Pen or money

Trip Start Jun 25, 2011
Trip End Dec 24, 2011

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Champasak,
Friday, October 28, 2011

Jo starts her day with a frustrating trip to the tourist information in Pakse. All information she was given on a previous visit, in regards to getting to Don Deang for a home stay, (our favorite tour guide Lek has written to us encouraging us to do this) goes completely out the window. As soon as she walks in she is greeted by two smiling Lao ladies, with identical uniform and makeup. Jo says, "I wanted to make sure it is possible to get a boat across to Don Deang." The women look at her and each other and say. "Bo.. at." Oh dear. 

We meet with Judith and have breakfast together and make a decision to hire bikes again and drive ourselves to Don Deang. So that is what we do.

We stop en route for noodle soup and it takes us a little over an hour to reach the boat port, Ban Muang. We see a huge platform on several wooden boats, all ready with a car and people on it ready to go. When we ask them however, they tell us they are going to Champasak, the next bigger island along. Instead we are pointed over to a tiny platform resting on two wooden boats going to Don Deang. We agree on 30,000K each and struggle to get our bikes onto it, without almost dropping them into the water. The boat only fits two bikes, so another 'boat' is brought for Judith.

The Mekong here is spectacular, it looks almost still but the current is strong. Don Deang, as we approach, looks almost completely untouched and the guys help us drive the bikes off the boat onto the sand bank 'beach'. 

Once on the island we carefully drive our bikes up the sand and onto a stretch of wooden planks laid out, up onto a dusty path. The first place we come across is the 'community lodge' which is a single dorm for visitors. We have some trouble trying to explain that we want a home stay, but finally get ushered away by an elderly gentleman, and taken to his home a few meters up the road.

His home is beautiful, clustered amongst a few other houses. We follow him up the steps to his home, taking our shoes off, and are greeted by his two year old grand daughter who puts on a great show for us, finding all her toys and showing off. The house is basically all open plan with one closed bedroom for his daughter and son in law. Our beds are laid out in the main part of the house, across from where grandma and granddad sleep. We try out our basic Lao and then agree to be back for 7pm for food. 

We walk up the single small dusty path of the island, through the village and the people are especially friendly. This place is stunning and really idyllic, it seems to us that the people here live a simple but sustainable life and the whole place is beautifully kept, with a lot of pride. There is just one other place for westerners here, a big fancy German run lodge called 'La Folie' with swimming pool and expensive huts, and we stop there for a drink served by a beautiful lady-boy who speaks perfect English. 

     We walk further along the road and kids along the way pick flowers and hand them to us. It seems really sweet. Until one little girl hands Claire a flower with a smile. As soon as the flower is out of her hand her face drops and she says, "pen!". When we say we dont have any, the rest of the children chase us saying "money! money!" and paradise is broken. 

    When we arrive back at the house, it is clear that our host family have already eaten and have put a mat down on the floor for us to eat. The food is amazing, rice vedgetables, and noodle soup and we are entertained by the little girl and the Thai soap opera on tv. To put the little girl to bed, Grandma and Granddad put her in a basket that swings from the ceiling, taking turns to push her. (really fast!) 

After some more efforts in communication, we climb into our mosquito covered beds (at about 8pm) and sleep really well. Although Claire thinks it is a little rude that they didn't offer to swing her to sleep too.
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