It seemed so easy to get from Point A (Siem Reap in Cambodia) to Point B (Laos border) by bus. Something about the ticket we bought (13 hour direct air-conditioned bus with reclining seats and onboard toilets) got lost in translation. After three hours on a 'local' bus, it morphed into a 14 seater minivan during one of the rest stops. Ordinarily that would have been OK, but this was a Cambodian minivan and a 14 seater = as many people as you can fit into the van. In this case, 18 travellers with backpacks plus two locals we picked up along the way, PLUS another at the back of the bus, outside, hanging on with ropes.
After five hours, we elected to have an overnight stop rather than push through to the border, hoping that the next day would be more comfortable. Wrong. We hit a new record with 23 people, including an entire local family. Luckily the driver was small and could multi-task. He was able to fit another passenger onto the seat with him AND talk on his mobile phone at the same time.
As a traveller, you need to be flexible and open-minded to truly appreciate the experience. Without the bus journey, I may not have fully appreciated the beauty and tranquility in front of me now. After making it into Laos, we are sitting overlooking the mighty Mekong River on an island called Don Khon. Accessible only by boat, it is one of the Four Thousand Islands group on this stretch of river and an ideal place to break the trip for a few days. Between lying in a hammock outside my $9/night bungalow, watching river life go by, cycling around the island, tubing on the river, visiting waterfalls and taking in the incredible sunsets, there is little else to do. And that is just perfect.