Another admittedly great thing about Cambodia are the number of national holidays. Khmers don’t get annual leave so there are lots (40, I think) of days off, and hey – if ones on a Thursday, then why not take Friday off as well?
As frustrating as it can sometimes get (it actually is, when you need to get things done) they provide ample opportunity to go off and explore a bit of the country… And yes, I did come here to work. But I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Anyway, come May, it was time to celebrate Khmer New Year. Or rather, as I know how much Khmers like loud speakers and 4am, it was time to high-tail it out of the country for a much needed change of scene. Teaming up with my fellow YFDs we decided to head for the 4000 islands in Southern Laos, via Rattinakiri to visit Kirsty’s. It took two days to get there, and crossing the ‘boarder’ (passing through two wooden shacks on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere) was an interesting experience…
Laos immigration: Good morning.
Me: Good morning.
Laos immigration: Two dollars.
Laos immigration side: For Sunday tax.
Me: It’s Saturday.
Laos immigration side: Need two dollars.
Laos immigration: Two dollars or no Laos.
Me: What is the money for?
Laos immigration: Ink for stamp in passport. I not stamp without money.
Me: I need receipt.
Laos immigration: I not have. Two dollars.
Me: I have VSO receipt, you can sign this.
Laos immigration: Not a Laos receipt, can’t sign.
Me: VSO work in Laos, it’s okay.
Laos immigration: You can have passport back, but it has no stamp. You need stamp. I need money for ink.
It went on like this for another minute or so before I decided to put my principles aside, pay the two damn dollars and enter Laos. I did however take great pleasure in handing over a $50 note and demanding change. As did the other six people in the line behind me.
Laos was beautiful. The 4000 islands are located on a stretch of the Mekong river that, in dry season is home to – you’ve guessed it – 4000 islands. Although, it is a fairly loose definition of the term ‘island’. Still, for just $4 a night, there was beautiful scenery, and all I had to do was fall out of my bungalow, land in a tube and float around on the river for the best part of the day. If anyone was feeling energetic then we’d perhaps go for food, or hire a push bike. But mostly we chilled, and I have to say – I think it’s the first time I really truly relaxed and managed to put work out of my head.
1) Child swimming, and yes he is using the bottles as floats.
2) Bungalows - a bargain at $4 a night.
3) View from the bungalows, good water for swimming!
4) A random Laos women.