need to pay tax.

Considering that I am already paying 30% tax to the USA government and I do not even live there, I am not keen on the tax thing.

So, if Laos is cheaper or the same price as Cambodia, I may move there as their visa is easy. $2 a day and that is it. Cambodia has also upped their visa fees. It used to be $20 a month for a tourist visa, but is now $30, however, they add processing fees of $7 on top of that, plus if you renew you have to pay additional admin fees, that comes to $48 a month. They did leave the year business visa for now at $285 a year, but with the added work permit fees and hassle of setting up a company or paying someone to give me a work letter, it works out closely the same if i do a business visa for the year, or go with a month to month tourist visa. I am also not keen on committing another year in Cambodia.

With a tourist visa, i will have to do border runs every 3 months, but it is not so bad.  I decided to bite the bullet and head to Vientiane (capital of Laos) to check it out. Last time I spoke to the travel agent and asked if he has buses to Vientiane, he said “Laos no problem, bus $22.” So I recon for $100 or so, I can be in and out in a few days and see if it is feasible to live in Laos, before i pack up and go there. Unfortunately, I forgot the golden rule in South East Asia, and that is that you are in South East Asia.

So with my mind made up, and my spirit high, I head to the travel agent I have used a few times before. I sit down and with a smile say, “a ticket to Vientiane.” His response is glistening eyes as he starts writing the bus ticket, then he stops and asks, “mini van or large bus?”

“What’s the difference in price?” “Only $2, worth it,” he goes. Shrugging my shoulder I agree. Might as well travel in a smaller van. Less people to persuade when you want the driver to stop for a restroom break (tree alongside the road).

$48 he goes, holding the ticket out to me. “It’s return right?” I ask as I take the ticket. “No, one way Vientiane,” he laughs. I am taken back a bit as this adds about $50 to the trip i did not recon in. “But you said around $22 a few days ago when I asked you.”  “Yes yes, Laos $22,” he goes.

So if you say you want to go to Vientiane and they respond with a price and say Laos the country and not the town you want to go to, they mean they can get you into the country for that price. “Where does the bus go for $22?”  “Oh, 4000 islands.” He smiles.  I drop my shoulders, 4000 islands is just across the Laos border, about 900km from Vientiane. Biting my lip, I pay the $48 for my “though bus” to Vientiane, having no idea what adventure would await me. Before i leave, i ask. “How long is the bus ride.” “24 hours” he goes. That was technically sort of correct i would later find out.

I go home and pack light as normal, my bus is to leave at 6:30 am, so i will be picked up at 6, thus i have to get up at 4:30 to get ready and walk to the pickup point. Had i stayed in a hotel they would have come to pick me up, lucky me.

Note: The first day of actual travel is a long day and post, so i split this section into its own post.

Kampot, Kep, and Sihanoukville. Day 9

Start of trip || <

For details of the places I visited in Kampot, Kep, and Sihanoukville, with GPS Coordinates, see my book Kampot, Kep and Sihanoukville.

Last day of my trip around Sihanoukville. Got up early and booked a ticket on a sleeper bus from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap. I have heard horror stories about them, and decided to give it a go. I mean, how bad can it be? And then I remember the bus I passed when I started this trip. Gulp.

I love my oats and brought some with, as it also saves a bit of money. After a nice bowl of oats, I drive around town a bit and walk around the market, then find a gold mine. A shop selling sandwiches, wine, and chocolate ice cream. I am so saved. Not the wine, the ice cream. I would go for vanilla out of desperation, but being able to get chocolate ice cream, oh man.

I decided to go and see one of the beaches again, and had a nice early lunch on the beach. Luckily the two stroke wave runners that everyone talks about that pollutes the air, were not running.


I drive around a bit after lunch and spot this interesting shrine, right across from a casino.


Not too many of these statues around on display.

After some more driving around i spot a small beach and manage to snap this picture of some one else’s bike.


Going around to some of the more secluded beaches I find this little spot, complete with a boat would you wish to sail away. I was tempted to sail to Cayman and say hi to the people there, really I was.

As it is getting late, I head back to the bike shop, return the bike and get my passport. From there i make another stop at one of the dive shops in the road. Now in Cambodia, if you want to tell customers you are better than another dive shop, you just put up a sign with your air quality.

Nice to know you get clean air. Note, the date on the sign is the test date, I visited the place in October 2014.

From the dive shop I decide to get an early dinner, as well as a sandwich for the road as it is an overnight bus. There is a subway like shop in the backpacker road, so I get my self a foot long sandwich and have them divide it in half and wrapped separately. The foot long actually turned out to be two single rolls, so it worked out nicely.


