Sunday, 8 September 2019

Laos: 4000 islands - a photo diary

As I've mentioned before, we did our six month SE Asia travel adventure back in 2016 - yup, what feels like a million years ago! But for the sake of completing this 'series' of posts, and having an online journal of the best six months of our lives (thus far!), I'm still posting about it three years later. Three years! Gah, when did that happen. So, please allow me some time to reminisce on this lacklustre Sunday. I wont go in to details of the logistics of travel / accommodation, as these will undoubtedly have changed in recent years, but instead I want to share some of our snaps of 4000 islands and our memories of a few days spent here. 

Where is it?
4000 islands - or Si Phan Don - is a riverine archipelago located right at the bottom of Laos, in the Mekong river. Of course, not all of the 4000 islands are actual inhabited islands; many are submerged by the Mekong at various points in the year. We were headed to Don Det, along with a load of other backpackers seeking rest and relaxation. 

How did we get there?
As I said, I wont go into details as I imagine a lot has changed! That said, the route was well trodden back in 2016 - it was no hidden paradise! We started our journey to 4000 islands from Vientiane, the capital of Laos. We arrived in Vientiane by minivan (standard) from Vang Vieng; the journey took about six hours. When arriving in Vientiane we walked to Green Discovery where we were able to book our VIP sleeper bus ticket (sounds nicer than it was) to Pakse. We were picked up from central Vientiane at 6pm and arrived in Pakse at 6am the following day. We then got another minivan to Nakasan followed by a boat to Don Det arriving later in the afternoon! Not the quickest of journeys, but pretty smooth sailing.

What we did in Don Det
Chilled out! There are loads of cafes and bars (weirdly many with a Friends theme...) where you can relax with a beer and watch the world go by. 

Hired bikes. We cycled down to the bottom of the island to see the old French bridge - there was a toll on the other side of the bridge which cost 3x the cost of the bikes (per person!) so hastily turned around and cycled back. Cool story bro. 

Ate lots of laab. Chicken laab, pork laab - both were delicious! Sort of minced meat (not the festive kind) in a soy, ginger and fish sauce served with a basket of super stick rice. So tasty and so cheap.

See Irrawaddy dolphins! Listed as an endangered species, if you are lucky you might be able to catch a glimpse off the bottom of the island. In a rather hilarious twist of fate, we happened to take to the water just as a tropical storm hit - leaving us clinging on to our tiny, rickety boat for dear life, while our tour guide decided that it was not safe to continue after approx 3 minutes in to our journey and the awning had been ripped off in the wind. We did, however, see 4 or 5 dolphins about 100m from our boat, hurrah! We returned to land completely soaked through, before taking a tuk tuk back to our hotel and basically being laughed at by every local we passed! 

I have to say, Don Det / 4000 islands didn't blow us away. That said, it was a beautiful setting - those sunsets! insane - and mega relaxing. 

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