The Island

Trip Start Aug 17, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Sunset Bungalow

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Champasak,
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

From Ban Lung we tooka minibus across the Cambodia/Laos border. Only the first half of the journey was in a local minibus and at StungTreng we borded one with just four other people (two of which were our French friends from the jungle trek) so we travelled in relative luxury. At the border it was the usual beuracracy and opportunistic ripping off (pay $2 for a stamp etc) but we got through and then got on a boat full of other tourists bound for Don Det. 
The 4000 island are a collection of inhabited islands, non inhabited islands and sandbars in the Mekong river, they come and go with the rainy season depending on how high the river is. It is a beautiful place with some spectacular sunsets across the water. The island accomodation is small bungalows, we found somewhere clean to stay but forgoed hot water (it has since become our priority in booking accomadation!). The northern tip of Don Det is heavily covered in bungalows and restaurants and bars. Alot of them serve 'Happy' food and drinks, I naively wondered what this meant, Simon reminded me that it meant cannabis. 
On our first whole day we took bikes to cycle to the less touristic island of Don Khon which is joined by a bridge. It is a sleepy place and we cycled past the usual fields and buffalos and cows (though now they tend to be decorated with a bell) and steam engines. The French attempted to build a railway here, why they bothered on such a small island is a mystery but it wasn't completed and now the rails are gone for scrap, the track site is a road and all that is left is a small engine at either end of the island.
We got as far as the southern tip of the island and had lunch. Lunch took nearly two hours from ordering to leaving, there is a relaxed way of life here and our lunch arrived (very tasty) at the same leisurly pace. It is quite a change from the rush and efficiency of the Vietnamese restaurants. We cycled back but didn't get far before a loud 'Bang' and my tyre blew (we are now familiar with the sound thanks to the frequency this happens) so we had a long slow walk back before it started to get dark as the only place fixing tyres on the island was staffed only by chickens. At the bridge to Don Det we found and old man who fixed the hole in the inner tube but it bulged alarmingly through the tyre, we did get back without further punctures. On the way we stopped at 'The Veggie Patch' an out of the way place that has the most amazing cake and ice-cream (they only have one cake at a time, we got banana cake and chocolate ice-cream, so good!).
We took a kayaking trip the next day along the Mekong down some (mild) rapids and to see some more waterfalls (they don't get boring). We went with Jenny (Surrey), Julius (Germany) a Belgian couple and a Canadian couple. The area is home to some of the Irrawaddy dolphins, whether they are the same pod or different ones we don't know. We stopped at near there place and being in kayaks near them was great, we got quite close. We were there a while though, with no sign from our guides of leaving so we had a swim, a boat of locals thought this was stare-worthy.

Julius suggested we have dinner together that evening, we also met a friend of theirs called Sion (Shaun - the Welsh way). After the meal we suggested we go to the cake and ice-cream place, nowhere else on the island sells ice-cream. We did warn them that it was a short walk so we set off down a track in the dark. We walked a while with no lights, not worried as we knew it was a little way. Jenny started to say it was creepy so we lit our way with Simon's phone and walked on. She complained some more, Julius found it funny to wind her up further, eventually after still walking Simon went ahead with his light to find the place as we felt we should have found it by now. We stayed in the dark, Julius talked about murderers and other useful things until Jenny was really over reacting (it was quite a nice peaceful night). We heard a yell, agreed it was probably Simon though couldn't agree on why. The saw a light hurrying toward us, discussed whether it was Simon or his attacker. Turns out it was Simon, hot and out of breath after running from dog! We went back, on the way we found the veggie patch, closed and dark. Oh well..
   We got a drink but lost Jenny and Julius in a bar. Drank with Sion until the bar shut and then      sat in the street talking (he also loved Cambodia) until parting ways. We were to take the bus    to Champasak tomorrow. 

   In all we found the 4000 island underwhelming with too many tourists, a shame after hearing      so many nice things about it but we have the rest of Laos to discover. 


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