Don Khong Travel Blog› entry 192 of 206 › view all entries
I'm writing this from a secluded island in southern Laos. Yes, I finally made it to Don Khong after another day ordeal. Best night's sleep on a bus ever that was though - I nearly slept like a baby. We arrived at Pakse early and were immediatley herded onto another minivan going to the islands. I saw somewhere in the book one of Laos's towns being described as a frontier town. I suspect it is Pakse from what little I saw. The landscape itself is quite different from the lush north; the grass is short, yellow, dry, the land dusty. It was a regret not being able to stay to explore; this has been such a whistle-stop tour that I will HAVE to come back and re-do it all properly, so another time maybe.
The bus took anothe 2 hours heading north
before the turn-off for Don Khong.
On the island I made my way to Pon's which has
had good reviews, and though the room looked lovely it was expensive so I made
my way to Souk Sabay's guest house next door which was just as nice and almost
half the price.
At 2.30pm I set out on a hired bicycle on a tour round the island. Would you believe I cycled another 32km today? I can assure you 32km is a lot easier on a flat tarmac road, instead of stoney gravel. I timed it just perfectly too, I'd missed the heat of the day, and was turning the final corner of the island from east to north again as the sun set. Sadly the sun set on the other side of the island and I didn't want to be cycling in the dark.
As The Book says, Don Khong isn't as pretty as
it's southern cousins, but it is more typical of Laos.
As I passed the children under 10 yrs old all
ran out to the road waving and shouting 'Sabeydee!' ('Hello!'), I shouted back
and waved of course. I passed some children walking home after school - school
is in two sessions from 8-11 and 1-3pm and they go home for lunch - and almost
all of them said hello and even held out their hands to touch mine.
The soil seemed so dry and it was difficult to see what they were all farming. I had to avoid many cows and water buffalo with their gentle melodic clanking of their cow bells, plus the crowing roosters that we have heard so much from since our arrival in Laos! And their many scrawny-looking chickens with baby chicks, ducks, not to mention the lizards with the yellow bodies and fire-orange heads zipping across the road and across the undedrgrowth. And finally hundreds and hundreds of dragon flies in the air above. Among the yellowing fields of straw there were some bright spring green rice paddies, and men collecting coconuts and bananas with deep woven baskets up bamboo ladders.
Sadly I didn't see too many temples today. Wearing only a strappy top and shorts I knew I couldn't enter the Wats, and though I brought cover-up clothes I didn't want to dress by the roadside and didn't know the protocol for entering. The largest I only passed on my last leg into town, and stopped by the river accidentally beside some bathing monks! Embarrassed I moved along though they didn't seem bothered and called out to me, and smiled when they passed me later. It is common for men of 14/15 yrs to become a monk for a year as it continues their education, plus it relieves the burden of a mouth to feed for the family. Additionally it is felt a woman is more likely to marry a man who has been a monk, and one that hasn't is considered in some sense impure. The upshot of this is that at that age they are less prudish than you might imagine, though that has it's alternative side too, as some young girls have been raped sight-seeing at more remote temples. Teenagers are teenagers despite the orange robe...
I got back just after 6pm, showered again and then went to Pon's for dinner by the water. I had hoped there might be some other backpackers there but there was only a large tour group. So I sat by the moonlit Mekong, which was impossibly romantic, and watched a man fishing by torch light in a long boat. I enjoyed some fish laap with lemon (the national dish - yummy) with sticky rice, two Lao happy cocktails (like drinking paint stripper despite mixing it with a whole can of 7up) and turned in to my lovely giant double bed for a good night's sleep.