Border crossing from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Si Phan Don (4000 islands), Laos

4000 islands or Si Phan Don is very well known among the backpackers. It is a place you can’t missed if you’re on the South East Asia route. We have done Cambodia (Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Koh Rong) and crossing the border to Laos by land from south to north. Our first destination in Laos is Don Det, a small island in Si Phan Don.

Bus Tickets
At first we try to get the tickets (Phnom Penh to Don Det / 4000 Island) from the guesthouse’s front desk but it was sold out. We manage to get the bus ticket from a tour agency in Phnom Penh.

For Malaysian, we don’t have to get any visa travelling South East Asia (except Myanmar) anyway visa for Laos is available at the border.

The Bus
It is a VIP bus and not the local “chicken bus”. The whole journey takes about 8 hours, the bus leaves in the morning.


There is a very small toilet on the bus at the lower deck. I will advise you not to use it unless it is a case of emergency. If you are big and tall, I feel sorry for you as you have to bow down to enter the toilet. I think the toilet space is about 4 feet height and 4 feet wide. One of the American guy on the bus says “My dignity has been taken away using that toilet”. So, try imaging.

The Journey


Scenery along the way.


1st quick stop for toilet break.


Little monks spotted.


2nd stop at Kratie for lunch.


Me and Danny had a quick meal. We realised most of the traveller don’t eat the local food here but they grab some tip bits (may be they have concern about the cleanliness).


Entertainment On Bus
I remembered one of the vivid scene from the Indian drama, towards the end of the show, a hero run a car and crash the villain’s helicopter in the sky. That scene is so epic, almost everyone on the bus applause and cheers for it. That movie brings the entertainment on the bus to its next level.

Below is the scene I was talking about. Please watch it then you will know how cliche it was lol!

Easy Border Crossing
Near the Lao border, the employee of the bus asked for passports and the fee for the Laos Visa. We could just stay on the bus, the worker takes care of everything.


We get down the bus to stretch our leg at the border.


There are stalls selling drinks and bottle beer. It’s time for Beerlao.


Spoke with the mother, her baby is having a light fever. A prayer for her.


Don Det is another 30 minutes away.


That should be the immigration office.


While waiting for the immigration stamp, we enjoy the sunset moment. Beerlao did light up the evening πŸ˜€


The Transfer to Jetty
After we get on the road for another 30 minutes, the bus drop us at the road side. The mini bus that suppose to fetch us to the jetty has a flat tire. We were told that there are another 2 vans coming to pick us up from here to the jetty. There are about 40 people here, we waited together. Most of the travellers had some beer and we were having a good time.

A few minutes later, we were called to get on the mini bus. They have fixed the flat tire before the vans came, Yay! It was dark inside the mini bus and I have no idea where we are heading to. A few girls were singing on the bus and keep us entertained. We arrived at the jetty after 5 minutes drive.


The Boat and Ticketing
We bought the boat ticket from the jetty. It was the last boat of the day. Phew! We exchange a bit of kip here for slightly expensive rate to pay for the boat. The boat cost 15,000 kip.


The Riverbank
Luckily we carry the torch light in the bag all time, it has its useful moment. The whole river side is pitch black lighted up by a few torches. There are water patches here and there, we walk carefully following the boat man through the dry sandy path to the river bank.

The Epic Boat Ride
I was a little surprise when we saw the boat. In Malaysian context, we call it “sampan”. There is no other choice, the only thing I can do is to pray that we will reach Don Det safely. Without life jacket, 40 people fit into 2 sampan cruising on the pitch black river. Everybody just sit still and keep quiet as we are afraid the movement will cause us all in the dark river. The only loud sound is from the motor.


This is the first time I was in this kind of situation. It feels like we are on the run across the country from enemy or illegal border crossing. Other than that I was imagining what if a crocodile suddenly jump out and attack the boat? Is there Anaconda? Will the boat bang on the island and sink? Also some horror scene from Final Destination flying around my mind. I have to keep praying “Oh Jesus please be with us and take us to our hotel safely”

Arriving Don Det
Obviously Danny is staying cool all the time. I was the one worrying too much. In less than 15 minutes we have arrived in Don Det. It was about 8pm and the street is quite dark. Luckily we have pre booked the hotel so we don’t have to walk around and ask for room to stay. We were staying at Little Eden, rank #1 on Tripadvisor, heard that they have the best sunset view in Don Det. Excited!


Stay tune for our next blog, Don Det


6 responses to “Border crossing from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Si Phan Don (4000 islands), Laos

  1. Which bus company did you go though to book your ticket and how much was it? πŸ™‚ im trying to figure out a way into Laos before the new year hits and everything shuts down….

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