Monday, April 26, 2010

Don Det, Laos (the 4,000 islands)

My overnight sleeper bus arrived in Pakse early in the morning. From here I transferred onto another bus that took me to Ban Nakasang. At Ban Nakasang, I found myself amongst many backpackers waiting in line to purchase a ticket for the ferry to Don Det. I had heard nothing but good things about Don Det so I was anxious to board the ferry and see what the island(s) had to offer. I told myself that once I made it to Don Det I was going to keep to myself and hide out. Many people ask me, especially from the States, what is it like to travel by myself, and if I ever get lonely? And to be honest, I’m hardly ever by myself. I’m always meeting people and traveling with someone. So I figured the only way to be by myself was to find a nice quiet bungalow and hide out—which I did. I found a bungalow located in a quiet area on the western side of the island where I enjoyed beautiful views of the sunset.

The bungalows where I stayed were a bit rustic. All of them were stilted wooden bungalows with a mosquito net, a balcony with a hammock, and shared showers/bathrooms with a squat toilet. Pretty basic. Oh yeah, I didn’t realized until I was about to go to sleep that my bungalow didn’t have a fan. Ugh! So amateur. And it was scorching hot outside too. I probably took about 4-5 showers a day just to keep cool. I barely slept a wink the first night due to the heat.

The next day I decided to walk to the Tat Somphamit waterfall, located on Don Khon Island. People suggested that I rent a bicycle to reach the waterfall. However after looking at the bicycles that were being offered I decided that I would walk. Plus, the path from Don Det to Don Khon was extremely rocky and I would’ve probably gotten a flat. So I got up bright and early and headed out for a long journey. The walk to the waterfall was long but pleasant. I really enjoyed the waterfall; it was an extremely powerful one. In the wet season I’m sure it’s even more spectacular. For me, waterfalls never get old. I’m always down to see a waterfall.

Afterwards, I hiked a trail that led to the river just south of the waterfall. I climbed a large rock and enjoyed the view of the river with interesting rock formations surrounding it. The best part about it was that I was able to experience it by myself. There weren’t any tourists around. I’m glad that I got up early because by the time I started to walk back, I crossed paths with many tourists making their way to the waterfall. Phew!

All in all, I felt that Don Det and the 4,000 islands were a bit overrated. People tend to romanticize the word ‘island’ and seem to believe it’s synonymous with the word ‘paradise.’ Well, I’m here to tell you that the 4,000 islands were far from paradise. When you break it down, an island is nothing but land surrounded by water. The next time you drive over a bridge and look at the river, notice all the little islands that you see—nothing special, right?—and that’s basically what comprises Don Det and the rest of the 3,999 islands. I realize I may be a bit harsh here. But remember, EVERYONE that I’ve spoken to about the islands had nothing but positive things to say about it. To each there own, I guess.

The itchy feet factor kicked in real quick while I was here, so I decided to buy a ticket for Cambodia. Yeah, buddy! I love traveling to new countries. Let’s go!


Next Stop: Kratie, Cambodia

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