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Published: July 24th 2012
7th Oct: Well I barely got any sleep last night, due to the disco happening somewhere near our hotel and then the monks started banging their drums and chanting over the loudspeakers at 4:30 am!! Managed to get a quick bite for brekky at the hotel, before our journey to Laos! Got to say I loved Cambodia, and would really like to return one day. Got picked up at 7 by our minivan, it was very cramped inside and coupled with the lack of sleep, Ian who I was travelling with was very grumpy. The journey wasn't the best and we did lose some stuff from the back of the evan, resulting in the driver stopping and going back for it. However we wanted to leave it, as the loss had made our journey more comfortable.
Arrived at Stung Treng and got on a proper coach, which was practically empty, so we all spread out. Unfortunately we weren't on the coach for very long. Think we got scammed as we gave a guy on the bus our passports and money to get our Laos visa. Well it was one scam I didn't mind paying for as when we got off
the buss me and Ian were ushered straight into a cafe over the border in Laos, whilst everyone else had to lug their bags in the midday sun through Cambodian immigration and then Lao immigration. During this we were sitting in the shade of a cafe drinking ice cold drinks and playing cards.
It was into another minivan and we were taken to Ban Nakasan, the village on the mainland where you get the boats to the 4,000 Islands. We had decided to head to Don Det, as it seemed to be the most chilled out and backpacker friendly. We waited in Ban Nagasan for a bit and then got on the boat to Don Det, it was a tiny boat and was shaking quite a bit when we all got in. The journey was really short, about 15 minutes. We got dropped off at a guesthouse, which was pretty nice and only $5 for a room, so we decided to stay there. Had some lunch at the guesthouse (not great) and then just sat in the restaurant, looking out over the Mekong and watching the world go by. Had a snooze and then met Ian for dinner. We
took a little wander, there was just one real strip on the island with restaurants, bars, and the odd shop / internet place. Had my first taste of Lao cuisine. I ordered a Lao style chicken salad, it was very nice. We also took to feeding a stray dog that appeared at the restaurant. Had a few beers and then headed back to the guesthouse, as it was hitting curfew time and the bars were shutting. Back at the guesthouse there was a bit of a party going on, so we stayed and joined everyone. Even met some people from my neck of the woods. Staggered to bed around 1.
8th Oct: Woke up around 8 feeling slightly hungover. Had a shower and went and got some breakfast. Decided it was all too much, so headed back to bed for a few hours.
Tried again a few hours later. Got up and booked a trip to go and see some waterfalls on the mainland. Thought it was a bit steep to pay 11 quid for transport. Got the boat over to the mainland around half two and then had to walk through town. It was really interesting as
the boat literally dropped us off at someone's house and we had to walk up their path. It was mad, seeing the women from the house taking a bath in the Mekong, she was wrapped up in a sarong, and washing her hair. It is so different to how we live at home. It was good to walk through the town and neb into people's homes. What can I say, I'm very nosey. Walked back up the main road where the van had dropped us yesterday. Our "taxi" was a proper battered clapped out old car, not really what we had envisioned. Thankfully the drive was pretty short, but bumpy. Also the air-con seemed to consist of opening the window.
When we arrived at the waterfalls, our driver, rather grumpily, told us we could only have twenty minutes there. Which we thought wasn't very long after having to pay the transport costs and then another two quid to see the waterfalls, we at least wanted to get our money's worth. Khon Phapheng waterfalls, are touted as the largest in Asia, so we were expecting something spectacular. However the reality was a disappointment. The waterfalls were not very tall and
were probably the largest in Asia due to their girth. Also because the Mekong is brown, the water coming down the waterfalls was brown and not very appealing. They were very powerful though. Our twenty minutes up, we headed back to Nakasan village and took the bat back to Don Det. On the way back, we saw another boat with a girl in it, hooked up to an IV! The IV bag looked lke it was hanging from a twig.
Back on Don Det, we went for a very late lunch, salad yum, and played cards at a restaurant near our guesthouse. Went for more food later and had some beers at the place where we ate dinner last night.
9th Oct: Got up around 8 again, as me and Ian had decided we were going to walk to the next island, Don Khon today. The French had built a railway bridge between the two islands, and although the railway line is now defunct, you can still use the bridge to walk between to the two islands.
Everyone had told us we were mad to walk between the two islands and that we should hire bikes ($$$)
but I didn't really feel like cycling. My intuition was right. We walked right through the town on Don Det, passing all bars, restaurants, and guesthouses. There were a lot more than I imagined. We got to the end of the village and turned down a country road. There was nothing there apart from the road, surrounded by fields of rice. Anyway, I'm glad I didn't hire a bike as the road was really bumpy and covered with loads of little pebbles. When we got to the end of the country road, there was a little cafe just before the bridge. We stopped there and ate some breakfast. The woman had a guesthouse attached, wonder what it would be like to stay there as it was the middle of nowhere. We had to pay two quid to cross the bridge, which was a little steep. It seems two quid, or 20,000 Lao Kip, is the going rate for everything, as we also had to pay that to see the waterfall.
Somphamit Waterfall was better than the one we saw yesterday, but still wasn't great. After taking some photos, we sat at one of the outdoors cafes and ordered some
cold drinks. We spent a good few hours there, having a few drinks, eating some lunch (fresh spring rolls, lush!), playing cards, and watching the cafe owner's children play. One reminded me of one of my ex-students, completely barking. I love little cafes like this, which are all over the place in Cambodia and Laos. It amazes me that they can cook on a little stove outside and knock up some of the best food I've ever had.
The walk back wasn't too bad, even though it was later in the day and the sun was pretty fierce. I did sweat shitloads, but that's totally normal. Saw some people on bikes having difficulties and give up and just walk their bike back along the track. Got back to the guesthouse and just relaxed.
Went for dinner at an Indian restaurant on the island. I had been craving curry for a while, hadn't had one since I was in Siem Reap. Ian was still all curried out, as he had previously been in India and Sri Lanka. I ordered Butter Chicken and a garlic naan. Divine! The restaurant was great, because they had a ladyboy as the waiter /
waitress and s/he really camped it up. The stray dog we had fed on our first night tried to get into the restaurant and s/he made a big production of shooing it away. On a side note, the ladyboy was apparently Khmer, but it is illegal to be a ladyboy in Cambodia, so s/he came to Laos. I wonder if this is true. The island of Don Det has a lot of Cambodians on it. Our guesthouse was owned by a Cambodian family and the staff were Cambodian too. One of the guys had been a guide at Angkor Wat for Thai people, but because of the delicate relations between the two nations he was out of work. Anyway, after dinner, we headed to the Reggae bar for a few beers. The entertainment was provided by some Asian girls leaning over the balcony to spew in the Mekong, after drinking too much Lao Lao whiskey, or was it their special pizzas? Got kicked out at 11 for curfew, so headed back to finish our beers on Ian's balcony.
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