‘Sabaidee’ to Laos from 4000 Islands!

We left you in our last blog having just landed on Don Khon (Lao’s 4000 islands region) by boat, after an eventful overland journey from Cambodia. The boat pulled up outside Souksan guesthouse where we clambered out over the muddy bank, hoping that our bags wouldn’t disappear into the Mekong as we did!

Since we’d pulled up right beside a guesthouse we thought we’d better have a look around that before having a nose at some of the other ones down the road. It had a big restaurant deck and 5 or 6 rooms on stilts hovering over the river (complete with hammocks and loungers outside). It looked very appealing but we wouldn’t be ‘us’ if we just settled for the first thing we saw, so we left our bags there and took a wander down the main street.

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After about 30 minutes we decided we wanted to go back to the first one anyway so went back and agreed a price of 60,000 Kip a night and in we went. Priority number one after checking in was to have some lunch and have our first taste of Beer Lao!

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The food in the restaurant took around an hour to come, but God was it worth the wait! Richard had a Chicken Biryani with Coconut milk and I had a Fried Rice. Both plates were so fresh and tasty, we suspected that they had probably gone and chopped down a coconut for Richard’s dish, hence why it took so long, but it was the best thing we had eaten for weeks!

After lunch we just had to test our our hammocks for a while and give ourselves a well earned chance to chill after our busy couple of days. We’d never been in a hammock before and it was surprisingly comfortable! I could have easily lay there for hours just watching the boats pass along the river, but Richard gets bored easily and made us go for a walk!!

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We walked through the main village where everybody we passed waved or smiled saying ‘Sabaidee’ (hello in Lao-speak). We were amazed at just how friendly everybody was! One thing that stood out on our walk was just how many children lived on Don Khon – there were hundreds of them and they all seemed to run the place! Our lunch was served by a very sweet ten year old girl at the guesthouse, the shop was run by a little girl who looked about six and even the bicycle rental places had children all stood outside, ready to tell you the price! It seemed a little bit like a Laos ‘Never Never Land’ and all the kids were really cute and full of fun. We immediately got a great vibe from this place.

After we had got our bearings we walked back to the guesthouse to watch the sunset from the restaurant deck. We really didn’t expect the Mekong to look so beautiful but the colours bouncing off the water and onto the coconut trees and boats were amazing. All you can hear at this time of day is the buzzing of the boats, the clucking of the chickens and children laughing – it really is very relaxing!

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Once the sun had gone down we went to have dinner at a restaurant down the road – this again took absolutely ages to arrive, but again, the food was so fresh and tasty we didn’t mind. We saw the waiter disappear into the bushes at one point and come back with a great big banana leaf – presumably to cook on or serve someone else their food over. The whole island seems amazingly self-sufficient and the villagers have everything they need at their fingertips.

As it got later and later, the amount of bugs and creepy crawlies flying around just about tripled and walking back to our guesthouse in the dark was quite an experience. The locals seemed to find it very amusing every time we screeched at something flying into our faces or jumped up and down waving our hands!

The first thing we did when we got back to our room was put down the mosquito net – and we felt much safer cowering under that!

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The next morning we woke up bright and early – partly because of the sun being so bright but also because we had a great day planned and wanted to make the most of it! We fuelled up with breakfast first – another delicious meal of Omelette and warm French bread, accompanied by the juice of a fresh young coconut. This time we actually saw the restaurant owner drive off on his motorbike and come back holding two coconuts that he’d just retrieved from the trees! We literally just sucked the juice out of the middle of the coconut through a straw – can’t get fresher than that!

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Then we went and hired two bicycles and set off to explore the island! Our first stop was the Somphamit Waterfalls (also known as Liphee Waterfalls) which only took around 15 minutes to reach. We could hear them long before we could see them but knew we were there when we saw some other visitors milling around by the edge of a cliff. The falls were great – really dramatic, roaring over the rocks before merging into the quieter waters of the Mekong.

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Next we biked down to the south of the island until we got to a secluded sandy beach – there were only two other people here, apart from the fishermen preparing their boats. While we were there a whole herd of Water Buffalo were brought down to the beach to bath in the water – that’s not something you see every day!

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After we’d taken a load more photos we pushed our bikes up the rocky hill back towards the bike trail and set off again through the island towards the French Port on the other side before visiting another of Don Khon’s waterfalls.

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It was during this part of our trip that we got to sample just how amazing Don Khon is. We passed all sorts of landscapes including bamboo forest, rice fields, streams, coconut & banana trees as well as encountering animals such as buffalo (a lot of these on Don Khon), giant centipedes, dragonflies and even a scorpion!

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We also passed through more tiny villages, where again, everybody smiled and said hello – we even had some children blowing kisses at us! The whole island smelt lovely and fresh and it was so nice biking outside, even though it was really hot!

While we were at the second lot of waterfalls we saw a small fishing village right at the water’s edge. We were lucky enough to be able to watch them at work – catching fish at the foot of the waterfall’s cascades. One of the men explained to Richard (using sign language of course) that the fish are pushed upstream by the current, so they have built baskets to catch them in – so much easier than standing there with a fishing rod!

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The last part of our bike trip involved biking right up to the top of the island past more Buffalos and lush green rice fields. We stopped here to watch the sunset before riding back to our guesthouse. We’d had such a fantastic day and worked up such an appetite that we just had to order two extra dishes from the restaurant for dinner! After toasting the day with another Beer Lao, we headed to bed, absolutely loving our decision to come here!

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The next morning we packed up and had breakfast before waiting for the boat that was due to bring us to the mainland for us to catch the bus to Pakse. We saw a few boats going past, but none of them stopped at our guesthouse. 11am came and went and it still hadn’t arrived, then the girl from the booking office pulled up on her motorbike smiling nervously and told us that they had forgotten us! We didn’t really mind having to hang around on our hammocks for a while longer so told her that it was no problem and we’d just wait until 12 until the next one.

We decided we may as well order lunch while we were waiting, then we wouldn’t be hungry when we got to Pakse. But, before we got it a boat pulled up at 20 to 12 and motioned for us to get on! The girls in the restaurant rushed around madly trying to cook our lunch as quick as possible, then we wolfed it down, watched by the laughing boatman, before jumping on the boat and cruising over to Nakasang on the mainland!

Despite our hurried departure, we can honestly say that we haven’t enjoyed any other place on the whole of our trip more than Don Khon, the place and the people are amazing and we could easily have spent weeks there just enjoying the simple things in life. Let’s hope that the rest of our stay in Laos is just as delightful!…


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1 Comment

  1. December 14, 12:49 #1 Nadine

    OMG, this looks like absolute paradise!