The border post on the Laotian side was a mess of many counters, booths and more or less intact buildings.

We had to print out a vignette with a QR code for our bicycles at a machine and hand over the well-known bicycle fee of 20,000 kip (= CHF 0.5) to an employee. At the next counter, in addition to (another) 20,000 kip, we had to pay an additional 70,000 kip vignette fee😉. We laughed and explained that we neither wanted nor needed the sticker! Looking at the official fee plate, we insisted that we would only pay the bike fee. At the last counter, the official realized that the stubborn cyclists weren’t worth the effort and let us go. The fact that the receipt showed an amount of 90,000 kip and we only paid 20,000 kip didn’t bother anyone anyway😉.

Aktiviere Karte Deaktiviere Karte

The next morning, we took a trip to the nearby viewpoint, from where a giant Buddha looks out over the city of Pakse and the Mekong. We could hardly believe our eyes when a fun run took place on the route! It was refreshing to see people having a great time organizing a sporting event and others also having fun participating and getting some voluntary exercise.

We, on the other hand, decided to avoid any additional exertion in the form of sightseeing tours into the central mountains. The poor air meant that we couldn’t see far anyway and the heat didn’t allow for much effort. We drove south on small side roads to the much-praised Mekong Islands. They are a paradise for doing nothing, because there is nothing to do😉. We chose Champasak as a place to relax, but we didn’t like it here at all. The few accommodations and restaurants were completely focused on us western visitors and literally a parallel street to local life.

Vat Phou was less adapted to the expectations of tourists. What we will remember most about the Khmer-Hindu temple are the enormous piles of garbage and their smell. They were the remnants of a religious festival that had taken place the previous weekend. In a small part of the area, helpers set about burning the garbage while people and animals searched for usable waste.

On the onward journey, we pedaled sometimes on dirt roads, sometimes on asphalt and always in increasingly hot temperatures. It didn’t matter whether we were riding on the mainland or across a Mekong island. We only saw the water of the surprisingly clean river when we crossed it or when we visited the impressive Khon Phapheng waterfalls.

We had read many reports about corrupt officials and exorbitant fees at the border crossing to Cambodia. After a lot of searching, we found the official price for a visa on arrival on the Internet: 30$. When we arrived on the Laotian side, we refused to understand the request for a two dollar “stamp duty” and prepared ourselves for a long game of patience at the Cambodian border post. The fact that nobody was there at 8:00 in the morning didn’t put us off. We pulled out our e-readers, sat down and signaled that we were in no hurry. After a short wait, an official appeared and informed us of the visa costs of 38$. We explained that we would not pay more than 30$, whereupon he offered us the visa including stamp duty as a special offer for 35$😉. Without responding, we referred to the website of the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where we had found the price. After David had won a round of “whoever looks away first has lost”, our passports and 30$ each were collected without discussion and the visas were issued. It also helped that a bus arrived with other tourists who were not supposed to notice the price discussion.
Although it is only a small amount of money for us, we do not want to support fraudulent fees on principle and refuse to make a direct contribution to the corrupt bureaucracy. With an average income of 150$ per month, a few extra dollars definitely make a difference.

We hadn’t expected to enjoy our first noodle soup on Cambodian soil after just two hours, so we allowed ourselves far too long a break. On the bad road to Stung Treng, the midday sun caught up with us and made it clear that we had to avoid it in future.
Our expectations of Cambodia were modest. We were told that it was flat, monotonous and hot. This was precisely why we wanted to form our own impression, which turned out to be much more positive. We really enjoyed the trip through rural Cambodia: The people were friendly and cheerful, the fields were cultivated with manioc, rice or cashew plantations.

But the heat dominated our daily travel routine. We usually finished the bike ride at lunchtime and spent the afternoon in a place with shade and a fan😊. Even in the evening and at night, the thermometer barely dropped below 30°C and air-conditioned rooms were nowhere to be found outside the better hotels. We avoided the planned detours and pedaled directly to Siem Reap, a modern city that has grown up around the historic Angkor. For a long time we wondered whether we should visit the temples of Angkor at all. After our experiences in Kyoto, we had decided to question compulsory tourist programs. But Cambodia without Angkor Wat? We decided to pay the hefty entrance fee … and didn’t regret it at all.

Like many other visitors, we arrived in front of the Angkor Wat temple at sunrise. The name Angkor refers to the capital of the Angkor Empire, where up to 900,000 people lived between the 9th and 15th centuries. The most famous part of Angkor is the Angkor Wat temple complex. It has been in continuous use for 900 years and is even depicted on the Cambodian national emblem.
We were particularly impressed by the beautiful carvings and detailed wall reliefs. The bicycle was ideal for us to move around the extensive grounds between the 72 temples on our own or to take one of the many breaks at over 39°C shade temperature.

From Siem Reap, a steady tailwind blew us back towards Thailand after eight days in Cambodia. We rolled so effortlessly through the truly barren and hot landscape that we decided to forgo the planned extra kilometers to Battambang. We had originally wanted to explore the dark days of the Khmer Rouge in this area. Between 1977 and 1979, Pol Plot’s black army murdered a quarter of the Cambodian population, especially educated people, teachers, doctors and artists. His aim was to establish a perfect communist agrarian state in which everyone works in the fields. The reign of terror ended with the Vietnamese invasion in 1979 and a new government was established. But in the northwest of the country, the Khmer Rouge continued to rule until 1992, ironically thanks to the support of Western countries. As a result, to this day Cambodia is one of the most mined countries in the world.
On the homepage of the NGO Documentation Center of Cambodia, we found shocking reports from survivors.

Nothing could stop us in the dirty and smelly casino border town of Poipet. Without making a stop, we crossed the border back into Thailand and enjoyed cooling off in the first air-conditioned 7-Eleven😊.