Champasak 

At 8am we said goodbye to our Australian friends Angie and Peter and at 11am our shuttle boat picked us up. There would be no private shuttle tour to our new destination, I had insisted on public transfer.
The shuttle boat took its time to pick every on up and only when every available seat was filled did we go to Ban Nakasang.

  

So the little place we saw at our arrival three days ago was the official gateway to the islands. We made it from the boat with only a little accident (this time Dudley fell, but in another boat) and were then transferred like sheep to the bus station. There we boarded our minibus and since I had insisted on drawing some money from the ATM we were the last to board. Big mistake, really something I have to remember: Always be the first to board a bus. Dudley and I sat in the last row and he was more than uncomfortable due to his size. To make matters worse he told me what could happen with the minivan (accident wise) so that I had to tell him to stop his horror stories otherwise I would start to panic in the confined space of the last row with no way out. I kept on reading and tried to loose myself in a different world.

But all good things must come to an end and so must also must bad things. Eventually we got off the bus with the station Champasak being in the middle of nowhere. Literally there was nothing there. We had just time to ask in which direction the Mekong was because we knew we had to cross it and then the bus left.
When we started walking with our backpacks and my front pack I felt already tired. And when Dudley showed me on his phone that the Mekong was easily 5-6km away I slightly despaired. How could our Australian friends send us into this nightmare?

We walked for at least two km, all the while trying to hitch a ride. But none would stop or they would just slow a little and then drive on. If I had been alone, now would have been the right moment to sit down and have a good cry. I was tired, I was hot and sweating and I was exhausted. But since we were two I couldn’t do that and so just drudged on. And eventually, oh miracle, a car stopped to my hold out thumb and we got on its cargo area.


This wonderful lady gave us a lift to the boats (I am sure it was more than 6km) and we had no trouble to cross the Mekong.

    

Once we were on the other side we had finally reached Champasak.

Again we had no ride and were told that the hotel was just 3km away. With a storm threatening we walked as fast as we could when suddenly a minivan stopped and offered his services. With its driver it was the first and only time that I spoke French in Laos.

So with a couple of miracles and angels watching over us we made it to our Hotel Inthira before the rain started. Quite a feat!


And here the view out back from our rooms across the street. 

Champasak had not really much to offer as we would notice shortly after checking in. Dudley and I walked up and down the main street, visited one of the many temples and then bought ice cream. There was not much else to do.

  
     

After a short power nap during which it had started to rain in earnest we met for dinner at the hotel restaurant and I enjoyed a local delicacy called laab. Minced meat with lots of herbs especially mint. Very tasty and just a bit spicy. With this new experience under my belt I was ready for bed. Yours, Pollybert

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More waterfalls and some dolphins

After breakfast the next day we rented some scooters. Actually just one. Because in a country where already kids drive around I was deemed a safety hazard since I couldn’t deal with it. At least I had tried it and could now sit shotgun with a good feeling.

There was no real plan for the day except to start with other waterfalls on the island. They were so small that they hadn’t even made it onto the map but they were there nonetheless.

We started with the French history area which had exactly nothing to offer beside precarious bridges and a wall along the Mekong.


  

The way to the fish monger had only one bridge which looked bigger and sturdier. I didn’t see any monger just a couple of traps that hopefully get filled during rainy season.


  

The main goal for the day was to see the Irrawaddy dolphins for which the best time was the afternoon. Until then we had more exploring to do so we turned back and set out in the other direction. Upon turning around we also managed to find the temple that was in our area and which we had missed on the way to the falls.

  

We crossed the French Bridge into Don Det and on the only available road traveled to the village of Don Det.


Here we parked the bike to explore the village. Not that there was much exploring to be done but still. We saw a big pig and a small one and a monkey that wanted to grab my bracelets all the time. He probably needed just a bit of attention since there were not so many tourists.

  
  
Outside of the village (because in it there was nothing) we found an inviting looking place and had a rest stop there. The Crazy Gecko seemed like the best place on this small island. Very cozy and inviting with a good wi-fi connection an excellent food.


  

After lunch we circled the island on the scooter until we landed again near the French Bridge.

Right beside the bridge an American had built a huge pool which we could use for a fee. Looking at the comings and goings of backpackers (ok maybe not on this picture) it was quite the clever business model.

