Cycling, Kayaking and Lounging in a Hammock

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
Trip End Jan 31, 2012

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Where I stayed
Mr Nois Thong Bang Bungalows

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Champasak,
Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 1 - Transit, Wandering Island, Cycle to Waterfall
Had the overnight bus drop us off at some point near the river outside of Pakse. Here people going to 4000 islands were suppose to change to a minibus. At least thats what I heard eventually since at first it was not clear if I was suppose to stay on or get off.

Once off, not really sure what was going on since it seemed to be a bit of a confusion, but at least it wasnt just me. Found here that there was a group of people looking for their next piece of transport and a few Loa people wandering around that looked like they might eventually get us onto one of the nearby minibuses eventually. Even managed to find someone with a similar ticket to mine which was reassuring.

Somehow you would think it wouldnt be as difficult as it was being made out to be. Eventually put on a bus and after a couple of hours arrived at the street near the boat dock. Wandered down towards the water and got onto a boat which took us across the river to the island.

No real idea where to stay so wandered out of the busy area around the landing and found a quiter part of the town on the sunrise side. Kept walking until I found that the guesthouses started to get further apart and then picked one. Place was empty and unlike most rooms that had a thin mattress, I was able to score one with a large thick (western) mattress.

After dumping the bags headed out for some food. Next wandered round to the sunset side of the island which had a number of bungalows. This had me considering if I wanted to move which I decided against in the end. These days if I find a room thats Ok I prefer to just keep it so I dont have to repack my bag.

While the riverfront seems to be full of locals who had set up shop or guesthouses, the interior is more your typical village like settlement with rice paddies and farms. Even found a temple which I get the feeling is a common site all around Laos. Had planned to go to the bridge that crossed over to the other island but in the end found the island to be larger than expected and headed back to my guesthouse. Grabbed some cake on the way back and just vegged out a bit before grabbing a bike and heading out.

Followed the path from the hostel towards the bridge end of the island and found that the distance was certainly further than you would want to walk. Especially given the widely spaced scenary. Found along the way lots of wooden building on stilts with all sorts of things piled underneath.

Crossed the bridge, which had some nice views, to enter another tourist oriented village. Here I found a map so now I at least had some what my options were. In the end decided I wouldnt have time to do the whole thing today and so picked one of the nearby temples and waterfalls. While I found the waterfall I managed to somehow miss finding the temple.

Had a nice ride through village and farmland with views of the river along my way to the waterfall.
Once at the waterfall path, left the bike and continued on on foot through some jungle. Found that at this point in the river the water was running pretty fast over a fair few cascades which eventually turned into a few small waterfalls that you wouldnt want to do by boat.

Stayed here a while watching the water before following a different path back that took me closer to the river a number of times as well as through some denser shrub and bamboo forests. Here I could also see the protection walls that had once been erected in the river.

By this point it was starting to get late and I knew I had no time to go much further so looped back round to the guesthouse where I sat in the hamock to watch the light from the sunset shining on my part of the river. Had a quite night after that and only headed out to get some dinner to eat in the main part of town.

Day 2 - Cycling around Don Ket
Rather than Kayak today decided to explore the rest of the island by bike.

After breakfast jumped on the bike and crossed over the bridge one more time to get to the island. Follwed the trail round this time and ended up going past the old locamotive that ran the along the tracks that use to run down the middle of the island.

From here headed off in the opposite direction to the day before in order to visit a different temple and another waterfall. From the map it seems that this part of the Mekong river has a lot of waterfalls between all of the big islands which I am guessing is due to the water running over a large change in elevation in a rough line running perpendiclar to the large islands. Guessing thats why you also have all the small islands around here.

Managed to find the temple this time on my way to the falls which was your typical Lao style buddist temple. On the way to the falls had to jump off the bike and cross a bridge. Along the way to the falls past a tour group and am guessing this is why I was seeing a local using a machine to separate the rice from the chaff.

After the village walked through some dense forest which included both areas of tree and bamboo forest. Also passed by a house and saw an interesting rocking basket. Under an outside veranda found a baby in a bamboo basket swing like a pendulum. Guess the cool outside air and the pendulum motion helps the kid to sleep.

Once again found some large falls here with fast moving water over small cliffs. Continued following the trail by the river and managed to get out to the rocks lining the river in a few points along the way. Again walked through some dense forest to eventually find myself on a small sandy beach. Guess a river is just as likely a spot to find a beach as the ocean though the water was a bit to brown (from the monsoon rains) for me to want to go swimming.

