A long journey to the Four Thousand Islands....

Trip Start Nov 05, 2013
Trip End May 12, 2014

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Champasak,
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

We both woke up to find that the bus had arrived in Pakse which was actually 2 hours late at 2:30am.

We had no idea where we would find a room so we got on a Tuk Tuk truck with an older English couple and a French guy who all needed a room as well. The Tuk Tuk went around the town and we stopped at about 9 guest houses which were all full or closed.

We decided as we only had 5 hours to wait for the bus to the four thousand islands, that the best option would be to wait and sleep in the bus station. Surprisingly when we arrived at the station, there was a long row of old looking coach chairs in the waiting room to use as beds.

We soon nodded off, only to be awoken by the sound of people and Mosquitos that had gathered around us. We gathered our things together and enquired when the bus would arrive, only to be told that there were only Tuk Tuk trucks making the 4 hour journey and not a bus as we expected.

Once on the rickety Tuk Tuk truck, it was pretty rammed with lots of locals carrying all sorts of stuff with them. Firstly we saw a carrier bag under our seat moving which looked like it had a snake in it. The journey was made even longer when we had to stop for one local to stop at her house to pick up her big bag of rice. Then even longer as we were dropping people off and picking more people up what seemed like every 10 minutes. We stopped at this one village and was bombarded by the villages who wanted to sell us lots of cooked meat on sticks, as they shoved it through the gaps of the truck and shouting prices. One person even had a selection of roasted rat which we passed on.

The next stage of the journey then got a little more dicey as one woman whipped one of her baps out and proceeded to breast feed for the rest of the journey. This was cut short for the child at one point though as she decided she would have to change his nappy on board, she unfortunately didn't have a new nappy to put on him! To be honest I am glad we were on a straight road at this point, or god knows what could have happened. Finally at the last hurdle we picked up a woman with another big bag of rice to go on the back, along with the 3 live chickens that were tied at the legs and thrown in the back next to me. They were flapping around and I was a little concerned they were going to try and peck my ankle in an attempt to escape. Just when we thought we had picked up the last of the surprises, the driver stops at the village market for what seemed a life time as he disappeared. When he returned he had a large bag made of netting carrying about 15 live ducks. This was then fixed to the back of the truck.

We arrived at the pier and boarded a long tail boat that took us to Don Det island along with our bags. We were so pleased to be off the truck and couldn't wait to find somewhere we could crash out, however we had one more hurdle in our way. The driver of the boat didn't inform us that he was dropping us off on the south side of the island and before we knew it he had gone with his boat. We then had to walk about 4km in the hot sun with our bags to get back up to the north end. We finally came across a lovely row of huts and couldn't wait to get our bags off.

So the start of our four thousand islands adventure started as we walked towards the busier part of the island. There were plenty of little quirky bars and restaurants and was obvious to us that it was chilled out, mainly because they were selling happy shakes and advertised weed on the menu openly. We had a fairly chilled out evening after all the travelling we had done.

The next day was relaxed as we explored the island further and walked to the other side where the sunset was. Later that evening we stopped in a restaurant called Mamas where we had some nice food and decided to try one of these happy shakes for ourselves.... I'll leave the rest of that evening to your imagination....

The next day we woke up feeling refreshed and rented out some bikes so we could make it round the whole island. These were far from ideal though as they had no suspension and it was very bumpy terrain around the island. Put it this way our bikes looked like something you would see riding around Cambridge and they did have baskets in the front. We actually got as far as the main town part of the island and was surprised at how many more bars and restaurants there were.

We saw a restaurant that had a nice chill out area playing films so we went in for a bite to eat. I think we just lost track of time because by the time we left, the sun was going down and we didn't make it round the whole island on the bikes.

The next day we were determined to go to the beach on the other island next to ours. We had been told you could cross a bridge so we decided to get our trusty bikes out again. Off we went, first stopping in a restaurant towards the quiet end of the island. I had a tuna sandwich which at the time I had no idea would be my downfall. We made our way to the beach, first stopping at the enormous waterfalls which crashed down throughout the valley adjacent to the beach. When we got to the beach it was a little weird as it was more like a cove and it was next to a fast flowing river rather than the sea.

By this point I was feeling quite ill so we went to the beach bar to get a drink and I just had to lie down for a bit. Not improving we decided to get back on the bikes and ride back to our accommodation. It was a good job too as not long after we arrived, I had to be violently sick like I had never experienced before. To top things off I was also bound to the toilet in another way I had hoped I wouldn't experience on this trip. The whole day and evening was a right off as my symptoms got worse and I couldn't leave the hut or eat anything. Thankfully I had Bridget looking after me and doing bog roll and water runs as it was the only thing I could keep down.

The next morning I felt slightly better as I woke up. You can imagine the painstaking events that concluded during the night as I got very little sleep. I was starving but at the same time I didn't want to eat anything. We went for breakfast and I decided to try and eat some plain crisps and an orange juice. Silly I know but the orange juice was obviously not the best choice. Soon after I had to return to the hut for more sickness and another day got completely written off with the same symptoms.

Late that evening I was feeling slightly better again and now gone 2 days without food staying down. We decided to go to an Australian restaurant that had been recommended to us for the BBQ food. We both had the pork chops that were the best and biggest ones I have ever seen, I'm talking a serious chop. Finally something I managed to keep in my body and I knew I was then on the mend.

The next day we set off on our journey to Bangkok which we knew was going to be very testing. A 22 hour journey if everything panned out the way it was meant to. It started off just as we expected, we were due to be picked up from our hut at 10:30am to get the bus at 11am but no one showed up. This resulted in us having to speedily walk the 2km in the sun with our bags to make it to the boat on time.

We got to the boat and there were hundreds of people waiting. No one actually seemed to know what was going on as the people organising everyone were useless and spoke little to no English at all. We gave a girl our ticket and she put us on a boat with 15 other people to get back to the mainland. Bridget somehow accidentally dropped her iphone under the chair in the boat which was then under the murky water for about a minute. When we managed to get it out it wasn't working and had already put a bit of a damper on the journey.

The next stage was getting a mini bus from the mainland back to Pakse. The first issue was that we had to wait an hour for all the other people who were going to Bangkok to turn up. Next after getting on the minivan it seemed to go everywhere it wasn't meant to go, dropping people off at different locations. We were meant to get to the coach at 3pm but by the time we turned up to Pakse it was already 4pm. Thinking we had missed it we got dropped off outside another travel agent where we were asked to wait. I asked the guy when we were getting the other bus and all he said was..."I don't know I am do confused", with his head in his hands!

Next thing you know, we are waiting at the travel agent for half an hour before being picked up by another unscheduled minibus. We weren't even told where we were going and just ushered in like cattle. At this point I was a bit pissed off as I didn't know where we were going and the driver didn't speak English. An hour later and we have turned up at the border, greeted by another guy who said we were to check out at visa control and he would take us through. So off we went to the visa control then followed. This guy took us through to get our new Thai visa to enter Thailand. Thankfully at this point the guy said we would be getting the coach from the other side and gave us some tickets. Once through with our visas we needed to get one more transfer by Tuk Tuk to the bus station, where we had to wait another hour for the coach to arrive. Turns out that most of the tourists went through a similar ordeal to get there, being given no information along the way. It's also turns out that the final coach was a luxury one, we were given blankets and even a little snack!
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