One foot in Cambodia


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Asia » Laos
February 4th 2019
Published: February 4th 2019
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Don Det


We are up early today, just gone six, as we want to go to see the rare Irrawaddy dolphins. The best time to spot them is sunrise or sunset and it’s a 6km bike ride to the boat jetty from here.

We hire our bikes and set off out of town. OK, we have just missed actual sunrise but it’s still early and there are very few people about. There are a few locals but no sign of any tourists.

The metalled road very soon becomes a dusty, bumpy track. There are two routes we can take...the slightly shorter tuk tuk track and a narrower, bike track cum footpath which follows the side of the Mekong. We find ourselves pedalling beside rice paddy fields and a temple, with a tuk tuk overtaking so yes, you’ve guessed it, we missed our turning! On such a tiny island it seems impossible to lose one’s way but if anyone can then it’s us. Never mind, it will get us to the bridge we need to cross and it’s too early to be bothered by too many tuk tuks.

We have reached the old French railway bridge. No sign of any rail tracks, but a nice sturdy concrete bridge. Over we go, ignoring the right hand fork leading to the waterfalls and going straight on towards the Don Khon boat beach.

A man in a bright orange T Shirt has just passed us on a motorbike shouting ‘dolphin, dolphin’ so we assume we are still heading in the right direction.

We have arrived at the ‘beach’. Here there are a few shack type restaurants and a row of long tail boats. We quickly establish a price for the one hour trip and we are despatched with a young lad who is clutching a litre water bottle filled with fuel.

We descend a steep sandy slope and settle ourselves on to a mat placed on the floor of the boat. Our young boatman weaves in and out and around the little islands each with their own individual races sucking us through and then over an open stretch of water to an island. Cambodia, states our boatman. There are red signs everywhere - presumably telling us not to step on to Cambodian soil? Our boatman beckons and onto the soil we step!

Our boatman helps us up the steep sandy slope to the top for a grandstand view. Dolphin, dolphin, shouts our man and, sure enough, we see the little black dots of dolphin fins emerging from the water. There is a family of three, mother, father and baby. Sometimes they are closer and sometimes further away. You have to be quick to spot them and quicker still to capture a photo!

It’s time to leave the island and our boatman paddles us back out into the centre of the Irawaddy river. Here we stop for slightly closer views of the elegant creatures.

Now it’s the time to return to the boat launch beach. Our young lad starts up the engine and expertly guides the boat back.

We disembark and stop for breakfast. Our drinks arrive promptly but the food seems to be taking an age...are they waiting for the hens to lay, we ask ourselves? The answer to this question becomes apparent as two young women arrive on motorbikes. It would appear that Laotian men are incapable of frying an egg, but now the cooks have arrived!

We collect our bicycles, pushing them up the first part of the steep, dusty, potholed track. Then we mount and head off in the direction of the waterfalls. It’s now oppressively hot! The falls turn out to be a Laotian waterpark with swimming, zip wiring and other water sports. We didn’t come prepared so give these falls a miss.

We pedal our way back to the bridge, this time taking the river route back towards Don Det. You really can’t miss it, even though we did earlier! The river route affords a little more shade and is much quieter although just as bumpy! My wrists feel really sore from clutching the handle bars not to mention other parts of the anatomy!

We have arrived back near Don Det pier. It’s only midday but we have had enough of this lark so we return our bikes to the hire shop.

Back at the guesthouse, it’s time for a nice refreshing shower followed by a long siesta under the air con.

We enjoy an afternoon playing cards and enjoying the river view from our balcony - it’s much cooler up here than down below - then venture out for sunset photos followed by dinner. Ian is intrigued by gecko action at our restaurant - when we arrive the owner switched on a small fluorescent lamp which attracts dozens of small flying insects - it also attracts five geckos. Twenty minutes of munching later, and the geckos disperse since no more insects are to be had!

We treat ourselves to ice creams on the way back. My Cornetto is half melted by the time we reach the guesthouse - less than 5 minutes walk away. Ian’s choc ice has fared slightly better. We munch them down quickly before they completely run away. :-)


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