If you’ve journeyed down to the south of Laos and are heading to Cambodia through the Dom Kralor border crossing, be prepared for the longest day of your life. Your day will start out early with a pick up from the island of Don Det at 8am. From there it’s a quick journey back to the mainland where you’ll have to wait for another hour before everyone get’s loaded onto their respective buses. It only takes about an hour to get to the border, where you’ll have to unload all your gear and walk through departures for Laos and the entry point for Cambodia. This border crossing has only recently become officially open so expect lots of waiting time, confusion and extra “fees” in the amount of $3 US for health checks and stamping.
While it only took about 45 minutes to fill out the necessary paperwork for both sides and officially cross the border, we then had to wait over an hour on the other side so everyone had time to spend some money at the Cambodian food stalls. The rest of the journey is long with a few unnecessary stops added in to make the journey even longer. When we bought our ticket in Laos, they informed us that the bus would arrive in Siem Reap no later than 10pm, but when we stopped again at 8:30 for food, I asked the driver if we would arrive at 10pm, and he only laughed and said maybe sometime after midnight. The reason of course, is that both the bus companies and the tuk-tuk drivers waiting for you at the other side work for guesthouses that pay them commission for bringing in new guests. If you arrive on time, you might go elsewhere to find a place, but if you are thoroughly exhausted by the time you arrive you’ll likely just collapse at the first place they take you.
By the time we arrived at midnight, I had started feeling ill and could only muster enough energy to be transported to where ever they would take us. Luckily their guesthouse, Siem Reap Temple Villa, was probably some of the best accommodation we’ve stayed at. The first night they apparently only had an air-con room for $15 US, but amazingly the next day fan rooms opened up for $10 US.
It was about this time the food I had eaten on our last bus stop decided it no longer belonged inside my body. The rest of the night was spent alternating between trying to sleep and then dashing into the bathroom. I was so close to completing our 3 month journey through Southeast Asia without suffering from traveller’s sickness, but I guess it finally caught up with me. Luckily we had 4 days in Siem Reap, so I didn’t have to feel guilty about spending the entire next day in bed, just trying to keep fluids down.
The route in many ways makes logistical sense and may take just as long to enter into Cambodia from other border crossings. So if you find yourself considering this plan, mentally prepare yourself for long, unnecessary waits, extra border fees, and the possibility of losing a few pounds.