From the sandwich shop it is around 2 miles to the travel agent, and my bus is to pick me up in just over two hours. Thus I slowly make my way to the travel agent. However, I arrive there way ahead of time. Hanging around with nothing to do, I start writing on my iPad at the one travel agent’s desk. I think I must have annoyed her, as she gives me a place at one of the computer terminals they rent out, for free. Using Dropbox for syncing, it is easy for me to swap devices and keep on working on the same files. Thus I continue to write. My backpack with my waterproof motorcycle rain jacket is under the table in front of me as I hammer away at the keys.

About 10 minutes before my scheduled pickup point, a lady comes over to me and urges me to run for my bus. I grab my backpack and stuff may rain jacket in one of the side straps and head for the door. At the door, the lady points to a bus around 300 meters down the road, ready to pull away. Hurry hurry, your bus leave. She goes. I run my ass of while waving as the bus driver gets into the bus. With an annoyed look he waits for me. In the run, I pull my ticket from my cargo pants side pocket and hold it out to the driver as I hop into the bus.

“Wrong bus.” He goes and hands my ticket back. Biting my lip i slowly get off the bus and join a number of other backpackers waiting alongside the road, at another travel agent. By now it is dark and it starts to rain. I watch as my wrong bus pulls away, and then reach for my rain jacket. My heart drops to my feet. My rain jacket is gone. I throw a glance to the road up to the other travel agent, but without proper street lights, I can see nothing. The bus is by now so far away, that had i lost it on the bus, it is too late. I start to slowly walk up the road to see if I lost it on the run down, just as another bus pulls up. The conductor calls for all people to get in the bus as they are apparently late. At a crossroad now, i way my options. A bus ticket is $24 and the jacket was $50 and is my best and only rain jacket I have, but I have no idea if it is not maybe on the other bus.

With a heavy heart I turn around and head to the bus. I loved that jacket. Bought it in Saigon when I did the Vietnam ride, and it has served me well. Maybe one day, when I can go to Saigon again, I will replace it. I hand my large backpack to the driver to put into the cargo hold, and keep my small backpack with my wallet and iPad with me. The bus is a sleeper bus, but make no mistake, it is by no means comfy. Basically you have the size of a normal bus seat for each person to sleep in, with two people sleeping side by side. A narrow corridor that you negotiated sideways, runs the length of the bus. My bed is a bottom bunk, and is actually on the floor. The top bunk above me is so low, that to get in, I have to go down on my hands and knees, and then almost roll in.

However, I am to not share my space with one person, oh no, in standard Cambodian way, I share it with two. A dad and his kid. Nice people, but really no space for two, let alone three.

It is something different to lie on a floor with a piece of glass next to you that your are squished against. I was just hoping the window does not break or pop out. Now, as riding on a bus and also and airplane goes. The more difficult it is to get to a restroom, the more your bladder wants to go. I was however thankful of the arctic ice wind coming from the aircon, as the bus smelled of urine. Luckily, before my bladder was to burst, we made a rest stop. 15 minutes we are told. The bus company was nice enough to give each of us a plastic bag to put our shoes in, so that we do not bring mud into the bus and onto the bedding, however since my shoes are hiking boots, it takes me about 5 minutes to get it on and lased up. So I just push the lases into the side of the boots and go with it. While the other people get overpriced rice and chicken dishes, I sit down to enjoy my sandwich. As I unroll it, my mind wonders if maybe I should not get and overpriced meal. Never have them put tomato on a sandwich if you are not going to eat it immediately. I pick up the soggy bread, close my eyes and go for it. There is almost no need to wash it down with water.

Soon we are back in the bus, and we cut through the darkness with constant honking of the bus driver and other drivers as they narrowly miss each other and play the game of chicken on the death road. (Section between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap at night). I sleep a bit easier, knowing that being right by the window, maybe I will get thrown through the window in and accident and make it. I hook my backpack around my shoulder so it goes with me if I go though the window. As the miles drift by, my bladder fills up. I think there must be some sync between guys, as I start to hear whispers of “any one else need a toilet” followed by yes, and me too. Ganging up, we ask the driver to stop, and reluctant he pulls over alongside a small roadside market with a few stalls. I think it was around 4 am or something. I ask the driver where the toilet is, and he just shrugs his shoulders. Desperately i scan the small structures as I make my way though the silent market to the back. Eventually, not being able to hold it anymore, I select a desolated semi dark area and slip it out. Just as I am about to let the full force of my Jedi wand go, a soft voice asks behind me. “Did you find a toilet.” “Nope.” I manage to get out as tears fill my eyes while I clench my jaw. “Oh sorry.” The girl says and scurries away while glowing red hot. Relieve floods my body as I let go. Just as I relax, the shop that I am standing at starts to open. Shit. Mid stream a spin around and make it just around the corner as the front is opened. At this point I have to put all my focus on not laughing as a string of angry Khmer words come from the front of the shop, thus I have no way of stopping the flow and just hope the owner does not look around the corner.

