From Vang Vieng we went to Vientienne (for what we thought would only be a day) to sort out our Vietnamese visa's and then head over the same day to Hanoi on a over night bus, but as most things happen on our travels nothing quite works out as we plan. After making our way to the Vietnam embassy and waiting for them to open we were annoyed to find out that it worked out no cheaper getting our visa direct than what it would of cost to get it done from our guest house in Vang Vieng. So as we were there we thought we would pay extra and get the visa done the same day so we could then head straight to Hanoi that night... not so fast, we went to the bank to get the money out and found that we couldnt get the amount we needed as we had already withdrawen money that day, so we had to come up with a new plan and decided to go for a 3 day service for our visa which meant we could go and visit some more of Laos. We had already discussed the possibility of going down to four thousand island earlier in the trip but thought we would be pushed for time as we spend so much time in Vang Vieng, but now we are having to wait 3 days for our visa we have the perfect oportunity to visit, so off we went to the bus station to get our overnight bus ticket. At the bus stations you are normally faced with two options as to what bus to get... the local bus or a vip sleeper bus, the price difference between the two was around 90000 kip (around £5), "how bad can the local bus be, we travelled India for gods sake"... so we went for the local bus! WRONG OPTION! I dont think we had actually thought through the fact we would be on a local Laos bus with no air con for the next 14 hours and the bus was so busy we had locals standing up the isle for the whole duration, oh and to top it off the driver insisted on turning on flashing neon disco lights and THE loudest Laos music all through the night, after 4 or 5 hours it got too much for me so i got up and turned his radio down myself! After part one of our hellish journey we arrived at a place called Pakse where we were supposed to change buses for the final 3 hours of the trip, only to find that the last leg would be by tuk tuk! 3 hours with the anoying sound of a tuk tuk in your ear!! We eventually arrived at the port of four thousand island after 19 hours travelling and from here caught a longtail boat to the island where we decided to stay called Don Khon.
Four thousand island is a group (4000 to be exact) of islands in the Mekong river at the most southernly point in Laos, and it is in these waters where you can spot the rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin, apparantly there are only around 12 left around the area so we hope to see them while we are here! The island of Don Khon is the most southernly island of the 4000 and the small strip of the mekong that runs on the south of the island boarders Cambodia so we can actually see cambodia from our island. On the island there really is nothing apart from a string of very small family ran resaurants and small guest houses that run along the front of the island and really that is about it, this island only got electricity less than 5 months ago so its like going back in time a bit. After walking up the one small dirt track of a road to look for accomodation, we found a riverside bungalow that over hung the river for 30000kip (£2) a night, it was really basic but so peacefull, we had a small veranda that kicked out over the river with 2 hammocks on so that was us sorted for the next two days. We really didnt do to much at all after arriving that first day other than swing in the hammock, sleep, relax and relax some more, we had intended on renting some push bikes and exploring the island as there is a really nice waterfall you can bike to and a beach you go to to see the dolphins, but we decided it could wait till tomorrow. So thats what we did, after some brekky we got bikes and set off, we had only been going around 10 mins when i heard a "Rich" from behind me, it was only Chris the guy we have been trvelling with for the last 3 weeks and just left in Vang Vieng. We knew he was coming this way but the chances of him being on the same island and biking behind us at the same point of the day was weird, so after chatting for a while we decided to all ride together to the waterfall and then to the beach. The biking was difficult as there are no sealed roads on the island, its all just sand and rocks and really difficult to ride on so its a good job the waterfall wasnt too far away. We wasnt sure on what to expect with the waterfall as we have been to some that are lame but when we got to this one it was far from lame, there was so much water coming over the fall and from so many different directions, it was definatly one of the most powerfull and fierce waterfalls i have been to and there is no way we could swim in there! After a few pictures and a swig of water we made our way further along the sandy track for another 1km until we reached a small secluded beach on the river with nothing but a wooden shack for a resturant and a handfull of small wooden fishing boats. Up in the village they offer boat tours to go and see the dolphins for as much as 200000kip per person, but we heard the thing to do is to ride to the beach and ask one of the locals to take you out for 90000kip for the boat... so this is what we did, after sitting on the beach for half an our we finally managed to pay our kip and set sail on our little longtail boat down the Mekong, the boat ride there was around 20mins down the river and this alone was worth the money, it was so nice to ride down the mekong with no one around, Laos on one side and Cambodia on the other. After 20 mins we arrived at a small cluster of rocks in the middle of the water where the boat pulled up to and ushered us off, here we sat for the next hour whilst we spotted these rare dolphins in the distance, we saw them around 50m away and asked if we could get closer but apparantly we couldnt as we literally sitting on the boarder and getting any closer would mean crossing to Cambodia and thats not good! So we sat and baked under the blistering afternoon sun, it wasnt long though before we were in the river swimming to cool off, the dolphins did get closer but not close enought o swim with but it was still a great little trip out. After getting back to our hut and planning to go out for dinner, i became quite ill so we stayed in and Finch looked after me... (love you babe!) x
The following day it was time to leave to go back to Vientiene to get our Vietnam visa, and after learning from our mistake coming down, we decided to pay a little more and get a vip sleeper bus and im glad we did, this was our first experince of a sleeper bus that actually has a lie down bed in it, and Finch and i had a double bed all the way back which was very nice compared to the local bus we had coming down. So off to Vientienne now and then hopefully if there is no problems with our visa's, straight off to Hanoi in Vietnam on another overnight bus and im defo getiing a sleeper for that one as its over 24hrs! x