As we have just about wrapped up 4 days in the 4000 Islands area of Southern Laos I thought it would be a good time to update you on our travels. In a nutshell, the last 4 days have contained; trips to waterfalls, other islands, lots of cycling and a bit of relaxing. A good 4 days, indeed!
The trip to the 4000 Islands was classic South East Asia to me. We purchased tickets, through our guest house, the day before our journey and were told that we would be picked up and taken to the bus for the trip to the ferry. All sounded on the up and up. At 8:00 the next morning the van came and picked us up. Then, instead of heading to the bus depot, we stopped at the Travel Agents office and were told the bus would be picking us up there. The office was literally a 5 minute walk away. Everyone that was in the van disembarked with a bunch of other travelers that were already at the office. Ok, so we will all get on the bus south when it arrives. Then they asked some of the same people who just got out of the van to get back in but we were not one of them. These people sat in the van, while a larger bus showed up with many, many people on it. I knew at this point it was going to be a hot ride.
It took them some time to get the bags sorted. At first ours were placed on top of the bus with all of the other ones but were then tossed back down to me as we were going to different island than everybody else. I was then asked to put them on the bus with us, which already didn’t have enough seats for the number of travelers on board. So, mine ended up on the bus and our other bag ended up right behind the driver’s head. As I mentioned earlier, there were not enough seats for the number of travelers, so the agency procured some plastic chairs that a kindergarten student would sit in and asked us to place them in the aisle and sit on them. I could hardly fit between the seats!
Thankfully the trip was only 2 and half hours to the ferry we were taking. A lot of the other travelers were heading further south to catch a different ferry to a different set of islands. I was thankful to get off the bus and make my way over to Khong Island. Before we got there we had to pay the ferry driver, which our bus driver was supposed to do but didn’t, more than likely on purpose so his buddy could make some quick cash. Of course we could not leave until we paid up, so we did and we were off.
We spent our first day on the island walking around the village that we were staying in. The village is right on the river and 95% of the accommodation is on the main road the parallels it. Almost all of them have restaurants that overhang the river, which makes for a decent view during the evening but not so good during the day when you are sitting on your veranda. Unfortunately, all you could see was the top of the restaurant. For this reason we decided to treat ourselves for two nights and moved our accommodation to a newer place that does not have a restaurant on the water, which gives us unlimited views of the water from the veranda in front of our room. It is a bit more expensive but the views are nice!
While in the region we also went and visited the Det and Khon Islands, further south. We were able to do a day trip from our island. We rented bikes from Khon Island and cycled around both of them. The main backpacker area of Det Island is much like what Vang Vieng was 8 years ago. Lots of places to eat, drink and be merry. The places to stay were all cramped together in this area and most did not look too desirable. As you got further away from the epicenter of the backpacker area, accommodation was spaced further apart and appeared to be nicer. We had lunch on Det Island at a place that was right on the river. Khon Island also had a lot of accommodation but it did seem a bit more ‘upscale’ than the island directly beside it. We cycled out to Li Pi falls on Khon, which are a set of waterfalls in the Mekong. There was a great little restaurant there we were we able to order a coffee and orange shake, both of which were quite tasty. After 4 hours of touring around on bikes we were back on the boat and home for dinner.
The rest of our time on Khong was spent exploring it via bicycle one day and a full day of relaxing, which was our reward for the 40 or so kilometers we cycled the day before. The day of cycling was actually quite fun as we really got to see all of the island. Khong island is supposed to be the most representative of Loas village life in the south. Most people that we passed gave us the traditional, Sabaidee, which is hello and waved. We saw lots of children hanging around there homes and workers out in the fields. It is pretty dry right now but some of the rice crops had been planted and looked green, through my colour deficient eyes. Aside from the distance traveled I would say it was a great way to see the island. Maybe next time we will spring for a motor bike.
Tomorrow we are taking a public bus back to Pakse to regroup and plan our next destination. We will either take day tours into the Bolavan Plateau or perhaps stay a few night there – it may depend on how cold it will be at night! The plateau region is where Laos coffee is grown and is known for trekking and waterfalls, however, the later may not be impressive as it is the dry season. Either way we will have more stories to tell in the coming days.
Tonight we are off to a restaurant that had a moose and small Canada flag out front. This may lead to a story all on its own!