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Published: August 9th 2017
Geo: 14.116, 105.856
4000 Islands, a natural phenomena where the Mekong river widens from the standard size of a few hundred meters to it's widest point of 12km and length of about 45km down the very bottom of Laos. There's no prizes for guessing why it's called 4000 Islands aka Si Phan Don.
There are only three main islands that are accessible to the tourists, Don Khong, the biggest island which is usually bypassed for the smaller islands of Don Det and Don Khon which are further south.
We set of by mini van from Pakse for the big island where we ran in to familiar faces. In a country like Laos, Vietnam and even Thailand where there is basically one main road linking all the main places together, it's not hard to keep running in to people going the same direction and staying in the same places.
Only a few got off for Don Khong and a quick ride over the river and we were on the one and only main small road for guesthouses and restaurants which are limited, aka Muang Khong.
We found some nice accommodation for fairly cheap and after resting and having some lunch at the one and only restaurant that
we ate at for our whole time on the big Island, we rented a bike and set off on a 4 hour internal loop of the big island, covering about 20km on old bikes. The road is in fairly good condition and it's pretty level. We started around 2pm and it was incredibly hot, so passing through any shade or a small cloud covering the sun briefly was instant relief.
The feel of the island is great, its quiet, locals are friendly and always saying hi (by the end of the day I was all "Sabayi Dee'd out), kids are energetic by giving hi fives and chasing us on bikes and even running out to give Anna a hand made flower bracelet. The landscape is also beautiful, full of rice paddy fields which is the main production on these islands, and small villages with the occasional glance of the Mekong and a few snakes on the road.
We took the ride pretty slowly and made it back to Muang Khong, exhausted and with sore bums, just as it got dark.
The next day was very slow going, almost resembling Laos time as we took it easy in the morning and at lunch then
we hired a bike again and rode the southern loop. We followed a trail along the river bank and took another road to the furthest point south on the island and returned to Muang Khong, although this time we only rode for 2.5hr but it was still very hot and little respite for our already sore bums.
Day three and we were off to Don Det via boat but had to cop a 200,000kip price for going as two, if we had known more people would have reduced the price then we would have organized ourselves a bit better, oh well!
We got there after navigating our way down for over an hour. Don Det is smaller but more popular, so accommodation and restaurants are plentiful and cheap, starting from 20,000k ($3), unlike the internet at 500kip per min. Our accommodation was a river view hut with hammocks and mosquito net for 30,000k our cheapest to date. We grabbed lunch and walked a bit down the island for a little bit before sitting on the bank for a rest. There was a coconut tree close by and I found a long bamboo stick and plucked a coconut off. It took me some
time to open it as I only had a small bolt from a water pipe to open it with. A local from the adjoining house wasn't too impressed and tried telling us to pay 5000kip but we said nothing and she walked away. So we got to enjoy our first collected coconut, my natural hunting and gathering skills came in handy.
The rest of the evening was lazy as we chilled in the hammocks watching geckos feed on the bugs around the light. It was very peaceful and relaxing until every so often boats with loud engines trudge by.
The next day we hired a bike and set off further south to the island of Don Khon where you can view some waterfalls and go dolphin spotting. Again it was a very hot day as we crossed the French bridge and paid the rather large sum of 20,000kip per person. The waterfalls were impressive and large with the Cambodian hills on the other side. We stopped for lunch with our tiny baguette sandwiches which are half of the size than the ones served in Luang Prabang for the same price and not very filling. We followed the main road down to the
furthest point where you can spot for the Irrawaddy Dolphin, but it's not the right time to see them now. You can also see the Cambodia just across the river. We eventually had to stop for a cool drink on the way back as the sun was dominant throughout the day. The rest of the evening we relaxed in the hammocks and saw a really nice sunset.
I enjoyed the peacefulness and beauty of 4,000 Islands and seeing another area of Laos, all being it is quite hot down south. So now we have to spend some time getting back up north to see the rest of this great country.
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