(Day 291 to 295)
08.09.2010 - 12.09.2010 38 °C
Si Phan Don, or more commonly known in the English version “4000 islands” is a landlocked archipelago at the southern part of the country, which would be our last stop before entering Cambodia.
To get there, we had to take a sleeper bus to Pakse and from there another bus and boat the next morning. We were lucky to board the bus with a nice British couple called Dan and Jo, as it would turn out to be quite a journey (yes – again!) for the 4 of us. The sleeper bus is actually fitted with beds, real ones, and the prospect of a proper night’s sleep was very exciting. That is until we tried to get on there: They sell it as a double but trust me it WAS a single! We also had the upper bunk which made it very very tight so close it was to the ceiling..Just looking at it I (Steph) was experiencing claustrophobia and even through our hilarity and fits of giggle (as Jo and Dan were in the same boat..bunk..next to ours) I had already pictured myself standing for 10hours!! Luckily the bus turned out to be empty and we could spread out to a bunk each.. We had very little sleep in any case as the ride was a bumpy one and the fumes from the engine kept creeping in making the air hard to breathe. The steward’s answer to that one was to spray air freshener all over, whilst I wondered if carbon monoxide poisoning would be our ending.. Anyway, we were glad to get off the next morning that’s for sure!
This pic was taken when we had spread out to a 5-sleeper, which we had for the 2 of us:
Finally we arrived at our first island in Si Phan Don called Don Khong, a quiet island with not much to do. This suited us fine as all we wanted to do was eat, sleep and shower after that ride from hell! We spent the rest of the day relaxing and playing cards with Jo and Dan in the evening.
With our energy levels back up the next day we rented bicycles and went exploring the southern part of the island. After riding motorbikes so often recently we welcomed the exercise and enjoyed the simplicity and beauty of the surrounding area. Rice paddies made up most of the backdrop, with villages, bamboo bushes and the river making up the rest. This was rural Laos at its best.
The villagers waved and smiled, little kids running after us and after saying so many “Sabaidees” (hello) to everyone, Martin started resembling a king saluting his subjects as they ran out to see us and replied merrily. More giggles as he added the royal hand gestures to wind me up..
Been there Don Det
Don Det was our next and last island and was to be reached in an hour. The ferry crossing system for cars was archaic and took forever to happen, but had to be done as the direct bus was not running that day.
Our stay in Don Det was much the same, although with more travellers it had a more pleasant atmosphere. Everywhere here, as in Don Khong, there are dragonflies and butterflies flying about everywhere, absolutely stunning. There are also plenty of grasshoppers, cats (who like to meow under your window all night), water buffaloes and chicken! As Martin said, “In some countries they have stray dogs, here its stray chicken!!” It’s not even a joke, they‘re everywhere
Our chosen method of exploration this time would be our 2 feet, for a nice long walk south. We headed out early this time to avoid the scorching midday sun and had a lovely time walking along the river through the cute stilted villages. We even had a cute cat walk with us for a long part of the way. So interesting to see how the people here live, sitting under their stilted houses for shade, tending to the animals, washing up in the river again. Although we found out that we were also using Mekong water in our showers and that it was that way all over the island! Eek.. Just amazing how much my standards have lowered on this trip