Monday, 23 April 2012

4000 Islands; Don Det

So I'm back in Laos for a little holiday of sorts in the aptly named 4000 islands; The island of Don Det specifically. At the widest stretch of the mighty Mekong river, a large group of Islands cluster together, poking their sandy humps out of the water. They vary in size depending on the season and the height of the flowing waters but always form an impassable barrage across the width of the Mekong through their mass and the waterfall's which have formed in the passageways between them.
I have come to this beautiful spot for a bit of relaxation and it's the perfect place with bungalows dotted along the river banks, plenty of eateries overlooking the water and not too much to do! I do spend a couple of days sightseeing on a bicycle and its lovely cycling around the islands dusty paths, through peaceful forest. I visit a couple of the waterfalls on the bridge-connected islands of Don Khon and Don Khon Peisey which thunder with a tremendous force and explore the abandoned railway. Due to the impassibility of this section of the Mekong, a railway was constructed from the South of Don Khon to the East of Don Det (north of the waterfalls) and was used to transport 3 paddle steamers past the blockade and subsequently cargo for export and import to Laos. The remaining boat landings which connected to the railway can be reached by bicycle on both islands.
A group of the Mekong's Irrawady dolphins inhabit a section of the river just off the southern tip of Don Khon and I take a boat trip to see them. The boatman takes us to a small island and proceeds to tell us that we shouldn't actually be there as we are now illegally in Cambodia! As a boat of Cambodian officials makes it's way for us he hastily ushers us back into the boat and deposits us on a large rock which is apparently officially Laos. The dolphins however seem to favor the Cambodian side and the few we see are far away but the boat trip through the rocky islands is lovely none the less.
Other than water-bound activities such as swimming, kayaking or tubing in the river there isn't much else to do here and the rest of a visit can be spent relaxing in a hammock and enjoying the amazing sunsets over the islands.

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