Day 11 - Kratie to Pakse

Another long day (350k) of driving ahead of us. While we left Rajabori at a bit before 0800, it was 0900 before we got moving in the cars. The first 16k was a dirts road through multiple villages along the bank of the Mekong to a launching spot where the locals to us out to see the Mekong dolphins. Not quite like watching the Southern Right Whale at Tunks Part, it was fascinating to watch these small fresh water mammals so far from the coast.

As the day wore on, the temperature climbed and the landscape became more arid something like what we see in northern Australia. Highway 7 had improved somewhat from the previous day, principally because of the reduction in traffic. We could sit on a comfortable 80kph and chew into the distance.

Towards the Lao border the road deteriorated significantly with more red dirt than tarmac, and the temperature continued to climb. All I can say is that when the outside temp reaches 42c, it’s a pretty visceral experience inside of the MG. The car was consuming 1ltr of petrol every 10k, and I think we were doing similar with the water. 

With the windows down and the back window zipped out the flow through of air made the experience bearable, but with it came the red Cambodian dust from the dirt road. It not only covered us, but also lined the complete interior of the car. Anything we touched turned to mud with our sweat.

No trucks, but plenty of bikes carrying every sort of load. The most interesting was one bike, 2 people and one large pig, trussed and spread out on its back, across the bike between the driver and the pillion.

The border crossing to Laos was the absolute opposite of our entry into Cambodia. When we arrived, we though it was closed as there was not another car in site or a living being. It was a weird sort of experience as the buildings on both sides of the border were new and from a distance, it appeared like a new construction that someone had forgotten to commission.

However, we managed to find some officials and roused them from their lunchtime siesta to get the iPhones out and take a lot of photos with each posing for each other in and around the cars. Then they got down to processing our exit from Cambodia and entry in Laos. The local Buddhist monks even managed to get into the picture with selfies with MG.

Back on the road and it was fascinating how different Laos was to Cambodia. The lack of people and cars was obvious. The timber houses were no longer built on 4m high stilts, but rather sat on the ground in a more Chinese fashion. Gone was the multitude of banners, bill boards and gaudy signs to be replaced with what looks like, official notices. And the forest of political banners for the Cambodia Peoples Party, with pictures of Hun Sen and his wonderful deeds for every village were completely absent. Cows and water buffalo have replaced them. The cows wander where they please, and if its across the road, beware.

The locals prefer the Lao Kip to USD, although the petrol station we stopped at to fill our tanks after the border was persuaded to accept them rather than the Kip. Petrol is still around USD1.00 per litre.

Its Buddhist New Year this coming weekend. A big time of year with public holidays and festivities dominating the local scene. Every village in both Cambodia and Laos has been preparing for it with tents, tables and chairs for communal festivities plus lots of speeches and loud music.

All along the road people stop what they are doing as our convoy passes. They clearly have not seen many 1970 MGs in the past and seem fascinated by our procession. Cars and trucks toot, I assume in approval, kids wave and the quick snap a selfie with MG when they can.

Tonight, the Champasak Grand hotel is certainly grand in a Chinese totalitarian sort of style. The staff are clearly not used to getting English speaking guests as they have been totally swamped by our requests for beers to be put on our individual room tabs. But I think we have managed to sort it all out, with smiles and a Buddhist sort of karma, it’s just the way it is.