Relaxing in the 4,000 islands, Southern Laos
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Where I stayed
I spent a week chilling on the island and meeting fellow travellers and locals. In fact, some of the friendly backpackers I've met so far have been here, and I plan to stay in touch and link up in Indonesia with a few people, including a couple of Finnish guys and German chap who were a good laugh, and Chris and James, both top lads
Chilling in hammocks in restuarants and bars that line the Mekong river- Sunset View guesthouse (where I stayed) had a great vibe, thanks to it's location and an English chap called Mani who worked there, who really built the atmosphere. For a few days we had a brilliant crowd of travellers based here - powered by my netbook and 70GB of music, which I hooked up to the soundsystem
Cycling around the island and across the bridge on the south side to the adajacent island of Don Khon, which is even more relaxed than Don Det. I spent the day with a German couple and English girl visiting a waterfall and taking a boat to watch the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin. Worldwide they number c. 7,000 (with 90% found in Bangladesh), but in Laos/Cambodia (in the Mekong river) they number between 66-86 and are classified endangered. We must have seen 30 or 40 sightings in late afternoon - surrounded by fantastic island scenery - on one side of the Mekong Cambodia and on the other side Laos
Hitting the beach and gathering around the fire after the bars close at 11pm - another great spot until someone gets the LaoLao out, at which point things go downhill
Swimming in the Mekong - a great way to cool down as most days the temperature has been ridiculously hot
Discovering local insects and animals - there are some seriously weird creatures on the island and in the river; Don Daet is also home to several water buffalo, that roam around the guesthouses and, on rare occasions, stampede around the place!
Mixing with locals - although not the most friendly I've met in Laos (partly because of how touristy the place is - around 50-100 travellers come and go every day), the majority are a chilled bunch and willing to mix with guests of the island. A small minority did rip me off, which left a bit of a soar taste...
It was also great to be disconnected from the world for a few days. My guesthouse didn't have wifi, and I didn't check emails or news, which was a great feeling. When I did check, I read about the Thai-Cambodian border dispute over a 900 year old temple that had kicked off less than 100km away. Both sides have been exchanging fire for several weeks - strange to think of such a conflict given my current surroundings and slightly concerning given my next stop: Cambodia!
Music imprint on time & place: All Star Easy Stars - Dub Side of the Moon