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Monday, 2 July 2012

10 JUNE 2012 DAY 16: PAKXE (LAOS) - KRAEK (CAMBODIA) (520kms)

The target for Day 16 is to cross Lao – Cambodia border via route 13. The weather was fine and we started early. The view was again, boring, and the road condition was so-so. I was riding fast and Hadi was left behind. I knew he could catch up with me at any time, so I don’t mind leaving him behind. It was a smooth ride with not many vehicles on the road. This situation enables me to think of lots of things, about my tough childhood life, my present life, my job, my kids and such. After riding for 16 days, it was only today that I suddenly remember about my thesis and what needs to be done once I finished this ride.

When I was nearing Veun Kham, the Lao border town, I saw a red and white gate, which was elevated, but there was no one around. So, I rode on, until I saw a gate which looks most likely the border, but there was some road construction going on and I had to take the red earth road to reach the border. I looked around to check on the custom office, but couldn’t see any. There was only the immigration office at the Laos border. I greeted the immigration officer, and asked him about the custom office. He asked for my passport. When I gave him, and while answering my question saying that the custom office was about 2kms from the border, he stamped my passport without I have the chance to stop him. I told him that I’m taking my motorbike to Cambodia, and I have to submit my papers to the custom office first. Now that he already stamped my passport, will I be in trouble for going back to the custom office? He said not to worry.

When I’m about to leave the place, Hadi arrived. He told me that he had been waiting at the custom office. It seems that the elevated gate with no single human that I can see around when I passed the place was actually the custom place. I rode back and realized that I hadn’t notice the blue custom check point sign board. I submitted my papers to the ever smiling and very friendly officer and he waved me off. One thing that I always practiced not only when I travel, but in my daily life as well, that is, respect other people….and they will respect you. Its not hard to greet and smile to others. One thing I would like to share when doing a border crossing is, always praised their country and how much you liked the country. As far as I have experienced, by doing this, the officers will be more then willing to assist you.

It rained heavily once I am done with the custom. I hurriedly go back to the border. Weird but true, it was shining brightly on the Cambodian side, but rained heavily on the Laos side. I settled all my papers and stamped my passport. I had to take a medical examination at the Cambodian side and paid USD1 for it. We continued our ride on Cambodia land via route 7. The road was nicely paved and deserted. The weather was fine with beautiful blue skies and some clouds. There was nothing to see except bushes on the sides of the road, however, the green yellowish bushes did look beautiful. There was no petrol station that we could find until we reached Stung Treng. The fuel here was sold at USD1.25, compared to 11 350 Kips in Laos. After a while, the nicely paved road was gone and we had to ride on some gravel road and some red dirt road, but after my experiences in Laos, this was fine with me.

Once we reached Kratie, Hadi told me to take the shorter route, but we had to ride on kampong road. The kampong road here meaning a very narrow and bumpy road. We rode alongside of Mekong River. Suddenly, Hadi asked me to stop. I thought I have navigated wrongly, but actually he wanted us take a break at a famous dolphin viewing point. What? A dolphin in Mekong River? Yes, it seemed they have dolphins here. It was called Irrawady dolphins. There was a dolphin statue at this resting place. Mekong River which can be seen from here was very wide. After resting, we continued on, passing lots of kampong houses which looked like a slump area. The road was bad and we couldn’t ride fast. In the end, we headed back to the highway. 

Mekong River is huge!!!

Notice the difference in colours?

Dolphin statue @ Kratie

I sped as fast as I can whenever possible as it was getting late. However, it was difficult to even cover a distance of 50kms in an hour due to strong winds. We targeted Kampong Cham, but as the sun gets down, we were still far from our target. The night falls and the riding became dangerous to me since my eye sight was bad at night. To make matters worse, here in Cambodia, the drivers didn’t switch on their lights even when it was totally dark. There was one time when I was riding fast, I only noticed a pickup truck stopping in the middle of the road when I was less than 50 meters away from it. This is really crazy, so I told Hadi that we must find a guest house. We ended up at a hotel in a small town named Kraek (near to the CambodiaVietnam border), but it happened to be a red-light area. I couldn’t sleep well that night bcos of the loud noise coming from a karaoke cum disco next door. Total ride today was 520kms, 10 hours 45minutes (inclusive of border crossing time).


Band: NASTIA, Title: ANGGUR (taken from EP 'EKSPRESI')