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life's adventures This is the story of my wanderings through Asia

Until next time Laos

LAOS | Thursday, 11 November 2010 | Views [641] | Comments [1]

Bags wearily dropped onto the floor of our second guesthouse in Phnom Penh, we slump onto the beds and start a lazy game of gin. Josh and I have been playing cards every so often throughout our travels so far, they’re handy in situations where staring into the setting sun or at the lush surroundings of South East Asia just isn’t entertainment enough. Cambodia so far seems a bit dull. Crossing the border from Laos I was reading my Year on the Mekong book, it describes some of the devastation caused by the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot, and the insane sadness they caused this nation. I was in tears as we were ushered out of the bus, into clumps of backpack laden foreigners all trying to begin the form filling process that is any border crossing. Three forms later and we wander across to Cambodia, waiting in the heat for a few hours for everyone to finish, then onto the quite spacious bus for a ten hour ride to the capital. It was the perfect goodbye to Laos, in no rush at all.

So in summing up my experience of Laos, I must say my favourite place by far was in the south, 4000 Islands emanates peace and tranquility. On arrival from Vientiane, we found Mike in his boat at the rivers edge, German and friendly enough, he runs simple bungalows on the sunrise side of the Island. Sitting in the boat happened to be a Kiwi couple, easy going and a nice change from the foreigners we have met so far. We all stayed on the south side of Don Det Island, at BounTip’s Eastside bungalows. Very cheap and super basic, but all we could want, far from the ‘Manhattan’ North side of the Island, where you can find restaurants, Internet cafés and Tour agencies, in amongst villages and one stop shops.

We were situated with hammocks out the front of our thatched, woven bungalows, facing the silted brown waters of the Mekong. Here the river is at the widest point, roughly 16kms wide; the widest river in the world. Downstream are also the biggest waterfalls in south East Asia, which we visited on one day of walking around the Islands in the blazing sun. It happened to be the day I turned 24, so we wandered until we found a beach where we could watch the sunset, and sat on rocks in front of the blaze, watching fishermen returning home, and kids playing in the water.

Mike took us out the next day on his boat, a typical longboat of Laos, with a motor guiding us through glassy surfaces and strong currents. Our small group, the kiwi couple, Josh and I, and Joy; Mikes 10 year old Lao daughter, headed up north toward the Cambodian border, through a myriad of treetops poking through the surface of the river, and islets bordered by sandy chopped up beaches.

It was the earliest after the rains that Mike had ventured in this part of the river, ‘the real 4000 Islands’. He often takes tourists when the river is low; 4 meters lower than when we were there, and the river turns a calm, clear blue, and the islands emerge into summer heat, thousands of eroded sand banks linked in the new forms the river creates each season.

‘Not many people come up this way’, Mike informed us the locals hardly go through that particular part of the Mekong, ‘it’s quite dangerous…’ especially when the steady mass of water and its strong flow is much more powerful than a simple wooden boat filled with the 6 of us, ‘but people have said it’s one of the most beautiful areas they’ve ever been to.’

We parked up on a sandy mound and Mike and Joy prepared our lunch, barbequed fish, caught fresh that morning cooked in Lao spices and wrapped in banana leaves, and a huge salad, along with the customary freshly baked baguette. The afternoon passed with us drawing in the sand with Joy, building and decorating sandcastles and swims in the shallows of the Mekong. Even though it was overcast, our skins were dark with burn by the time we decided to head home. The sun slowly sunk behind the treetops of countless Islands and the expanse of river as we found the route toward Don Det, rapidly moving through the maze in the Mekong.

We also spent a day riding around on bikes, rented after a breakfast of baguette and omelet, with lunch packed: freshly baked goods from an Australian baker, who has also lived on the island for ten years. We managed to bike the circumference of Don Det a few times, stopped in our tracks when the whole sky in its entirety turned a pink, purple, fuchsia fusion, and vivid shades of orange and red, gold and yellows, with blazing blueness in between. The vista was beyond belief, the colours scouring our eyes, photos inadequately capturing the contrast of the greens and browns from rice paddies and huts, stretching out in fields on either side of the track.

Later that night we had our necks craned toward the heavens again as we marveled at the stars behind the silhouette of the old bridge structure in the middle of the island, and the smiling crescent moon a deep coppery gold in the distance, hung over more fields dotted with lumps, water buffalo munching on hay, now in darkness.

The countless things that will stay with me forever from the last few weeks are heart warming. Beautiful Laos, with the butterflies and flowers, geckos and guesthouses, dragonflies and orange clad monks, will be a place I look forward to returning to.




Thanks for introducing me to Laos. Sounds like a fun place and beautiful too.
U Graeme

  U Graeme Nov 19, 2010 4:52 AM



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