Finally about 2 liters lighter, I pack it away, get a small water bottle from my backpack’s side pocket and wash my hands, then sneak around the other side of the small structure and through the rest of the market towards the bus. My bed mates are fast asleep. So I have to press my back against the underside of the top bunk as I on all fours scrape over the guy and his kid. Mid way through he turns around in his sleep and elbows me in the nuts. Streams of water fill my eyes as my breath escapes my lungs and I almost drop down on him. With a ploff I managed to miss him and drop into my little space next to him and bounce against the window that a was sure was going to pop out. Sleepily he lifts his head, sees it is me, and then go back to sleep. I have the overwhelming urge to massage my jewels, but fear it may arise the wrong thoughts if someone sees me, so I just lie back and wait for the pain to subside.

About half an hour later, I managed to fall asleep and actually make it right through until sunrise. Lazily the countryside passes by as we make our way to Siem Reap. The bus normally stops at the bus stop that is about 5km out of town, and it normally costs around $4 or so to get to town. However, the bus company decided to get kickbacks, so now they stop at random spots and have only their Tuk Tuks there to pick you up. As luck would have it, the bus stops about 2km out of town, 5 minutes walking distance from my home. Ha ha ha, wicked. I grab my stuff and walk on. By the time I turn off the main road and into the side road leading to my place, the first overpriced Tuk tuks make it past me.

It has been an adventure, but I am so glad to be home. A quick shower, and then I hit my bed. What is it about sleeping on a bus that tires one out so much?





Kampot, Kep, and Sihanoukville. Day 8

Start of trip || < || >

For details of the places I visited in Kampot, Kep, and Sihanoukville, with GPS Coordinates, see my book Kampot, Kep and Sihanoukville.

I decided to go and see the waterfall that is a few km out of town. The hotel manager gave me some directions, and i also have directions from a blog post that i found online. So there is virtually 100% chance of me getting lost. 🙂

The road is nicely tarred, with no potholes, so i gun the motorcycle as much as the 125cc can go. Just as i was starting to enjoy myself. I come to a traffic jam. I open my visor, and hear shouting coming from the end of the line as i pass the vehicles on the shoulder of the road. I recon it must have been an accident and everyone is blaming everyone else. Wrong, there are blaming, but not an accident. I just ran into a protest.

Locals have been protesting for some time of being kicked off their lands by the government that sold the land to large cooperations. I stop near the front and take some pictures, as things start to heat up and tires start to burn. A local reporter comes up to me and explains what the protest is about and we talk a little. As things get more serious, i decide to leave. Not because i feel i am in danger that the locals will turn their anger to me, but more because i do not want to be there when the police show up. I have seen in newspapers how the police and locals negotiate, and i am in no mood for WWIII.

It has rained on and off for the past two days, and the grass on the side of the road is a mess. Not that it stops me, it just showers everyone behind me in mud as i slide the Honda motorcycle on its chassis through the mud with the back wheel in full swing. Mmm, maybe it is better i do not return until the protest has been cleared up and those with mud on their faces have cleaned up.

Driving on, i see the mile marker the blog post talked about, but no side road. I drive up and down for 10 minutes, looking for the side road that is 1km from the mile marker as given, even going as far as 5km down the road, but alas, nothing. Eventually i stop at a roadside restaurant, get a can of soda, and do what few men do. I ask for directions. Yes, sometimes i show my feminine side. It turns out who ever wrote the blog post had no idea of distance. The turn off is about 7km past the mile marker the blog post directions said. That’s why i love to give GPS coordinates in my books, so much easier.

Right, off i go again, and yes, around 7km later, i find the turn off. The road is just a dusty dirt road, so i stop at the first roadside shop i get to and let my feminine side come out again. Yes, i am on the right road. The view along the road is stunning, and I snap a few pictures. A few km later, I come to a ticket office and pay my dues for the privilege of seeing the waterfall. I take in the  scenery as I continue onwards.

Soon i come to a lone biker in the middle of the road, waving me down. The poor guy is so overloaded with stuff. He motions for me to go around him and look at  something. As i slowly pass him, i  realize his predicament. Some of the stuff had fallen off, and he is so overloaded that he cannot get down and pick it up again. I help him out for the price of a picture, and help him rearrange the items so that it does not fall off again. Thankful, the guy speeds off while i drive slow to enjoy the countryside.

