BootsnAll Travel Network

4,000 islands

i LOVE hammocks
* you can view more pictures of 4,000 islands here. *

4,000 islands is a group of islands formed in the mekong river at the southernmost tip of laos, right near the border with cambodia. from the barren town of pakse, i joined a busload of backpackers heading south to enjoy the lazy pace of life on the islands. there are two islands that made up the primary destinations for our group – one called don det (which has gained a reputation as a “party” island) and another, quieter one called don khon. the two are connected by an abandoned railway bridge and have many narrow, shady paths to wander on foot or by bicycle. in the bus, i met a group of three from switzerland, and we all decided to head to don khon together.

we piled with our bags into a longtail boat heading for don khon. because its the dry season, the river is difficult to navigate as it is much shallower than when the rain causes the water levels to rise. our driver got us stuck on a shallow embankment, requiring a few of us to get out and push til we could freely pass through the water again. on the way to the landing, i leaned over the edge of the boat, watching water buffalo wading in the shallow water, kids playing on shore, and the rows of bungalow huts that fronted the water. when we landed, we were greeted by a woman who runs a guesthouse called pan’s who showed us to two available rooms.

on don khon, there’s really nothing to do. this came as a blessing after traveling for so many days. i loved just sitting around doing nothing for an afternoon, spending the hours lounging in the hammock in front of our room, reading a good book. in the morning, i took a walk up to the northern tip of the other island, don det, just to see what the backpacker scene there was like. everyone who was up at that hour looked like they were suffering from a hangover of some sort, and a few people lounged around in the river on giant innertubes with beer lao bottles in hand. amazingly, there was even an internet cafe, which must have been run on generator power as the islands only get electricity from 6-10pm each evening.

leaving behind the backpacker area, i started the walk back to don khon and passed a few women, dressed up with lace scarves over their shoulders, and later, a man dressed up and carrying what looked like a tree branch with 1,000 kip notes attached to the branches. i asked him if i could take a picture, and he straightened up and smiled proudly, then asked to see the picture and laughed at himself. he motioned for me to come follow, but i needed to make it back to my guesthouse to meet the others. i stopped at the large gathering when he went inside, which was full of people. women sat together making little flower arrangements, and the men stood away to the side, working on something else for the event. later, i found out this big party was for a festival of some sort.

back on don khon, a party was brewing as well! at the local school, one of the teachers was retiring, so there was a large group gathered around a karaoke machine, laughing, clapping their hands and singing. beer lao and rice whisky were freely flowing, although it was only 10am at this time! life on the islands seemed so simple and full of merriment… the people all own their own longtail boats and make the half hour trip to the mailand each day for gasoline to fuel them and other supplies. they grow their own herbs and vegetables in riverside gardens, and raise chickens, pigs, and other animals for food.

on don khon i was also able to try one of the specialties of laos, a salad called laap which is made of minced beef, pork, etc. cooked together with tons of fresh herbs (i tasted mint, cilantro, and some ginger flavoring) and served with sticky rice. it was absolutely delicious! the woman in the restaurant wanted to practice her english so she asked me questions about my family and i tried to practice the little lao i’ve picked up in the past few days. she invited me back for dinner to try another specialty – a steamed fresh fish in banana leaves with coconut milk, mmmm….

as much as i enjoyed lounging in my hammock and listening to the sound of the river, after two days i was ready to get back to travel… my next destination: cambodia!

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One response to “4,000 islands”

  1. Mom says:

    Cool pictures! What a life?! Stay safe:)….love you. Mom

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