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The Mystical Adventures of Tess and Jack

Farewell to Laos: Wat Phu Champasak and Don Det

LAOS | Friday, 5 February 2010 | Views [1762] | Comments [2]

A little sore but well-rested and in high spirits, we departed Pakse and made our way to the nearby town of Champasak. Originally this hadn't been on our itinerary due to time constraints, but whilst languishing in Vientiane we by chance spotted in the local newspaper that the annual Wat Phu Champasak Festival, usually held in February, had been pushed forward to exactly the time we would be in the area. We decided that it must be fate (especially since Beau had reccommended this as one of the highlights of his trip to Laos). Let's just say that fate (and Beau!*) are in lots and lots of trouble! We anticipated great things as we were crammed into the back of a sawngtheaw with about 20 friendly locals, and chatted to our newly found friend (a Lao hiphop star wannabe from Luang Prabang) on the way to the Wat. As soon as we arrived, however, we sensed that something was amiss. In my head (and I realise that by this stage in my trip I should know not to expect anything about anything...) I saw a colourful carnival packed with rollicking locals, fighting cocks, Muay Lao fighters and overflowing with Beer Lao. A little idealistic perhaps! Instead we found ourselves in the middle of a scorching hot field, with a line of shuttered stalls, very few people (most of whom were fast asleep) and deathly silence. Surprised but not discouraged, we assured ourselves that the festivities would begin at night fall and settled down for a few Beer Lao. As the afternoon wore on, our moods slowly worsened. First of all, our nice patch of shade was invaded by a crazy (not drunk, just crazy) Lao boy in a pink shirt who sat on a nearby rock muttering away softly in his native tongue, stopping every few minutes to pinch his arm in a pecking motion and say "cheep cheep cheep". This made us feel a little uncomfortable so we moved on, only to find that our second shady oasis was in fact where all the locals came to pee - yep, we were lying in a big shady communal toilet! When night finally arrived, things did not pick up much - one of the few friendly people we met told us we were there on the wrong night and that "many people come tomorrow - Thai, Malay, Vietnamese, everyone!" By this stage I was feeling superbly cranky. We made a half-hearted attempt to drown our sorrows in beer, but ended up going to bed early (the word 'bed' is used loosely, as we camped under the stars - on the right nights, this is what all the locals do, but our only neighbours were cows and bugs and rocks) and wishing we were somewhere far far away! In the morning I awoke covered in dew and with a throbbing hangover, and we had to walk halfway back to Champasak in the morning heat to collect our bags! On the plus side, we were up early enough to score a free ticket to the Wat (which was so-so) and felt quite smug about this fact.

The remainder of the day was more hectic but a lot more fun: we had quite an adventure getting from Champasak to Don Det, the sleepy island where we would spend the remainder of our time in Laos. From Pakse this route is probably quite straightforward, but since we were in the middle of nowhere it took 4 sangtheaw rides, 2 boat trips, some hitchiking, a lot of heat and dust, and an annoying European lady in a Tina Arena t-shirt. It was worth the time and inconvenience: Don Det is possibly the most relaxed place in the whole wide world. We stayed 5 nights in a very basic bungalow on the water's edge (with shared squat toilets...I'm a pro now). Standard day itineraries consisted of:

6.00 am: Jack awakens and attempts to wake me up. I rouse him and fall back to sleep. Jack goes and watches sunset in hammock.

8.00 am: I awaken. Breakfast at our guesthouse (pancakes and coconut shakes). Return to hammocks, exhausted from our efforts, for our morning nap.

11.00 am: Awaken from morning nap. Spend an hour discussing our laziness  and making unrealistic plans for how to spend the day (bike rides, waterfall adventures etc.) Decide "we will just have a quiet one". Read trashy novels.

1.00 pm: lunch at guesthouse. More coconut shakes.

2.00 pm: back in hammock. Order room service (coconut shakes).

4.00 pm: Drag ourselves from hammock and go for a 10 minute swim. Return to hammock and order more room service (beer).

6.00 pm: dinner at guesthouse. Exhausted from our day's efforts, stumble back to bungalow to sleep for another 12 hours.

I sincerely wish I had lots of fun adventure tales involving me doing something stupid or getting hurt but "nothing" completely sums up our activities on Don Det...and it was just fabulous! It would have been the perfect farewell to Laos except for the fact that Jack ate some bad chicken (from the AUSTRALIAN-run bakery) and came down with horrendous food poisoning on our second last day. This persisted for 2 more days and nights - including for our border bus ride, during which the poor little sniffer just managed to hold in a massive swamp green coloured spew. While he is now fully recovered he has a very unfortunate ongoing taste aversion to coconut shakes!

We are now safe and sound and having a blast in Bangkok - which is a much more interesting travel blog entry to save for another day - and heading to our island paradise in the morning! Miss you all lots and looking forward to seeing your lovely selves soon (whilst somewhat dreading the prospect of returning to the real world!)

T & J

*If you're reading this Beau I am totally joking and your travel advice rocks and we love you and you're not in trouble at all (except for forgetting to send me my long awaited copy of Dune) xo




All I can say is thanks so much to you both for educating me to all the spots you saw!! I've thoroughly enjoyed vicariously travelling alongside..sort of ..and someday I hope to get to Thailand/Vietnam/Cambodia... I love your descriptions and 'Joie de vivre'..the food poisoning thing is horrid and very gut wrenching..to say the least..spoils the joy... I'm curious did you guys take "Dukoral" doses prior to travelling? It really helps with lots of the travellers diarrhea stuff.. especially for folks that are prone to that.. it worked great for me in Mexico as we were off the beaten path so it was worth the expense for me...not to have the other!
What a fabulous journey you've undertaken... cheers,
Love Leslie

  Leslie in OS Feb 6, 2010 4:51 AM


Done it again Tessa - Great read! Enjoy your time...love you lots and can't wait to see you both safely home. Maggi is being too spoilt!!!

Love n Hugs xxxxx

  Ma & Pa Feb 6, 2010 8:28 PM

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