From here made it back to the bike with a couple more visits to the river to see the falls along the way before following the trail to the far end of the island. Here I found another beach though in this case a lot larger one. It suppose to be possible to see the river dolphins from here but I had no luck. Guessing you need to take a boat slight further upriver towards the cambodian border to have more luck.

Had a quick lunch here as well as a fruit shake while I watched some locals putting up the frame of a bamboo house. While at the beach also spotted an interesting hammock made out of bamboo. Seems that bamboo is a very versitile construction material. House floors and walls, furniture and hammocks just to name a few.

Back to the trail and this time onto the old ferry terminal where the train tracks use to terminate. Had a few more views of the river here before taking the old train line trail back to the bridge. Was starting to get late by now so headed down to the sunset side of the island where I got a few of the sunset on the peaceful river.

Headed back to my side of the island after the sun set and had a quite evening in the hammock. Only ended up wandering out of the Bungalo to grab some dinner at a restuarant.

Day 3 - Kayaking the Mekong, Waterfalls and Dolphins
Had organise to do the kayak trip down the river today but found that I ended up doing less kayaking than I had hoped. For most of the day shared a 2 man kayak with a german guy but ended the day with a single kayak.

First paddle involved us heading out from the landing dock and heading downriver towards the island I had visited the day before. While the river was suppose to have some rapids along the way this part was certainly quite. Not even that much of a current to speak of. 

After paddling for maybe an hour we stopped off at the island and walked to the waterfall I had visited the day before. Spent maybe 30min here before walking down to the beach where I had seen the guys building the bamboo house the day before. Guessing that trying to kayak down the falls might be a bit to much. Pity.

While making our way from the Kayaks to the beach the kayaks must have been transported in some way from their original location to the beach since they were here waiting for us.

Second paddle involved us heading near the Cambodian border and stopping off at a point that I believe is on the Cambodian side (though no passport required). Along the way had some nice views of river and surrounding countryside. Also had a few small spots along the river where the water was running a bit faster and could possibly be called a rapid.

Had talked to someone earlier who had been in Laos for a month and it seems that that month had had pretty much blue skies. So not much rain. Would guess that the water level is a lot higher and river current are a lot stronger closer to the end of the monsoon session and that would be a better time to be on the river. Oh well guess it would have been nice to not have lost those 5 weeks due to a lost passport.

At the second stop, had lunch and just sat around for a while catting with a few people. did manage to see a dolphin or two in the distance though they looked nothing like dolphins to me. If I had to describe them I would be more inclined to say they looked like poiposes. Also found that unlike dophines they didnt really breach the water very much when they cam up for air so not really all that much of them visible for taking a photo.

Another short kayak from here to get back across the river where we jumped into a bus to head to the big falls. I guess big compared to the small falls we had visited earlier in the day. Found these falls to be a lot wider than the other ones I had visited though probably no higher.

Back on the bus to the boat pier I had originally caught the boat to the island from for the last paddle. By now the weather had started to turn bad and a little bit of rain was falling. Also could see some thunder in the distance. 

For the final paddle ended up on a single man kayak when the two guys using them said they needed a rest. Seems it was a lot harder for them to paddle the single kayaks than it was for us to paddle the doubles. Certainly found that the doubles seemed to float higher on the water and that with two people you didnt have to paddle all the time and both shared the load of pulling the boat along the water. In the end the single kayaks were a lot more work to paddle which is not necessarily a bad thing since I got more exercise and could stop when I wanted to take a photo whithout worrying about the other guy being left to paddle on his own.

That was pretty much the tour for teh day so headed back to the bungaloo and had another quite night with my only excursion being to a restuarant for some dinner and a juice shake.

Day 4 - Quite Day in the Hammock
Not much left to do around here so could have left the island today but decided to hang around for a quite day instead. Ended up in the hammock most of the day looking out at the river or reading my book. Only time I ended up leaving the veranda outside the bungaloo was to go and eat something. Also found that the power didnt come back until after 11am.

Throughout the day Found that the river was quite busy and noisy. Lots of locals cruising past in motor boats whos engines semmed to make more noise than they really needed to. Very loud indeed. Also found my bungaloo was near a part of the river used by locals. Had lots of people coming and going to the river here. In the evening a fair few came down to the river to bath which also seemed to involve some singing for a number of them. Found that it had been a nice day just listening to the sounds of daily life passing by a single spot.

During the day also ended up spending some time listing and considering my options for the remainder of the trip. Am guessing at this point I might head to Cambodia via Thailand rather than back through Laos. Visa expires around the time I finish the Gibbon experience and I am aready at the thailand border so may as well just cross it and see another country which I think is better than rushing back through Laos just to get to Cambodia.

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