Well the journey from Tha kek to Pakse isn't one I particularly want to repeat. I left the "Travelodge" with Ana and another by tuktuk to the bus station. Here they were selling barbecued squirrels and other assorted mammals. Not for my breakfast thanks. The bus was meant to take about 7 hours but in reality it was more like 10. And no wonder as we were stopping and starting the entire time. AND I forgot my earplugs again. The road was boring too and by the time we got to Pakse it was dark and the streetlights were so bad I got frustrated with trying to read the map. Ana and I found two different guesthouses then found dinner! At our cafe of choice we found all the other westerners who were on our bus! It must be a small town. I used a day for practical stuff like bank and internet and wasted about two more hours trying two get photos on my sight. The other day I took a day trip out to the Boloven highlands - tea and coffee growing country. It was very pretty and totally different from other parts of Laos that I'd seen. We visited a village where they make their own coffins and store them under their houses until the need arises. This was the first place I'd visited in this country where the kids were asking for pens and money etc though. We then went on to visit some waterfalls which were lovely but probably more impressive in the wet season. We had lunch in a simple way out kind of village at Tat Lo whilst watching the most bizarre tv programme I've ever seen in my life. I think it was meant to be for children but the guides were howling with laughter. Some of the characters included an overweight child in a pair of tight pants, several men in drag and a midget. Facepaints featured quite strongly also. Tat Lo itself was a place I could envisage spending a couple of days as the surrounding countryside was so pretty but I was running out of days and wanted to get down to "the islands"!
So I left Pakse by air conditioned minibus which took us down to a hellishly bumpy road to the river. The driver seemed to have absolutely no concern for his suspension nor for his young children's ears (they were having a jolly time bouncing around on the front seat enjoying the rap party)! All that could really keep us sane was the knowledge that we were heading for paradise. Si Phan Don translates as the 4000 islands and are located on a very wide part of the Mekong. Laos is land locked so these are the nearest thing they have to tropical islands. I chose Don Khone which is a 'quieter' island than Don Det although it's harder to find good cheap accommodation. i actually got really hot and bothered at first looking around especially when this funny man who said he'd seen me in Tha kek seemed to be following me around. He even stopped and sat in a cafe when I did and ended up virtually next door to me when I finally decided on a place. Every time I came out of my room he was doing the same and I was getting most irritated. Anyway, I wasn't comfortable in that place so I upped my budget and went to stay in "Pan's guesthouse" which was bliss!! I had a lovely bungalow with a verandah and a hammock (of course) and just relaxed. In fact one day I did nothing but laze around all morning reading, went and had lunch then had a lie on the bed under the fan! The only think that marred it was that funny little man kept whizzing past on a bike and waving. He was like Mr Bean! In the evening it was very atmospheric as there were lanterns hanging from the trees and the sound of crickets. The next day I hired a bike and went off exploring the island. It was mainly palm tree lined paths - very easy cycling. I found some quite dramatic waterfalls and sat and watched them for a while. (I liked that place so much that I went back later only to find hoards of Japanese tourists snapping away! Ambience ruined). As I continued to cycle around I found a huge beach and stopped for a coke at a beach bar. There was no-one else there although I did see some brave Kayakkers! Half way round who should I meet but Ana, also on a bike but doing the route the other way - the way described in Lonely Planet. That explains why I hadn't seen anybody else maybe. The rest of the island was very pretty, very wooded but also some rice paddies, quiet villages and a couple of temples. When I got back to Pan's Guesthouse I discovered that Ana was in the bungalow opposite. We went out for a dinner in a small restaurant I had liked 2 days before but on this evening she got her fish in banana leaf about an hour before me. Then a party of about 12 people came in. I wonder if they're still there...
It was with great difficulty that I pulled myself away from this place and I would have stayed longer if I didn't have an appointment to keep in Cambodia.