Life is but a dream.... Swinging in a Hammock

Trip Start Sep 02, 2008
Trip End Mar 10, 2009

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Wednesday, October 22, 2008

At the base of Laos, the Mekong widens (at the widest it is 14km across during the rainy season) with hundreds or thousands of emerald islands dotted in between. Most of these islands are merely sandbars that appear during the dry season, but then no-one is counting! Though difficult to comprehend, life here is even more laid back than the rest of Laos (although in 39 degree heat you can understand it)!! 

We were in desperate need of this after out protracted bus journeys, and indecision on where to stay! We had left Na Hin at 3pm the day before (as soon as transport passed our guesthouse after the cave) and took a Sangthaew to the junction where we took our diversion. From there we took 2 further buses ( 1of which smelt of the interesting mix of urine, fish sauce and talcum powder) and eventually arrived in Pakse 12 hours later. Kindly the bus driver didn't wake us and instead joined us in sleeping till dawn; a far more feasible time to catch transport and try find accommodation in town. After some humming and gaaning aan over our next move, we eventually decided to catch a motor-bike tuk-tuk which made an interesting picture with us crammed onto a side-saddle seat and our packs strapped to the back. Over a good asain  breakfast of egge bread and noodles we decided to continue travelling for another 2 hours - or so we were told , though in reality it was 3 - to the 4 000 islands for some well needed R and R.

We decided to stay on Don Det, which is one of three main inhabited islands on which tourists can stay. Though often compared with Vang Vieng, we think this is very unfair. The island does have tour agents punting adventure activities and a few 'happy shakes', but  its main attraction is of palm lined pathways with farmer and fishermen's houses sitting off from the river shore and the main activity vegging. With the rise in tourist interest a lot of the farmers have built bungalows on their land. It is in 1 such that we landed up staying. As recommended in the book we ticked all the relevant boxes such as multiple windows for a breeze (these islands are not yet on the electricity grid), mosquito net, 2 hammocks and we added the luxury of an en-suite bathroom (with a western toilet)!  We had to pay over the odds though - at a whole 2.50 we figured it was worth it.

After settling in we spent the day relaxing in our hammocks reading, writing and sleeping. The second day got all active as we decided the best way to experience this part of the Mekong was in a Kayak. We kayaked passed beautiful scenery with views of typical Laotian village life; naked children laughing as they played in the water; women working the fields protected by full-length shirts and conical hats; massive trees submerged by the high water levels and several smaller islands. Along the way we stopped at 2 waterfalls on any other river, but as this was the Mekong, cascades may be more accurate. The larger of the 2 was Kon Papheng which is the largest cascade (at 15m high) on the Mekong and evidently in South East Asia. The sheer volume and power of the water was quite awe-inspiring. For Kirsty though, the highlight of the trip was getting to within 50 metres of the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin, after lunching in Cambodia (no visa required!!)!

These animals once ranged the whole Mekong but now number less than 100 individuals and mainly in this calm bay off Cambodia. Their numbers have been decimated by hunters in the past, and now gill nets hamper their recovery. This bay is deep enough and there is a ban on fishing which makes the dolphins sticking around this region wise indeed. They are also interesting in that they can survive in both fresh and salt water. As described in 1 book- 'don't expect flipper moments' but as they broke through the water for air we saw these beautiful serene animals float along the surface for a second or two before disappearing.
We had wanted to stay an extra day in the 4 000 islands but ran out of funds. As the closest cash advance was a 2 hour boat trip away, and our Vietnam visas had started there 1 month count down, we decided it was wise we continued our slow progress through the beautiful South towards Vietnam.
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
Mr Phau's Riverside Guesthouse
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