So far all the border crossings since the Latvian/Russian border have been routine if a little tedious and boring however the Laos/Cambodian border was a little shady to say the least.
However I'm delighted to say that though a serendipitous decision of mine in Phnom Pehn I avoided the majority of the border hassles! When I was organizing my journey to Laos I decided against paying for just a trip to the border town ($9) in Cambodia and instead paid a little extra ($15) in order to go all the way to Don Det in Laos. It sounded like it would be a easy job to arrange travel into Laos from the Cambodian border town but I thought sod it - at least this way I save myself some hassle ( how true that would turn out to be).
The journey to the border town of Stung Trung was meant to take 10 hours and in true Asian bus travel estimations it was way off! Firstly I was told I'd be picked up at 06:30 and the bus would leave at 07:00. Naturally there was no one there at 06:30 and I wasn't picked up until about 07:15. I wasn't overly worried as I'm used to travelling in Asia now and knew that the 07:00 bus probably wouldn't leave until 08:00. I was wrong - it left at 08:30. Naturally enough the bus broke down 3/4 of the way there so we all unloaded and sat on the side of the road to wait for another bus. Nothing too unusual there, what did strike me as unusual was that 10 minutes into our wait the two chickens that had travelled with us were killed! I'm not really sure why, they weren't making too much noise. I began to get a little worried when I saw that as I was wondering how long they expected us to be waiting if they were beginning to get dinner ready! I was stranded in the middle of the Cambodian wilderness and chickens were being murdered in cold blood around me. I felt we were only a few smalls steps from the makings of a Hollywood horror film ;-).
Thankfully we only had to wait about 2 hrs before another bus came along and brought us to Stung Trung. Here I stayed the night and the next morning a mini bus came to pick me up and bring me to the border. However I was the only one on the bus and we had to wait for more people (no bus in Asia leaves until its full). This was pretty cool though as myself and three Cambodians went and had breakfast at this shack at the side of the road. All was cool until some chicken decided, without provocation I might add, to attack me. This caused much merriment among the locals as I naturally attempted (in the most undignified of manners to avoid this assault). I have no idea what I did to warrant such an attack from the chicken, maybe the chicken felt I was implicated by association for the murder of two of its brethren the previous day. This coupled with the fact that they seem to run kamikaze missions whenever I'm driving a motorbike leads me to believe that all chickens are evil and I don't like them!
Anyway I digress due to my irrational (actually it's completely rational as they are out to get me) hatred of chickens (live ones that is ;-) ). I rocked up to the border and was informed that I had to walk across the border and another bus would pick me once I showed my ticket. It is at this point I must introduce you to my magic ticket. Basically I had a piece of paper that said "Phnom Pehn to Don Det and onward to Pakse" "Paid in Cambodia". To be honest I was a little dubious about this and considered quite a few times that I was being scammed. Still it had got me so far let's hope it got me a little further. However this little scrap of paper (which I had gotten wet and torn more than once) despite not looking all that convincing was to get me from the centre of Cambodia to the centre of Laos for a pittance!
The border was essentially two huts in the middle of a deserted road in a forest about 200 metres apart on small road. There was NOTHING there which meant that once you crossed the border you were at the mercy of the 2 buses that were waiting to bring to anywhere remotely nearing civilization.
Remember how my magic ticket had got me to the border well I showed it to a bus driver and he with no hesitation indicated I jump onboard his 'VIP bus' (his words, not mine ;-) ).
There was this English lad who paid 15 dollars to get from the Cambodian border town to the border and then had to pay another 10 for this bus to bring him away from the Laos border - Sickener! With my magic ticket I knew I could go anywhere!
The other shady aspect of the border crossing was the "stamping fees" you had to pay on both sides. Basically you had to bribe both border guards to let you across. I had heard of this and was prepared. I demanded a receipt - no go! I pleaded I had no dollars - no go! I claimed I was informed by their embassy that there was no "stamping fee" - no go! Basically I was going no where without stumping up the cash. At least I was able to use Cambodian Riel to pay the fees (even on the Laos side) which meant I was able to use the remaining notes I had which were worthless outside Cambodia (they aren't worth much in Cambodia either as everyone uses US dollars).
Anyway despite the shenanigans at the border I headed into Laos on my VIP bus armed with my magic ticket!