10 December 2014

Four Thousand Islands, Laos by Bike

The morning after a 16-hour power cut we had a whole day to explore Four Thousand Islands. Given the tempramental weather kayaking was out and bikes were in. As soon as we started cycled along sunrise side of Don Det, I realised the the island was a lot bigger than I had expected (and I felt bad for dismissing the idea of a run that morning).

We passed lots of river side bungalows and guest houses as well as local shops. Every few yards you could book bus trips and laundry, backing up what I had been told about the Lao people attempting to gain money in many different ways.
Along the southern tip we cycled through paddy fields and took in all the wildlife along the way...
... My favourite fellow was a little piglet tied to a tree. We called him BBQ. Cruel I know, but look at dem trotters... can I take him home?
Following the only path really available we reached the bridge over to Don Khon. It cost 25,000 Lao Kip (just under £2) for each 'foreigner', while locals rode past and ignored their own 15,000 charge completely.
If you follow the road you cross over a road that runs parallel to the river banks, which has many restaurants and guest houses. We followed this road for a while, before turning right at the brown sign pointing towards the dolphins and the waterfall. After a few metres we turned left at the T-junction and continue on. These detailed instructions become relevant I promise...
If you see this turning on your right then you should hear a waterfall. It is nothing to shout about but worth a peek if you're curious and have all the time in the world.
Backtrack and keep on cycling along the main path again! At the end of the path there are two restaurants. We chose the one on the right for a coooooool drink.
This little restaurant offered boat trips to see the dolphins for only 30,000 kip each.
They will took us in pairs, in particularly rickety fishing boats and I was very glad of my dry bag. As we wobbled our way on to the boat, our cap'ain held back a snigger.
The huge expanse of water, broken by islands, seemed to carry on as far as the eye could see. The land all along one side was actually Cambodia. It is near the Cambodian border that we got out of the boat and sat on a rock waiting for the Irrawaddy dolphins. These dolphins are rare with less than 100 believed to still live in the Mekong. Unlike the graceful kind found at seaworld they aren't lookers, not that my photos of them add anything to this argument... (find a photo here)
We saw dolphins at least a couple of dozen times, although I know my photography may suggest that I'm lying. The tiny black dot is the dolphin... Can't see it?
Still can't see it? Ok we'll move on.
... we saw many more 'official-looking' groups passing through, but they didn't stay as long. As each came and went we waited for the engine noise to die down and the dolphins to arch out of the water again. I liked sitting peacefully on the rock and waiting like a mermaid.

And then as luck would have it, the sun made an appearance on our return journey. (And because we're British we all good burnt.)

On the way back we were weaving in and out of trees. I like to imagine that it's because our guide was trying to please us, but more than likely it was something to do with the current and travelling upstream.
We saw plenty of men fishing in the river using nets & rods and hanging off trees. Can't say that I'd have the courage myself.
We said goodbye to the men, the lady in the restaurant and their ginger tomcat and went for a bite to eat back by the bridge.
Seng Ahloune was right on the river banks on the road that runs parallel to the river, the one which we passed over earlier (when you go it will all become clear I should hope).
The spring rolls were super crisp and it offered great value for money and a gorgeous view of the river, before the rainy season brought yet another bout of torrential rain.
 With not much going on on Four Thousand Islands, I'd definitely go for a peddle and embrace the pace of life here. I loved going on a little fisherman's boat and it felt so authentic, not a budget-draining activity done by every tourist on the island.

What did you think of Four Thousand Islands? Would you like to visit?

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