Sunset or Sunrise? This was the "unfortunate" fork-in-road situation we'd have to choose from when we got to Don Det island. We'd just arrived after the 20 minute long tail boat ride from the docks of Ban Nagasan (and by docks I mean lines of long tail boats pegged into the pebbled river bed). Once you choose which root to take, the second choice is now where to stay? Guesthouses galore is what you're abound with. Prices ranging from 40,000 kip a night to upwards of 80,000 your options are endless. Shared toilets, functioning hammocks, mosquito nets and fans are all things to consider.
The 4000 Islands, or Si Phan Don, are a collection of islands in the Mekong River, in the far south of Laos. A chill place that is arguably one of the most interesting places to relax. Located right on the Cambodian border the Si Phan Don which were until recently Laotian backwaters - many submerged in the rainy season the permanently occupied islands were and still are dedicated to coconuts, kapok, sugar cane and fishing. Today they offer the traveller a real look at village life.
It had been suggested to us from a Shanghainese cafe owner in Pakse to ask our guesthouse family if we could join them on their morning visit to the local wet market.We'd wake up early and take a long tail boat in with the mother and two of their four children. Back to the port of Ban Nagasan from whence we came, we'd explore the fresh vegetable stands, meat chopping tables and little clothing and accessory shops. Looking down one alley way we'd spot a man with a chicken in one hand and a machete in the other. This was as fresh as fresh could get. The mother picked up a toy car for the little boy along with some fresh herbs, melons and some sweet purple sticky rice. Hopping back in our boat, we'd see merchants out on the pebbled banks with several live chickens being flipped through by ladies like they were scoping out the women's shirt selection at Winners.
The best way to explore the islands of Don Det and Don Khong is by bike. Walking over from Don Det to Don Khong you can follow the dirt path that leads you to the connecting bridge. You have to pay a toll to cross, but it's a must even on a short visit. Renting bikes on the other side, we'd wheel around and check out a wat or two, the Kohn Phaeng Falls and the famous Tat Somphamit falls said to be South East Asia's largest falls.
Walking the island of Don Det is full of surprises and interesting encounters. Not only did we stumble upon a plethora of random livestock in ditches and in pathways, we'd also come across an old, dark coloured man who's sun worn skin made him look more like a California Raisin; the Lao edition. I don't know how we ended up getting sucked into it, but he ended up mapping out our fortune's right there on the dirt path with a piece of coal. He'd mutter, sketch, point at his work, then at who it referred to and smile, a decaying and toothless smile. Sizing up my second toe he'd say boy and pantomime a pregnant belly and then writing down a date that left us both cringing at the thought (2012). Numbers, circles, lines and arrows later, we'd establish that we'd both live into our 90's and that we'd have a couple of kids. Oh, and Mr. had to watch out for his stomach. My first time having my fortune told and by far the coolest, 20,000 kip ($2.50).
Mrs. Excellent Adventure