Cycling Proficiently

Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Sunday, April 28, 2013

So 4000 islands promised to be a hammock slinging mecca and it really did not disappoint, we stayed on Don Khone which is the quieter of the island and we were very pleased to drop the 'Same Same' t-shirt wearing crusty backpackers in Don Det the proper backpacker centre of the 4000 Islands.

When we got to Don Khone the boat just pulled over at a grassy bank and pointed for us to get out so we were stood in the 40 degree sun all a bit lost and confused thankfully Google maps pointed us in the right direction and before we knew it we were checked into our lovely little river front wooden house with a deckchair and a hammock adorning the balcony.

There was literally nothing going on in Don Khone, we went for breakfast lunch and dinner at our guesthouse restaurant and spent our days chilling in our hammock planning our travels through Vietnam and Cambodia.

The most excitement we generally had was being woken at 4am by the rather over excited cockerals who seemed to have taken up residence under our hut and occasionally we would come back from dinner and would find a herd of water buffalo outside our front door munching on the grass.  If anyone has ever wondered what a water buffalo feels like, it is wirey and furry and bit like an elephant. It took me a good 15 minutes to pluck up the courage but I rubbed a subdued looking one when it was munching on my grass.

Eventually we decided that we had to explore a little bit of Don Khone, however there was one problem here.  Exploring either required walking for about 10 kilometers in the red hot sun or I had to get over my fear and learn to ride a bike.  I figured for $1 I could afford to hire a bike and hope that it all came flooding back to me.  I don’t think I have ridden a bike since I was about 12 years old.  I am sure that my mum will correct me if I am wring here but as I remember it, I was too embarrassed to take my pink Raleigh Clover bike to school to take my cycling proficiency (I really wanted the Pepsi bike from the Freemans catalogue). So because I had not passed my cycling proficiency I wasn’t allowed to ride my bike on the road and therefore my bike became redundant and I never cycled again… until now.

So in the relative safety of the dusty tracks through the island, with nothing but the odd moped and cow to get in my way, I set off.  Wobbling and zig-zagging through the countryside, swearing under my breath and holding on for dear life.  All was going well until I got a bit too confident, hit a rock and catapulted myself over the handlebars.  Thankfully I just had grazed hands and a bruised knee, my bike on the other hand now had a dented and collapsed basket.

There were two things to see on Don Khone, one is a waterfall and the other a viewpoint over into Cambodian waters where you can see Irawaddy Dolphins.  So we set off to see the dolphins.  After about an hour of cycling on the most uneven bumpy road with sheer drops into rice paddies on either side my sense of humour was lacking and I really questioned why people choose to cycle for fun, idiots!

Eventually we made it, the road came to an end and we could see the Mekong and apparently Cambodia. Guess what we could not see….. dolphins!  We stayed for a while and took in the view and before long the blue sky was grey, the temperature dropped and the rain started.  We decided to head back before the heavens really opened and the mud roads turned into slippy wet mud slides.  The journey back was a mission, we were being blown by the wind, soaked by the rain and our legs and bums were really not enjoying the ride, just before we got onto the final straight home my bike started to make a funny noise and I asked Tim if it looked ok, he over took and told me it was fine.  I got off to investigate for myself and discovered that the entire inner tube had popped out of the back wheel.  Boy am I glad it didn’t do that 5 kilometers back!  I returned my bike with smashed basket and broken tire and ran, I don’t think I will be signing up for the tour de France any time soon.

However the next day, revived but still saddle sore we decided to take our bikes again and set off to the waterfall.  Little did we know this was actually only 10 minutes away and we could have easily done it the first day.  The Somphamit Waterfall was pretty cool, considering it was the end of dry season it was pretty ferocious.  It is known to the locals at Li Phi Falls which means Spirit Trap as they believe that bad spirits are trapped in the waterfall as they wash down stream.

We followed the signs at the waterfall to ‘The Beach’ and low and behold, we found a beach.  Well a beach by landlocked Laos standards but a beach none the less.  There was sand and water and a few Farangs paddling.  The problem with this beach was that it was about 45 degrees and there was not a scrap of shade, also the sand had about 80% silica content so it was pretty much melting our flip flops.

Content that we had seen all there was to see we set off home and made it safely with both us and our bikes intact, phew.

One problem that I had with the 4000 islands was the insect life.  Our first night we had dinner when it went dark which turned out to be a terrible idea as we sat being dive bombed by huge flying cockroaches.  Thankfully our restaurants had a rather large and healthy cat family who quickly caught and devoured the offending critters.  After our first night of ducking and diving we decided that having dinner before sunset was the only safe bet.

Our little hut was pretty well sealed from critters and we had the odd house gecko to keep any intruders away.  On our last morning I was just laid in bed dozing and suddenly I felt a whack on my head, seemingly our friendly house gecko who is meant to have the best sticking power and be able to hang upside down effortlessly on any surface managed to fall off the ceiling and hit me square on the head.  I wouldn’t mind so much but this is now about the fourth time that I have been smacked in the head by some sort of falling or flying creature.  The odd thing about this is that I have an unusually small head, I even have to buy children’s hats as adult hats cover my eyes.  I really need to work on turning off my animal magnetism!

So our time in the 4000 islands and Laos was up, it was time to get the boat to Pakse and get our flight to Vietnam to start our next adventure.

The journey was relatively effortless, the boat journey kept me entertained as we had Barbie and Ken travelling with us.  These German backpackers could not have been more ridiculous.  Barbie had her hair done in some extravagant up-do, full make-up including big round blusher circles on her cheeks and immaculate French manicured finger and toe nails.  Her boyfriend Ken carried both of their rucksacks and then also had to stop to help her climb over a drain pipe to get off of the boat.  It was utterly fascinating; I have no idea why she thinks that backpacking is for her, crazy!!

At Pakse airport, we were all checked in and going through passport control when I noticed something a bit odd. The passport control man had a pistol on his desk.  I thought that this was a bit weird, even by Laos standards and then I realised that the man standing uncomfortably close to me was actually checking his gun in for the flight??!! What??!!  Thankfully it was going on a different flight to us.

Lets get out of this madness and into the madness of the former Saigon – Ho Chi Minh City!
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Stephanie on

I'm always so delighted when I'm reading your blog!
Keep on going!

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