A Landlocked Beach Paradoxical Paradise called 4000 Islands in Laos
We haven't hit a beach since Goa way back in February, so off to Laos faux beach paradise we go. Si Phan Don (4000 Islands) are actually a 3997 strong archipelago on the River Mekong. The Lonely Planet described Don Det as 'full of farang'....read: touristy. We don't always trust the Lonely Planet, so chose the much more scientific method of seeing who got off the boat at Don Det.....by this process of elimination, we want to Don Khone. By the same scientific method,we turned left when we disembarked the boat and ended up in the cutest little bungalows for the princely sum of 40,000 kip a night (£3). First things first, lunch. I hadn't eaten or slept for about 18 hours courtesy of a dire night in a hotel lobby in Pakse. That's where day 104 went. Most of the restaurants here offer a similar menu of Thai/Lao and Western food which suits us perfectly -- Oli likes Lao and Thai food, I like western food. Obviously the diet is baguette heavy, which always makes me smile.
How we spent the elusive Day 104
We're conscious that it's almost time for rainy season in mainland South East Asia (May - July) so we know that we are on borrowed time and want to enjoy the beautiful, if slightly oppressive, heat. We chilled out on our hammocks, took dips in the Mekong and generally recharged our batteries. And in a joyous twist of fate, my hair played ball and I could finally wear it down for the first time in 3 months.
Then came day 107, when the heavens opened over dinner. We had to walk home in the pouring rain (nooooo romance here) getting our flip flops stuck in the mud? Delightful. So long good hair day! The positive to this, is a very cool nights sleep sans fan.
The weather is beautifully clear the next day and we take the opportunity to grab some bicycles (15,000 kip (£1.20 for two) and explore the island. Our plan is almost scuppered when we are accosted by some feisty Laos who demand 25,000 kip to cross the (pretty shoddy) French bridge. It's a foreigner only fee which we are used to, but somehow we've all had enough and refuse to pay. An actual policeman is called (eeeeek!) and we skulk off like children. It worked out pretty well to be honest, as we ended up finding a cheeky off road route complete with sizeable rocks (saddle sore!) and incredible scenery. As ever, I'm reminded of how beautiful the Laos landscape is.
There's a surprising amount of activities on the islands. I say surprising, as by all accounts 4000 Islands is a place to hammock flop and nothing more. You can definitely do that, and we properly relaxed for the first time since Pai here, not worrying about our next move. We also did some brilliant actual activities -- we swam in the Mekong a lot, we went fishing with Papa Bounsy and cooked our catch with Mama Bien, we dodged the bridge toll and were almost arrested, we went off road with our bicycles and drank a restaurant dry (they only had 6 beers, there were 6 of us) and Oli saw these humongous waterfalls!
Papa the fishing legend
We caught these fish!
So as you can see -- the 4000 Islands are for much more than just hammock flopping. Although, doing just that is a very worthy way to spend your time indeed.