Canoe across the Mekong

Day 132, Tuesday 15 May 2012 – 4000 Islands to Champasak

I was awake early again after another pretty good sleep, awesome ! It will be such a shame to leave, but it is time to move on – so today I head back north to Champasak to visit ancient Wat Phou.

The mini-bus leaves at 11.00, but I still wanted to get to Khone Phapheng falls as I missed visiting them the day I lost my wallet. I sunk a quick coffee from the guesthouse, rented a bike from next door and pedalled off to Don Khon Island.

The falls are only a couple of kilometres away and I was there before 8.00 Am, early enough to beat the bike park security guy (though he got me on the way back and i had to pay the parking fee – few cents) but not early enough to not have to pay the entrance fee to the falls area.

I was the first tourist there and way too early for all the vendors to set up shop !

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There are a large number of vendors who live here and sadly the place is just one big rubbish dump – the falls are stunning, but behind every bush there is garbage, so terribly sad. I realise that this is not the west and an environmentally friendly garbage disposal system is not at hand, nor is any garbage collection. However, this is a stunning area – one of Southern Laos key tourist attractions, the local people earn most of their income from the park – they should respect it.

Anyway – the falls…. they are not tall, but they are huge, water entering from every direction – I would love to see this in the wet – and I am planning on a return to Laos to see the river when it is full. It is an awesome beast.

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After the falls I rode back to the GH for breakfast and then packed up my stuff for Mike to ferry me along with my Dutch and Czech companions from the past two nights over to the mainland to catch our buses to the different places we are going. I had a good time on Don Det !

I was in a full mini-van of people going to Pakse, I was the only one to be dropped off in the village of Don Muang on the edge of the Mekong. Back in the dark ages+ of my early travelling I would be almost terrified to be dropped off alone in a new town, especially the remote edge towns where long distance buses deposit tourists so they can get local transport to the tourist areas – where people don’t speak English. Nowadays, while not exactly ecstatic about the whole thing, I am at least comfortable with it and do relish the challenge of my next goal – in this case getting over the river to the town of Champasak.

I was walking down the towards the river, staring at this massive storm heading towards me, I wondered if anyone was making the crossing giving the pending storm but some guy came up to me and asked if I wanted to go to Champasak – not that I could think of any other reason some falang with a backpack would be heading down to the river ! I said yes and he guided me across the littered beach to his canoe – yep a wee fishing canoe, I was expecting at least a large canoe, but at least he had a motor.

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Once he cleared all the fishing nets away I was bundled in and we headed out across the river with a lovely cross wind building as we left!

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There was a couple of tense moments as we approached Champasak as the wind got quite strong and the waves were splashing over the side on to my pack and day bag. My pack had a waterproof cover on it, but naturally my day bag with everything important in it had nothing – and neither did I. I really thought we might go over, I was very confident I could swim to the shore as the current was not strong, but after the experience of losing my wallet I was terrified I would lose everything ! luckily nothing happened except I arrived on the beach at Champasak soaking wet – to the amusement of many of the locals.

I staggered up the hill to the main street and was picked up by a tuk tuk driver – who just happened to have a guest house, I agreed to check it out and got in – luckily as it hammered down.

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The gueshouse was pretty cool, a few westerners so I agreed to stay, decent price and it had a Mekong side restaurant and bar which was cool.

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I hung out there for a while, waited for the rain to stop, had some lunch, dried off and then went for a walk around down town Champasak. Champasak has some lovely old, fading and dying colonial buildings, as well as the more traditional Laos homes and temples. It is pretty much a one street town.

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I loved the buildings, sadly, like the one above, a number of them are derelict and abandoned.

After the walk I settled down on the deck over the Mekong with a bottle Beer Lao and leached wifi from the hostel over the road – like everyone else was doing.

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A while later Laura, who I met in Pakse and a French girl arrived at the GH, and it was great to have some company. She had just been in Pakse and had gone for a hospital visit with Danny (I now know it is not Dani), which was cool.

Laura gave me this photo she took of the four us in Pakse hospital. I am the one who is twice the age of any combination of two of the others…

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It was another pretty good – if damp day.

+ I refer to the dark ages as a long time ago, not that it was a dark time ! (I am loving these things that I don’t know the name of )

About wheresphil

Originally from Auckland, New Zealand, now living in London.
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2 Responses to Canoe across the Mekong

  1. Alex Chan says:

    What a pro! You’ll have to come to Pakistan to look after me.

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