Mekong and Four Thousand Islands

Following up on the trip to southern Laos, Tha Khaek was quite an uninteresting town so we slept there one night before going to the bus station to catch a ride to Pakse. The last local bus was amazing so we gave it another try. This local bus, however, was at least 20 years older than the one we went to Tha Khaek on. It had no air conditioning and felt like it had no suspension at all. If the bus was a big wok, the passengers, were pieces of chicken being stir fried for 7 hours. One row of seats even broke off as we hit a hole in the road. This brutally woke up the guy sleeping on it as the seats fell onto the center isle of the bus to much amusement of the many other locals passengers.

We arrived to Pakse very tired, found a crappy guest house, had some dinner and went to sleep. Pakse is also a rather uninteresting city but they have some really old Angkor ruins quite near. We weren’t there for the ruins, though, so the next day we went to the bus station again to go even further south to Si Phan Don, better known as Four Thousand Islands. The bus we got wasn’t really a bus, though, but a so-called săwngthăew, a regular truck fitted with a roof and three benches for passengers. Very uncomfortable seating, but we got a bit of reasonably fresh air for 3 hours until we reached our destination. Four Thousand Islands is a common name for an area where the Mekong river suddenly fans out in an area with lots of small islands. We were heading for Don Det, one of the smaller inhabited islands in the area. Accommodation is really cheap here and we’re currently staying in a bungalow for 40000 kip a night (28 DKK, $5).

Like the rest of southern Laos, Don Det island is a very relaxed place. There is only electricity from 6 PM to 10:30 PM produced by gasoline generators. Everything is very basic and primitive and even though the locals are running restaurants and small stores they don’t seem to be very interested in tourist money so we usually brace ourselves with lots of patience and time when we plan to eat at a restaurant.

So far we’ve rented a couple of bicycles and found a huge waterfall named Tat Somphamit. We also went on a tour where we saw Southeast Asia’s biggest (by water volume) waterfall, Khon Phapheng, close to the border of Cambodia where the Mekong river is narrowing in again. Very impressive. The tour also included a boat trip to see some rare freshwater dolphins (Irrawaddy) and we actually saw them, but they were quite far away. The boat trip itself was more spectacular as a thunderstorm had just passed cooling everything down to a pleasant temperature. Low hanging white clouds slowly climbed over northern Cambodia’s mountains while the sun fought to get through the remaining dark clouds from the storm. A rare moment to catch in a longboat on the Mekong.

Tomorrow we’re planning on going north again to Pakse to see the before mentioned Angkor ruins, Wat Phu Champasak, before the dreaded bus journey all the way back to Bangkok.

Pictures from Four Thousand Islands.

Print Friendly