Me Julie/Happy Birthd...
Trip Start Jun 25, 2011
85Trip End Dec 24, 2011
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The intended 'holiday' part of our holiday begins this morning by nearly missing the bus as Jo's phone pretends its still in England and jumps back an hour all by itself (how clever of it). Unfortunately this means we miss breakfast with Judith and have to say very hurried goodbyes as our bus arrives to collect us; we are sure somehow (considering how similar our travel schedules are) that we shall meet again
Off we head to Don Det, Laos' notorious stoner island, where everything 'happy' means everything with weed in/on/around it. Our bus driver looks like he's playing James Dean's character from 'Rebel Without a Cause', with the attitude to boot, but his act falls down with his taste in music; shit soppy Thai pop where some girl/boy is crying over some boy/girl. Horrible.
It only takes a couple of hours to reach the long-boat port where boats leave for Don Det and we, along with a handful of other westerners, set off alongside numerous other boats full of westerners on the 10 minute journey. Once there nearly every sign promotes 'Happiness' for only 20,000kip extra; we wonder if you have to specify what mood you want your food in when ordering (ours would be pretty miserable as it turns out).
Nevertheless, we head down the island past the main hub of the stoner joints and bungalows with precarious leans on them, to find King Kong Guesthouse which the Lonely Planet describes as 'gay freindly'... not that we've found anywhere in Laos un-gay freindly; we're mainly going in the hope that our idea of a guesthouse covered in fairy lights and glitter and run by two outrageously camp gay men (who will demand kareoke every evening) turns out to be a reality
On arriving it looks the same as all the other bungalow places we have been passing for the last mile and a half (with large bags on backs and sweating intensely) and the guy running it is a straight scouser married to a Lao lady. Boo.
Although not quite the characters we were hoping for this guy does a pretty good turn of entertaining us while we eat (which is all we decide to do there, before head back the way we came to find somewhere a little nearer the hub).
He smokes weed throughout our meal and when asked for various things he dissapears into the kitchen before coming out ten minutes later empty handed...
He does tell us that he used to be a chef and that as it is Sunday today he will be doing a pretty good interpretation of an English Sunday roast starting at 4pm. We tell him we'll be back (especially as he has some pretty funky looking turkeys running about out front that Jo hopes might be on the menu).
We walk half way back along the route we've practically just finished doing and settle on Don Det Bungalows which are near, but not in, the busiest part of the island
Dumping our bags we rent bycycles (which just aren't as fun without a motor) and head to find internet so that Claire can skype James and Liz which has been a long time coming considering that baby Nolan is almost in the world. This is so exciting that we pass up on the roast and have an average western dinner (Lao food is a little harder to come by here...?) before heading back to our bungalow for a drink at the nearly deserted bar there. When ordering the owner, Key (who is a pretty tiny little Laos lady with a screechy voice and good sense of humour), is taken aback when Claire says something in Lao that she actually understands. She then wades into trying to teach us more Lao than we know what to do with and showing off all of her dogs to us. She has 4 in total; Pepsi, Sprite, Fanta... and Julie. They have been left with her by foreign freinds that either once lived on the island or intend to return. Her (obvious) favourite is Julie, the puppy of the group and Key spends a long time throwing her about and baby talking to her whilst picking ticks out of her coat. Our evening is accompanied by Key's shouts of 'JUULLLIEEEE' 'Oh me Juullliieee'. Finally she tucks Julie into a little bed all of her own for the night.
Now in the darkness we decide to take the bikes into town and get some TV put on Jo's iphone (it is our holiday afterall), and half way through the journey Jo steps into a trough of mud; she is unimpressed
We head home to drink a beer on the veranda and listen to music. Whilst swinging in the hammock we have one cannine visitor after another. This is largely because Claire feeds the first a biscuit and she then rushes off to tell her freinds who then arrive one by one after each other for the rest fo the evening. Our favourite of these we christen Rex; he has a pretty beaten up looking face from many fights but he is a little lovely and take a shine to Claire who gives him extra biscuits as he's the skinniest.
