Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
54Trip End May 05, 2011
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I got chatting to three English girls who had bought through tickets from Vientiane to 4000 islands. Now, Laos is landlocked and this area, at the southern tip of the country and bordering with Cambodia, is the nearest you can get to a beach. It was one of my options so I decided to follow them. By a freakish coincidence, one of the girls, Mira, is not only going to work for Accenture but has the exact same start date as me! It will be so nice to know on that first day that you have a familiar face to look out for.
After a couple of hours the bus dropped us at the side of the road where we were transferred to a 'jumbo' - a truck with benches in the back. A few metres down the road we were then thrown out and figured we should walk in the direction of the water. Somehow we found our way down to the jetty and into a small motorised boat which took us the short distance to Don Det, the most touristy of the islands. We spend a ridiculous amount of time walking round checking out prices and trying to negotiate on rooms, but as I felt like I'd spent more time on buses in Laos than actually on ground (probably not an exaggeration), I didn't mind spending extra on a nicer room.
That afternoon, teaming up with another English girl we met who'd been unexpectedly forced to travel alone after her friend had to return home at the last minute, we rented bikes and rode a short way over to the next island where there was a nice waterfall. We were disappointed to find you couldn't really swim in it (the rapids looked fierce), but enjoyed a coconut and the view before riding back before sunset. I thought the buses and general tiredness had contributed to me actually going mad when I got back, as I was convinced the shower was different, and started doubting whether I had even had a shower that morning or had just imagined it. I was relieved to find some assembly instructions in the bin the next morning.
We all regrouped for dinner and drinks later on, which was fun although I found it odd that the falang (foreigners) outnumbered the locals. It wasn't quite Vang Vieng, but I was dissatisfied with my experience so far in Laos as I really felt I hadn't ventured off the tourist trail at all. I had literally just gone from one tourist hotspot to the next, one day here, one day there, which isn't generally a style of travelling I enjoy. I liked the 4000 islands and of course I saw only a tiny tiny fraction of it, but especially as the girls were leaving the next morning anyway, I decided to move on too. That evening there was a huge thunderstorm. Normally I enjoy a good storm like that, but I have to admit that sitting alone in my flimsy bamboo hut, I felt a little vulnerable to say the least. At one point I opened the door and was hit with a wall of water. I put in my mp3 player and tried to drown it out, and by morning it was calm and sunny.
That morning I got up at sunrise because of the light, and found the power was still off from the storm. I asked the guesthouse owners but they didn't know when it would return. Feeling the need to shower I walked through town to the beach/harbour where we'd arrived. People get up early in this part of the world: their routine is very much dictated by sunlight hours. As such the town was quite lively when I walked through, with not a single falang in sight. The locals were opening up their shops and restaurants, eating breakfast and sweeping the ground. I enjoyed a nice quiet swim, a low but steadily rising sun reflected in the calm water. It was nice to see Don Det without the tourists.