Saturday, February 13, 2010

Si Phan Don (4000 Islands)

From Vientiane we took a surprisingly bearable overnight sleeper bus to Pakse, and after being shuttled on and off several other minivans and buses without really knowing what the final destination was, we finally made it to Si Phan Don (4000 Islands).

4000 Islands is a group of Islands on the Mekong River, on the border between Laos and Cambodia. We decided to stay on Doc Let Island and so took a longboat out with a few other tourists, packs balanced precariously at the bow. Si Phan Don is hot, sweltering hot in fact , so we found a Guesthouse quick smart and had a much needed shower after 20-odd hours of travel.

There isn't a lot to do down these ways other than to relax, heat up, swim, repeat. We hired bikes on our first day and rode to a small beach where we swam for a couple of hours. Here we bumped into our Belgian friends Stephane and Gitte again - its strange how on our travels we keep seeing the same people. We then took a longboat to see the rare Irrawaddy Dolphin - there are only something like 20 left. To be honest, the dolphin watching was average as we were quite far away, but the ride out in the longboat was incredible - the thousands of islands that are created every year when the river is in its low season make for an ever changing landscape. We could see trees that grow for most of the year underwater so that they are angled in the direction of the current, local net-fisherman, and on ramps made of bamboo for the local ferries (OSH would have a field day with these rickety structures!).

The rest of the trip was spent swimming and reading (the count is now x books), until it was time to board another bus, this time across the border into Cambodia to get visas and on to Phnom Penh. Very sad to leave Laos - it has been a wonderful country to travel in. My biggest memory will be the people - they are just so friendly, and so, so relaxed. Oh and the Beerlao too...

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