We have a late start because (did we mention) we're in the holiday part of our holiday. We find ourselves feeling pretty knackered and a little under the weather but we put this down to having had a pretty non-stop 5 weeks in Lao already. The result of this tiredness is that when we go to update our blog on the horrifically expensive internet we get sucked into youtube videos instead and waste a good hour with Claire watching X-factor auditions and Jo watching promos for Glee season 3
By the time we're done with that its basically dinner time so we go and get a drink at 'Reggae Bar'. Its a bit of a dive (and not the kind that we usually love) and the 'waiter' we're not sure is a real person or is actuall a cliche with legs; he is a skinny white guy who looks like he just dropped out of Bob Marley Studies and has since forgotten to wash or open his eyes properly. He's had a bit too much 'extra happy for 20,000kp' if you ask us.
We decide therefore to go back to our bungalows for dinner where we are sure that the restuarant will be quiet again. So so wrong.
When we arrive we are met by a fishing trip of westerners who got back a few hours earlier and have been drinking ever since. Key's husband (who took the trip) and an English guy fresh off a tour of Afghanastan with the army both throw up into the Mekong with 5 minutes of arriving.
For dinner we have 4 uninvited guests at our table with us. They include the ex-soldier who has drunk most of a bottle of Lao Lao, who joined the army for 'life experience' and who speaks fluent French as his parents have a chllet in the Alps. This is only interesting because it means he is able to spek to Key's father (who lives at the bungalows too), who was once a captain in the Kmer Rouge. We wish we could speak to him instead of the English bloke.
Also at the table is yet another embarassing Englishman who speaks SO LOUDLY and proclaims frequently how many freinds he has all over the world and then contradicts himself for a bit ("I don't care which bar I go to tonight to get drunk"/"If I wanted to get wasted I could do that in liverpool"
It a relief when they finally leave and we return to our hut to feed the dogs again as they make better company.
Having aksed for it, Claire receives a bucket of coffee with her breakfast from Key.
In the morning we hire bikes again and take in the entirity of the island in an hour and a half. Its very pretty and a good time waster before we can return to the internet for Jo to skype Mummy P for her birthday. She does at least manage to say "Happy Birthday" before the power goes out all over the island. Boo.
We wait around in the hopes it will come on again but finally abandon that idea to get food. Shortly after leaving the internet shop Jo suddenly (and we mean SUDDENLY) needs the toilet... BADLY. We start a brisk walk back to the bungalow only 10 minutes walk away and end in a run to make it in time, passing the guy who we rented bikes from in the morning who shouts 'Sabaidee, Where you go in such a hurreeeee!' as we rush past. Jo makes it. Phew. She feels pretty rubbish so once again we opt for a quiet evening 'in'
Getting up we both now feel crap so we decide it is time to move on from Don Det and book a bus for tomorrow to take us to Don Khong, an island further north.
To make the most of our last day we rent bikes again and start out to cycle across the bridge that links Don Det to the neighbouring small island of Don Khon (note there is no 'g' on the end). 5 minutes into the journey the chain comes off Jo's bike and jams itself against the spokes. She struggles for 5 minutes to fix it; a couple stop and the guy stands by pretending to help but literally doing nothing.
Once finally across the bridge we get a drink to try and feel a bit better and do feel good enough to travel on to Li Phi falls, a set of rapids on the island that are pretty impressive and are where the locals believe the bad spirits of the dead are trapped (so no one swims or fishes there).
We go from there to the islands sandy beqach where boats leave to try and see the irrawaddy dolphins from; we were told that the best way to garantee seeing them is to kayak and neither of us are up to it so we abandon the idea altogether, and instead just appreciate being able to see Cambodia in the distance
We opt, once again, for another quiet evening in with the dogs and decide that Don Det has done us in with the lurgy. We look forward to moving on.