Eventually i arrive at the start of the waterfall.  There are a number of restaurants that are starting to open up, and a small bridge that leads to the other side. As i snap a few pictures, i notice the biker i helped before, casually riding over the bridge with his delivery load. What a job.

There are actually a number of waterfall steps, with the first one nice, but not nearly as good as the last one.

I decide to head over the bridge to go and see the main waterfall. Just as I am happily walking on the narrow bridge, I hear hooting behind me. As I turn around, a local is zooming towards me on his scooter. With nowhere to go, I shuffle to the edge and suck my stomach in while the guy non fazed blasts past me.

There are a number of places you can sit or lie in a hammock, as well as a few Khmer restaurants.

Second waterfall. The path leads all along the river, and at times you have to negotiate wooden steps that are wet and slippery.

I follow the path down, and come to a large rock that is right by a waterfall. The rock is moss covered and soaking wet from the spray of the waterfall. I inch carefully forward with the grace of a Rhinoceros. For a split second i see two strange brown things in front of my eyes. By the time my brain registers its my shoes, my ass hits the rock and I slide towards the edge of the rock. With my iPad in one had (sealed in a lifeproof case) I desperately try and arrest my body’s motion of taking a bath. Right at the edge as my feet slip over the edge of the rock, i manage to grab a hold on a branch from a nearby tree. Hanging by one hand and half an bum, I carefully inch my butt a little back until i feel i can breathe again. With my feet dangling over the edge and me still hanging onto the branch, i decide it is the perfect opportunity to snap a closeup of the waterfall.

With my prize shot picture taken, I drag myself back onto the rock and then hands and knees make my way back to safety. After kissing the moss covered rock about four times as I lose my footing, I manage to make it back to the path. I take a big breath and compose the little dignity I still have as a few locals kill themselves in laughter. They are seated at a rest area next to the rock and watched the whole affair. Unfazed, i proudly walk past them, just to lose my footing on a slippery wooden step. Luckily the railing saved me from totally coming crashing down and i hang with one hand onto the railing. However, the locals laugh so hard, they almost roll off their platform. Please let there be no YouTube video of this.

I continue my way down, and eventually come to the path that leads to the main waterfall. The main path to the waterfall is full of people, so i decide to go over a small log bridge and around to the other side. Just trying to avoid the confused looks people give me at my stylish moss covered clothes, they are not up to the latest fashion. Unfortunately, I cannot get a clear picture from that side, and I am forced to go back and pass all the snickering people as I make my way to the main waterfall.

I hope you enjoy this picture, as i bruised my ego and ass getting it. 🙂

From the waterfall i head back to my hotel, and draw a snicker from the manager as i walk pass. I give him a look, and then we both burst out laughing. He asks what happened and as i tell him the tale. Poor dude almost falls of his chair. I am so glad i can brighten up his day. I go and take a quick shower, and change my clothes, then head out for a late lunch. Riding around town, i suddenly stop. HOLY COW, can it be? Yes, it is. I just had to go and take a look at the restaurant.

Very nice sandwiches and a nice garden. Cool place to have lunch. After lunch, i decide to check the town out a bit, and then suddenly, heaven is in front of me. I am saved.

From heaven, i decide to go an check out a secluded beach i saw yesterday. The beach is by a number of bungalows that are in the water right at the beach. One day, i am going to come and stay here for a night or two.

I turn to my right and snap a few pictures of the ocean and the beach. As I take the pictures I look at the iPad’s screen, and only when I lower it do I realize there are two people on the beach. Then one gets half up and I am like,  mmmm, nice boobs. The two hit the dirt and scramble for their clothes while I walk away laughing. Stupid tourists, thinking it is a secluded beach. Mind you, every now and again people get caught posing naked at Angkor Wat or some other temple. I do not know what it is about foreigners wanting to pose naked at a temple and then posting the pictures online. What I can tell you is that in almost all cases the people were found and arrested within a day, and then deported with a never come back farewell kick in the ass.

Being a bit late, i decide to head to one of the more popular beaches and have an early dinner. I managed to find  a more upscale restaurant between the Khmer local ones, and they have chicken cordon blue on the menu. Nice to have something different than rice and veggies for a change. 🙂

Well, sadly tomorrow I will be heading home (Siem Reap). I did go and see some dive operators, but i have no inclination to drive a few hours to some island, spend $100 or so on two dives, that are around 40ft deep and mostly sand. Cayman, you spoiled me. 🙂