Did I say it would be an easy 22 hours down to the 4000 Islands? This is SE Asia so of course not. So after a chilled day eating and packing, the 3pm pick up arrives and passes and I start to panic that we will miss the actual bus down to Vientiane. Finally a clapped out, rammed minibus arrives and my friend and I squeeze on and naturally there are still a couple more pick-ups to do. Eventually, about 10 minutes after the bus should have left the depot, we are dropped off to find the bus is running late but no one knows when it will be here. Buses arrive and buses leave yet the throngs of people all seem to waiting for this one bus down to Vientiane (where we are supposed to change on to a night bus…assuming we make it)! Eventually it pulls in and everyone rushes on to it in order to get a seat, we had already concocted a plan…Ole waits to store the bags whilst I rush on and bag us a seat. Result it worked, as some poor w***s had to sit down the aisle (reminds me of Nepal). Finally on our way to get our connecting bus in Vientiane…or are we?
No! After countless stops within the first hour and everyone stressing about it as most of us seemed to be getting the connecting overnight bus, the bus finally pulls over and the driver announces it’s broken! Marvellous. The replacement bus arrives and Ole and I adopt our bus plan again (another success) but the bus is smaller and scabby unlucky for those in the aisle. Woop, Vientiane we are on our way…overnighter…please wait for us! We pull in bang on 7pm, the time we are meant to be leaving and they make us rush over to the bus stop, where there is no bus. But we ran into Wijnand for a chat and he looked as confused as us. Finally we learnt we had to collect some tickets giving us our ‘bed/seat’ number. Finally, bags loaded on bus, beds found and man, am I glad I’m sharing with someone I know as it looks very cosy, basically a single bed width designed for 2 people. An hour passes and yep, this bus is broken too! So, let’s all pile off and pile on to the replacement bus! Why are the replacements never as nice?! To cut a long journey short, we are finally on the next bus from Vientiane to Pakse, with a delightful mysterious sandwich, seriously what is in it? I also advise, use the toilet early on and then hold it in!
Some point early morning we arrive at Pakse and cue the standing around for the next bus down to where we get the boat over to Don Det. Other than stopping for the driver to buy some live fish which sat rolling around the aisle the journey was completely fine. We even managed to find the jetty and managed to jump on a tiny boat, before everyone else knew where to find the jetty. It’s about 9am and on the Mekong River in the early morning peaceful sun. And it was stunning! We pull up on to Don Det’s sandy bank and go in search of accommodation. We find a little bungalow with a couple of hammocks and I’m sold, thank you Mr Suntie Bungalows. The owner’s wife rustles up some fresh chicken noodle soup and we spend the day chilling out, watching Friends, eating and drinks and generally recovering from the overwhelming journey. FYI – no ATM’s…bring plenty of cash! Around sunset we went for a walk around the island, it’s small enough, and it’s just beautiful. The farm lands, the roaming cows, kids playing footie and the sun setting behind the Mekong River. This is why I’m travelling.
The next three days on the island are spent in pretty much the same way. Get woken up by the animals, as there are some living under the bungalow including the cute ducklings and chicks. Greet the dog on the balcony and jump into the hammock until decide to go find breakfast. The first full day, we hired bikes and cycled around the island and tried to get over the old bridge on to Don Khon but there’s a ticket guy waiting. So decided to sneakily come back later in the day once we would have gone. Later that day, he had gone and we cycled around the even quieter, greener Don Khon. Being on the bridge for the sunset was magical with all the yellows, oranges and dark silhouettes. Lise and Andrew also arrived and added to the chilled out feel, especially once we found a swimming pool to hang out in and around with a few beers and spent the evenings chilled out at the bar at the bungalow or in Adam’s Bar for a ‘happy’ shake and a film. On the final night…Valentine’s Day, Wijnand and Max had arrived and we spent the evening sat round a bonfire with a few Beerlao beers and rum before all crashing ready to move on the next day. A perfect, if not almost boring, chilled out 4 days.
And that’s Laos done, next stop to explore the secrets of Cambodia.