Another early start! This time to get a mini bus to take us to Laos from Kratie. The usual over crowding ensued with 17 people packed in a 12 seater bus. With every pick-up stop they made we thought they couldn't‘t possible fit anyone else in, but sure enough they managed! There was even a guy sitting between the driver and his door! When we got to the borders the guards asked for the typical bribes for working on weekends, a few dollars for every stamp they placed on our passports etc, etc. On the Cambodian side they wanted $2 from each of us. We gave them about 50c for both of us! Ha ha we just said that was all we had. Even bribes are negotiable in Cambodia. On the Laos side it was the same but Karen flatly refused to pay anything more and so we paid all of $2, half of their demands. We did well because all the rest on our bus paid the full wack.
Laos is number 4 on the countries I most want to see. The first place we headed to is called 4,000 islands and it is on the Mekong river. We were originally going to stay on an island called Don Khong but at the last minute changed our minds and headed to Don Det instead.
We quickly found a river side bungalow that had great views. You can tell a lot about a people when their main concern is the hammock in your bungalow! That was what our bungalow owner was like, he actually changed one of our hammocks because it was old. They did tell us that the Laotians are relaxed! If you are coming to this area from Cambodia bring sufficient funds as there are no banks or ATMS anywhere around. We foolishly did not have that much money but as always we managed somehow and thankfully Laos is cheap.
We were told that Don Det was the party island. I would say Party is too strong a word to use. It does have bars that serve “Happy shakes” and ganja if you partake in such activities but I would not say it is full on.
In fact we found it quite serene! It was lovely just to sit on our hammocks reading and watching the world go by. This area of the Mekong is beautiful and the water is really clear. You are also living next door to the locals and you really get an insight in how the Laotians live. So we were happy that we changed our minds at the last minute to stay on Don Det!
On the next day we managed to rouse ourselves from our hammocks and rent a couple of bikes. We cycled right around the island. The further inland we got the more rural the place became. It was fantastic to cycle past thatched wooden houses, porches full of hens with their little chicks as well as the occasional pig. Two hours later, with our exercise quota for the week reached we retired back to our hammocks for hours of reading and just chilling out. We had only been in Laos for two days but we could already feel our heartbeats slowing down. This was by far the most chilled out place we’ve been in on our travels and truly lived up to the P.D.R. (please don’t rush) spirit that pervades all of Laos.
That night we went for dinner at the local Indian place. We were warned the food would take a while so we took a pack of cards with us to while away the time. This is an essential item to carry around as the Laotians do not really do systems or efficiency. I think it’s against the rules or something. On the table next to us was a Japanese man who didn’t quite know what to do with himself bless him and at the end resorting to singing to himself. Having witnessed the Japanese speed by which things are done we really felt for him.
It’s such a pity we didn’t have much money with us, or maybe it was a blessing in disguise as this place was the kind that you’d stop at for a day or two and end up spending weeks in.
With a heavy heart, but a totally chilled out state (man) we boarded the boat to the mainland.
More when we get there!
Love Karen and Paul