Having already spent three days on Don Det, it seemed like about time we explored a little. We scored a couple of bikes for $1/day and set off for the neighbouring island of Don Kohne. To say this was a strenuous ride would be a blatant lie.
Don Det it’s self is only 2km from end to end. Despite this ridiculously short distance we took our time (it was HOT!) and absorbed the sights and smells of Don Det village, rice fields and wildlife before reaching the bridge to Don Kohne.
Here are approximately 42 of the 4,000 islands in Si Phan Don.
Technically, if you’re foreign, you’re supposed to pay 25,000 Kip ($3) per person per day to access the island but there was nobody manning the bridge when we arrived so that wad of cash stayed safely in my pocket.
After being chased by the perhaps the worlds most pug-faced pig, we turned right at the old train and followed the signs to the waterfall. This engine is left over from the French colonisation of Laos in the 1800’s. Apparently, in a bid to lay claim to the undeveloped land along the banks of the mekong, they sailed a couple of 25 ton gun boats down the river. Unfortunately for the French, their plan was foiled as through Don Kohne, the river turns into the largest section of rapids in South East Asia… Sounds to me like they should have done their homework. However, to combat this little hitch, they dismantled all the gun boats, laid railway tracks along the entire length of the island and hauled (at first by hand) each and every gun boat across to the other side. Personally, I think they should have taken the white-water rafting approach. Far less effort and tons more fun!
Only a few km down the road we parked up, bought our tickets ($2ish each) and went to see what all the fuss was about.
To be fair, I can see how they would have had trouble rafting a gun boat down here. We were faced with a sort of jungley moonscape. Jagged rocks towered above the water which had forced a shaky path down the centre and on both sides.
The sheer power of it was amazing. The fastest flowing water I’ve ever seen which was pretty impressive when coupled with it’s surroundings.
After a quick pose, the heat was too much to bear. All I could think about was plunging into the Mekong below… though I didn’t really fancy dying so I gave it a miss. Until… I came across some signs to ‘the beach!’.
While initially this sign bought excitement, once we reached the sand, it quickly became apparent that it should also have read: “only attempt to reach the water if you can fly or love pain”. Even in flip flops, the short walk to the water was unbearable. We ran, we walked, we hopped around… I’ve never felt anything like it. It made me seriously feel for people that get stranded in the Sahara. The sun beating down and up at you simultaneously.
In any case, we reached the water eventually. The current was SERIOUSLY strong. The pool was a sort of eddy so flowed in a circle which made it near impossible to swim against, for me at least. There was also the very real risk of being pulled straight into the middle of the river and battered against the rocks. Though, apparently somebody else had already realised this risk… In true Asia style, they had strung up a single piece of string and attached three plastic bottles to it to warn you where not to go. I guess it’s the thought that counts right?
Very hot and still soggy, we headed for home. The road seemed long but was full of welcome distractions, mostly in the form of super-cute wild and un-wildlife!
Cows, water buffalo, a hoard of ginger piglets, the odd dog and an overambitious puppy that had a good go at eating Rich’s bike.
After a quick drink and a long game of boule with some local kids it was back to island life, body in hammock, Beer Lao in hand, ready for tomorrow’s adventure.