Crossing the Border – 3rd week of Sept. 2005

Crossing the border…

The border crossing from Cambodia was more like a frontier outpost than a proper immigration control – an unused, or rarely used, shack in the middle of nowhere. A few men lounged in hammocks under the shady trees, while some goats wandered nearby. It was clear that we were the only ones crossing the border that day. Everyone else was still stuck in the mud to the south.

Already, the road at the border was better. It wasn’t paved, but it was rocky instead of muddy, which made all the difference in the world. We were often up to our ankles in huge puddles that covered the entire width of the narrow, one-lane road, but at that point, we were just so happy to be out of the mud that we didn’t care. Bordered by waist-high grasses, the narrow road continued for 6 km. under the shade of leafy trees, when all of a sudden, we found ourselves upon a paved road! Stephane got off his bike and knelt down to kiss the pavement. We were deliriously happy!

Crossing into Laos was the first time that we didn’t feel as if we had changed countries. The people and the landscape looked similar, the food and houses and shops similar. In any case, the first 20 km. of road were very quiet, and we passed very few people. Certainly no one was venturing the other way into Cambodia.

We crossed the border in the late afternoon, and biked 15 km. to the Khone Pha Pheng Waterfall, Southeast Asia’s largest cascade. Its rock formation is 1 km. wide, and though it reaches heights of 15 m. in the dry season, it resembles more of an enormous rapids series in the rainy season. At the height of the season, more water passes through these falls than through Niagara Falls! The water roars through narrow gorges and bubbles up, erupting like a volcano and spewing water high in the air. It is literally breathtaking.

We saw the falls at sunset, then slept under a pavilion overlooking the falls, where we saw a magnificent display of lightning, crashing thunder, and falling rain. We were privileged to enjoy the magnificent falls by sunset, moonlight, and sunrise.

Welcome to Laos!