Si Phan Don - The Four Thousand Islands

August 18, 2007

We arrived at the Si Phan Don area by mid morning by bus. The ride down was comfortable, but now we needed to get onto one of the Islands. Sam and I bought new torches (I had a bad run of crap torches throughout the whole trip) and then we paid a ferryman 30,000 kip ($3US) to take us to Don Khon.

We gently landed on the bank outside a guesthouse and a very inebriated Laotian came down to the boat and tried to usher us in to his guesthouse. He spoke very poor English.

At first I was resistant, then a European man came out from the kitchen area and introduced himself as Michael. He assured us that this was the best spot.

Later I found out he did a lot of selling back in his hometown of Glasgow, so that probably helped persuade us! We sat down and met the rest of the backpackers who were also in the kitchen. Papa, the manager of the guesthouse, the same man who met us at the bank, had invited them for a meal.

This is when the Laolao came out. Laolao is very strong rice whiskey drink that tastes terrible.Papa would get hammered on the stuff everyday. We shared a bottle of the stuff when we ate our lunch with the other backpackers.

The meal was quite unique. You would take a large broad leaf vegetable, put either fish or chicken onto the leaf, then add various other verges and herbs, roll-up the leaf with the goodies inside, skewer with a stick, a lastly pop it into boiling water.

Two minutes later pull out the stick and eat. Wash that down with some Laolao.

The main reason most come here is for the laid back, chilled out vibe. Accommodation is reasonable and the scenery beautiful and relaxing. Sam and I would hire bicycles that would be suited to riding on paved surfaces, and take them off road.

The bike mechanic in the nearby village had a non-stop supply of repairs to undertake from tourists breaking chains and getting punctures. I got away lightly with no repairs, while Sam had to replace a chain and get a puncture repair.

A rice field on Don Det We discovered a bakery in the far side of the neighbouring island (Don Det) and we wait would most of the afternoon for chocolate donuts and other goodies. The owner was Australian, and there was no pressure of demand. Things would arrive to your table when they were ready. If a cake we ordered was ready in forty minutes, we would wait. Plus it was very worth it. A whole day would be revolved around mearily riding for 45 minutes to get the bakery. “Little Red Hen” syndrome would often be raised with “I don’t want to ride out all that way to get a chocolate donut, but I will happily eat what you bring back.”

Dinner meals became humorous due to the language barrier, and the time it would take to receiving the meal. Sam tried his hand a couple of times translating the Lao script menu onto an order form. He would give it to the cook and then we could wait up to an hour to see anything arrive. There was just no sense of urgency.But we didn’t mind.

The time came, with fellow backpackers starting to leave Papa’s guesthouse, signalled that we too should leave. We had to get back to Thailand and down to Koh Samui again for the Full Moon Party. There was no denying it. Sam and I would do a marathon bus mission—nearly 1500 kilometres to get down to the party in two days.

So with our gear packed, it was back up to Pakse and the following day then into Thailand again.

 Getting map markers...