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Irene's Adventures

Laos - Don Dhet

LAOS | Tuesday, 5 January 2010 | Views [521]

Don Dhet

Our night bus with ‘real beds’ began at 8:30 pm.  We were picked up at our guesthouse (the Samsenthai) and the oversize tuktuk then picked up a few more passengers; all of us heading to Pakse via the “Sleeping Bus”.   The bus had 24 ‘beds’.  Here’s the kicker – they were again made for Lao size people!  Irene is 5 foot 6 inches and her head and feet were touching both ends.  The beds were the width of 2 bus seats – and we had to share it!  Now with Ed having the shoulders of a football player, and laying on his back (because if he slept on his side his knees were in the aisle and with every curve in the road he felt he was going to fall off the ‘bed’) Irene had no choice but to sleep on her side, with her knees against the window.  We each had our own pillow and blanket, and despite the cramped quarters, it was a pretty good way to travel the long distance, as it went quickly.

At least we fared better than the poor Frenchman who, having purchases a ‘bed’ was refused by his bunk mate.  The fellow who he was to share with (the bus was full) absolutely refused to let this fellow into the bunk.  The Frenchman was trying to get comfortable in which ever bunk he could find, only to be told to move time and again, by the owner of the ticket for that particular bunk.  The bus driver took him to his pre-paid bunk and motioned this is yours.  The other fellow simply shook his head and said no way.  The Frenchman did end up bunking with someone, but we aren’t sure who.  Suspiciously, there was a Lao fellow sleeping in the aisle.....

We stopped at some town at about 2 am, so we at least got to get out and stretch our legs and go to the bathroom.  There was a toilet on board, but after having experienced this one time before, we chose to hold our bladders as long as possible hence forth; not that the bus stop bathroom is so much better, but at least it doesn’t move.  This little break seemed to help immensely, as we were both able to sleep very soundly after that. 

A note here about bus station toilets in Laos, they all require payment to enter.  There is generally a lady sitting with box resembling a voting box collecting usually 2000 kip.  She may or may not have toilet paper to give you (ALWAYS bring some sort of tissue, because there is NEVER any at the bus stations)  Now bear in mind that the Lao people tend to speak in rather high pitched tones, with the women being naturally slightly higher pitched than the men.  This woman manning the toilet collection box keeps  reciting over and over, in a monotonous shrill voice,” 2000 kip, 2000 kip, 2000 kip”.  And if someone tries to get past her without paying, the shrill voice begins to take on a shriek and sounds akin to fingernails on a blackboard, as she undoubtedly gets the slackers attention while embarrassing the hell out of him or her.   Irene went into a toilet at one place, and as there was no lady and no collection box, just went in and did her business.  When she came out the lady was standing there shrieking at her “2000 KIP, 2000 KIP”.  Geez, you’d think Irene had stolen the Royal diamonds!!!  The toilet profiteers of Egypt and South America could be waved off by showing them you had your own toilet paper, but here, they do not take no for an answer.

We arrived in Pakse at 7:00 am, we had time for a decent breakfast, then got back on the bus which soon stopped at a tour place to load 2 rubber dingys, with respective paddles, onto the aisle of the bus.  The life jackets and helmets were thrown behind the driver’s seat while the purported kayakers climbed over the equipment to find seats on the bus.   A few more blocks and we pulled over to take on a transmission, which was heavy and therefore put on the bottom step of the bus.  Eventually it was moved to beside the driver, where a fellow sat on it.

We dropped the kayakers at one destination then carried on to another where we were herded into boats transporting us to Don Dhet.  We finally were deposited on the small island at 11:00 am.

We headed toward the section that looked like it had guest houses and began asking prices and if we could see the room.  We absolutely lucked out when a young girl was asking at the Phonepasack guesthouse if they had room and Madame Phinh said, not for only one person.  It was the way she said it that had us inquire, “Do you have room for 2 people?”  “ Yes.”  Why for two but not one is still a mystery, however after a quick look we realized we found our little paradise!!

The north-east facing room has a covered balcony, with 2 hammocks, that overhand the Mekong.  The room is quite spacious and has a private bathroom.  The hot water is not really hot as it is solar heated by a black barrel on the roof.  But as the temperature during the day hovers in the mid 30’s, the tepid water is very refreshing.  We dumped our rucksacks, striped off the dusty travel clothes, threw on shorts and flung ourselves into the hammocks with our books.  It was not long before the sway of the hammock with the heat of the afternoon and the sound of the river lulled us to sleep.  Ah, blessed bliss....

We have gotten up early every morning and had our breakfast then headed out for a 5-8 mile walk around this island or over the bridge to the other island.  They are very small islands and the walks are very relaxing.  We met a fellow who showed us how he made charcoal.  He did not speak one word of English, but with his descriptive actions and some drawing in the sand we came to understand that he cuts the logs that are down the bank from his kiln, he hauls them up on his shoulder, he puts them in the kiln, makes a fire under it, stokes the fire for 6 days, then he has charcoal.  He then proceeded to tell our fortunes by asking our ages.  Apparently 2010 is a good year financially, but Irene will be much sick.  Ed will be strong and healthy.  Then he gave us each a quick arm, hand, head & shoulder massage, very firm and almost rough, but damn did we feel good after! 

Our morning walks are complete before it gets terribly hot.  We shower off then retire to our hammocks to read our books.   We don’t know how we can keep up this hectic pace..... LOL

In the evening we have taken our flashlights and walked out of the village into the rice paddies to star gaze.  We had trouble finding the big dipper due to the blanket of stars that camouflaged it.  We haven’t seen stars like that since we were kids on the farm. 

Madame Phinh has taken cooking courses in Vientiane, and can make a curried anything that makes your taste buds sing a happy dance.  Every meal has been an absolute delight.

Alas, we depart on the morrow for Cambodia.




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