Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Don Khone, Laos

Bree watching the Mekong sunset from a hammock. Bucket list # something: check!

City of Lost Children.
Water Buffalo, unamused.
Suspension bridge to a waterfall.
Giant fish traps at the falls.
Rice paddies, arid in the dry season. Typical stilted house in the distance.
Delightful dinner conversation.
Khonephapheng waterfall.
An abandoned resort on the Mekong.

Girls on their way to school.
Medical clinic on Don Khone.
Somphamit falls, on the western side of the island.
Matt retouching photos.
When we started planning this trip I said I wanted to spend a few weeks, or maybe a few months, in a hut on the Mekong. Preferably in Laos. I'm pretty happy we found it, even if it is only for a few nights. After another flight (again, we feel guilty for cheating, but it's 24hrs by bus or 1hr by air!) we took a mini bus then a long tail boat to the Island of Don Det. We already had an inkling that the place was not for us, but the walk through town past bars blaring last year's top forty and Westerners in bikini tops confirmed it. Luckily, few travelers we talk to have met many Americans, so we don't get blamed for the bad behavior. The funny thing is, everyone has another country to blame for traveler embarrassments. The French said it's the Germans, the Germans blame the Brits, everyone complains about Israelis, us Americans are commended for just having left our country. But everyone loves Canadians (except us, sorry, we've met some bad ones) and Aussies.

Anyway, we continued across the island to the old French railway bridge to the more sedate island of Don Khone. We are starting to realize that when the guidebook talks about attracting an "over 30 crowd" they are sometimes referring to us. Ugh.

Our four days were spent walking around the island through the small Lao villages and visiting the many waterfalls that necessitated the French railway (they wanted steamers and warships on the upper Mekong). We didn't see the elusive Irawaddy dolphins, or the somewhat mythical giant Mekong catfish, but we didn't really chase them down either.

We were charmed by the village children who, by two years old, can give unprompted high fives, and wield kitchen knives. By six they are fishing and selling their wares on the street, and by ten they are ferrying other children around on scooters with makeshift sidecars. There are actually a few well attended schools on the island, the kids just seem to keep busy.

We do feel that we have been dialing down the intensity level from Bangkok, back down to Andaman islands level. This is another place we could have been comfortable staying a while longer. There's even a reasonably well appointed clinic that always seems to be vacant. I'm sure they wouldn't mind me sitting around handing out bandaids? At the rate travelers and tourists seem to injure themselves in SE Asia I could stay busy!

- Bree