After 3pm we left to look for the port and hitch a ride to the dolphins. We were told that the best time to see them was either in the morning or after 4pm. As it turned out we didn’t need to go to the port since a few enterprising boat owners offered the same as the harbor boats at competitive prices. And you can watch the dolphins at any time,

We got on the boat and traversed the Mekong. To our right side we could see Cambodia, so near we could almost touch it.

  
  

We stopped in the middle of nowhere, just somewhere on the river. And really in a minute the dolphins were here. Not that I could really prove that, but we definitely saw larger fish/mammals (depending on what you want to believe). I have a few pics were you can see ‘something’ and these should be Irrawaddy Dolphins. To see the ‘something’ you’ll probably have to double click the picture and hope that you have still 20/20 vision.


Going upriver after was also great to see. If you want to get a taste of it, please click here.

  
  
  
Once we got back to our little cove (harbor would be too much for it) with good luck and prayers that the gas will be enough, I got off the boat and fell flat to my feet. A very graceful exit with Dudley standing by and holding out his hand which I had completed overseen.

Except for some scratches though nothing happened, so I just got back up, fixed my invisible crown and off we went back to the hotel. Before going to our rooms we stopped for a picture with the local monkey. The owner of our hotel had bought it at some market so it wouldn’t end up in a stew. We were told that for a while she walked with him on a leash around the island but other locals threatened to kill it. So now it lived in this big cage and the owner came every day to give hugs and kisses on it. It was really beautiful to watch the love they had for each other. And instead of cocks crowing it was the banshee shrieking of the monkey that replaced the alarm here.       

We spent the last evening again with my next door neighbors, the Australian couple. They were leaving for Cambodia the next day while we would go back north to Champasak on their recommendation. A long and hard shower made the muddy road to the restaurant almost impassable and I was glad the we were leaving the island the next day. Yours, Pollybert

Exploring Don Khon

After an interesting breakfast watched over by a hawk

(Ok, maybe he was looking in the other direction) Dudley and I rented a bicycle and got ready to explore our island. In the area of the 4000 Islands there are three islands which I found mentioned online and in the guide-book. Don Khong, the largest and the most quiet place, and then two smaller ones, Don Khon and Don Det. Don Det is the backpacker place with cheaper bungalows (and after seeing them I know why) and lots of parties while Don Khon is the place in between in every way.  So the perfect place for us.


Next to the rental place I saw fish hanging outside for drying. I am not sure if I want to eat it though.

Looking at the map we decided to try the Somphamit Waterfalls. It was just a couple of kilometers to get there and after paying our fee to get into the park we walked around following the sound of water. Doesn’t the bamboo bend like this make for a great walkway?

The falls themselves stretched over a large area and were impressive. In some places the river was channeled for electricity.

  
     

There were signs to guide us to a beach area and a bit later we arrived at a small restaurant.


  
  

Once we saw the hammocks we fell into them spent a couple of hours there. It was so comfortable and when I was hungry Dudley just ordered a mix from the menu.

Around 3pm we decided to try out the beach. The park was closing at 5pm and we still had to walk back so no time like the present. The beach was a small sandy cove where I could walk in the first two meters and after that I needed something to hold on to because the current was so strong. We couldn’t swim so much as just getting wet and holding on for dear life. Especially since the current was also constantly shifting.

  

On the way back to the hotel we decided to cross the French Bridge to Don Det and give the train a visit. Both islands had a train during the French colonization. Not much was left of them, especially no tracks but two locomotives were still here for everyone to see.

  
  

Not so much left from the locomotive either, but it was still there as sign of former glory. We left the small museum (around the locomotive were panels with the history of the area and the train) and headed back to the Auberge. Nothing could beat a swim in the pool now. Yours, Pollybert

Moving South in Laos

Dudley and I had a leisurely breakfast and then got a lift to the airport. We had decided to fly to Pakse and from there Dudley had arranged for a pickup to the 4000 Islands.

  

Once in Pakse a driver awaited us and two hours later we arrived in Ban Nakasang, a small port that was as such not recognizable (but since we also stopped there on the return, it was the official gateway to the islands).

The boat ride on the Mekong was not much more than 30 minutes and eventually we arrived at our floating bungalows at the Auberge Sala Done Khone.

  
  
  

We spent our first afternoon by doing exactly nothing. Just swimming in the pool and talking to my nice neighbors from Australia. They had been in the area the last couple of days and had some good input on what to see.

Before dinner I took a couple of sunset Mekong pictures and it looked almost too beautiful to be true. But it was and we enjoyed our first dinner which included a 4000 Island cocktail and millions of mosquitoes. Yours, Pollybert