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Published: February 21st 2012
A couple of girls on their way to school on one of two roads on our island.
We finally arrived on the small island of Don Det after a strenuous but entertaining 24 hrs of travel. The island has the reputation for lazy days and quiet nights and that was exactly what we wanted. The longtail boat dropped us off at the end of the island that is most populated with guesthouses, restaurants and a few little shops here and there. As we wanted to be slightly removed from the noisier ‘party’ scene that we had read was found in town, we wandered a bit further down the path to find a guesthouse. About 2 minutes of walking brought us to the outer edge of the ‘town’, but the path was continued to be lined with places to stay. Unfortunately, most of the places had separate bathrooms, situated across the street and down a small path. Although our standards are relatively low when it comes to accommodation, Liza was insistent on finding a place with an en suite bathroom so we kept walking. We ended up walking for half an hour in the mid day heat with our packs on before finally arriving at a quaint little spot looking out over the Mekong. The bungalows had their own
Many hours were spent in the hammock reading, writing and sleeping.
toilets, a bed, a bug net, and two hammocks, for $6.75 per night. What more could we want? We unpacked our things, hopped in the hammocks, and had a well deserved nap. Dinner time came quickly, so we walked the half hour back into town to find some food. Expecting the place to get noisier and noisier as we got closer to the main section, we were surprised to find that by 7 pm most places have shut down for the night, and the only audible sounds came from families enjoying their dinner or tourists chatting over a meal or drink. The paths were dark and quiet and it was pleasing to know that we had found a perfect place to relax. After dinner we made the same half hour walk back to the guesthouse and promptly fell asleep.
The following day we decided to rent some bicycles and explore the neighbouring island of Don Khon. The two islands are attached by a bridge that had been built for the purpose of a railroad. Why, might you ask, would you need a railroad connecting two small islands in the middle of the Mekong River? We asked the same question.
From the Bridge
Looking down the channel separating Don Det from Don Khon.
After riding across the bridge to Don Khon we stopped at an information display telling of the railway and its history. Apparently, it was built by the French to transport boats from one section of the Mekong to another, as the waterway was impassable due to a large waterfall and severe rapids. The railway however was no longer used after WWII but continues to be a point of interest for tourists. After reading a bit about the railway we biked our way to the waterfall (the same one that made the railway a necessity in the late 1800s and early 1900s). The waterfall was stunning not because of its height, but rather its vastness and the sheer volume of water that came powering through the naturally carved passage ways. There were several viewing points along a path, each marked with a large “Danger” sign. As far as we could tell the tourists were adhering to the signs, but as we glanced out over the water we could see whole families fishing in the raging river with giant nets, baskets, fishing rods, and thousands of fish sprawled out on the rocks to dry. We continued on the path and found a
This is one of the reasons that a railroad had to be built to portage large ships up the island.
sign saying “beach 200 m”. Curious to see what the beach would look like, we wandered down the path at least 500 m before admitting defeat, turning around, and finding shelter from the sun (along with some beer). After a much needed rehydration break, we got back on our bikes and started down the roads again. Not entirely sure of where we were headed, but not really caring as we had no agenda, we found ourselves at the aforementioned beach. We walked out across the scorching hot sand and found a small cove of a beach around the corner with some other tourists enjoying the sun, sand, and water. Desperate to cool off, we put on our bathing suits and dove into the Mekong. Careful not to be swept away by the current, we enjoyed the water and the sunshine for the better part of an hour before deciding that it was time for lunch and made our way back to the restaurants sitting farther up the beach. After lunch we continued on with our adventurous bike riding and took one of the roads in a direction that looked pleasing. We ended up riding down a bumpy dirt road for
Hard at Work
The river is a source of food and income for many local families.
close to half an hour before reaching our destination (although we weren’t really positive that there was a destination to be ‘reached’). We were at the southern tip of Don Khon which had the original railway sections as well as a common place to see the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins. Extremely hot from our bike ride we sat down in the shade and just enjoyed the view, although no dolphin sightings to report of, for half an hour before deciding that it was time to head home. Forty-five minutes later we arrived back at our guesthouse, pooped from the day’s activities and retreated yet again to the blissful hammocks.
The next morning we woke up and did nothing. Nothing on the agenda, nothing to plan, just sit and relax wherever best suited us at any given moment. We walked into town for some lunch and enjoyed a meal in a restaurant overlooking the water. We read our books, played a few games of cribbage, and then walked back to the hammocks that endlessly seemed to call our names. The lazy day turned into a lazy night, as we had dinner at the restaurant run by the guesthouse and stayed close
Kids at Play
Always finding ways to have fun.
to home. The next morning, we were set on doing something more with our day. We packed up our things, made the thirty-minute walk into town and parked ourselves on the beach where the boat dropped us off on the first day. Although not an ideal beach location due to the boat traffic and the small amount of sand, we made the most of it, along with several other tourists, and enjoyed a few hours of sunshine and cooling off in the water. Satisfied with the day’s ‘activities’, we made our way back to our bungalow and enjoyed the afternoon staring out over the water. Upon awaking from a well-deserved nap Liza was positive that she had spotted a crocodile floating down river. However, upon further investigation, it was not a crocodile, but a herd of water buffalo entirely submerged in the river. They emerged from the water on the banks of the river less than 20 feet from our bungalow enabling us to enjoy some of the ‘wildlife’ that frequents Don Det.
Although relishing the last few moments of sunshine thinking that we never wanted to leave, the road to Cambodia was calling our names. We paid up
Visitors for the Day
A herd of water buffalo made their way upstream and decided to graze at our guesthouse.
our bills for the 4 days, had one last delicious dinner over the Mekong and readied our belongings for the trip the following morning.
Tot: 2.403s; Tpl: 0.061s; cc: 10; qc: 49; dbt: 0.0381s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb