4000 Islands, dolphins and a lot of mud.
Trip Start Mar 18, 2009
134Trip End Jan 12, 2010
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Life definitely moves very slow on Don Khon, and the people in Laos are extremely friendly. The question was, what should we do today? Our decision was to get back on a bike and take in the life on the island. That would be the perfect introduction to Laos.
After exchanging some currency at Pans Guest house (unfortunately not a facility provided at border control) we hired two bicycles for 20,000 Kip. We had the means of transport, now it was time to explore. As we soon found out, the rainy season has definitely taken it's toll on the mud roads on the island. Actually I wouldn't even call them roads anymore! This was going to be a fun day, and who would fall over first?
Just down the road was a small toll booth next to a concrete bridge constructed by the French. In fact the bridge was used as a rail road. Around the corner was the evidence, an old miniature locomotive, rusting in a large puddle and the remnants of an old track. Must have been a seriously ambitious project by the French, which never materialized.
Slipping and sliding through the mud we managed to cycle a little further out of town. The road cut through beautiful rice paddies where man is at one with nature, harnessing the power of water buffaloes to plough the fields. It looked like back breaking work! It seemed Ly Phi waterfall was only another 800 metres away. Hmmm, that would only take another 30 minutes as we cycle this muddy gauntlet :). Oh and we haven't fallen off yet!
We made it to the falls, it was such an amazing sight! The raw power from millions of gallons of water pouring into the Mekong was a spectacle to see. Both of us sat perched on the rocks and I tried really hard to photograph it. I hope the photos do it justice.
It was time to cycle back. We stopped along the way to take a few photos and Emma discovered a small stand where a woman was selling frog kebabs, she overheard a group of French tourists say 'so it's not just the French that eat frogs' ! Back at the French bridge, we carried our bikes up the steps and cycled across to the neighboring island, Don Det.
There are two cycle routes on Don Det, the first along the river and the second along a rocky path. We opted for the first, and soon discovered that the conditions for cycling were even worse, and more fun. Both of us attempted the impossible many times, losing our flip flops in the mud. On one occasion, Emma was very stuck and broke into hysterical laughter. Yes, it is captured on video, but unfortunately HD which doesn't really work in travelpod.
Cycling through Don Det did further convince us that we made the right decision to stay on Don Khon, as it is the most beautiful of the two. Tourism is definitely more prominent on Don Det, the amount of wooden shacks were evidence of this.
We were both getting tired. The amount of mud on our bicycles was definitely adding some resistance. We felt a little guilty so washed them down in a puddle before handing them back. All that was left to do in the day was go for dinner and drink some Beer Lao and cocktails. Yay!
In true Laos spirit, we were really going to have a slow day. After breakfast we negotiated a day trip to another set of waterfalls called Khon Phapheng falls. A boat and bus journey was required to take us back to the Cambodian border. We met a French couple called Dennis and Pasqualine, who became good companions over the next two days, giving Emma a great chance to use her French skills and swap stories.
The falls were just as impressive as Ly Phi, but it was a shame that one of the observation towers was closed and the heavens really opened. Torrential rain made it quite difficult to photograph the falls. They literally vanished within a haze, only to reappear a few minutes later. We managed to take a few photographs before heading back to the mini bus and making the return journey to Don Khon.
That evening we had dinner with our new companions, drinking Lao Lao Tequila and Beer Laos. This lifestyle is really starting to grow on us :)
Our last day on Don Khon and we wanted to save a visit to the Irawwaddy Dolphins to last. We did see them before in Kratie, so to see them twice was maybe a little greedy :) To get there we needed to walk around 4 kilometres to the southern most tip of Don Khon. That was a real experience in its own right. Not a single tourist in sight, plenty of large water buffalo staring us out, huge puddles of mud and a single leech (yuck!).
We arrived at a small town and were greeted by a young girl who asked us if we wanted to see the Dolphins. The price was 60,000 kip to charter a long tail boat (basically a large hollow log) to take us across the Mekong to Cambodia. We were told to have $2 handy to pay a guy on the land. Was this an official re-entry to Cambodia?
Once there we found to our surprise that a bench by the river was our station for the next hour. It seems in rainy season that Dolphin spotting can only be done from the land, as the intended sand bar was completely submerged. It did make us feel a little downhearted, but that didn't last too long, as we did catch a glimpse of them. The dolphins appeared to get closer and I managed to successfully photograph them twice, thank god for a good zoom lens. Not as amazing as when we saw them at Kratie, but still a treat.
Anyway, our hour expired and we headed back to land. We organised to be dropped off back at our hotel to save the walk, but that wasn't the case. We were dropped maybe half way in the pouring rain and then walked back in the intense sun. If only we put sun tan lotion on. Back at our room we inspected our t-shirt tans in the mirror. Beautiful, but that wouldn't put a damper on the amazing few days we have just spent here. It will be a shame to leave.
Where I stayed
Sala Don Khone