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Don Det, Laos

Written on: Tuesday January 8th, 2008

A journal entry from: Around The World Without A Plane

They say first impressions are the most important and based upon our first impressions of Laos we?re going to find this country one of our favourites yet. The drive up here from Cambodia, although reasonably long and not particularly comfortable was fun, as we first shared a cramped mini-bus, with 3 guys riding on the roof up to Stung Treng, then from there took a ferry across the Mekong to continue up to the shed-like unofficial border post with Laos, where the border patrol guys grinned like thieving monkeys as they extracted dollar bills of each and every one of us knowing we were helpless but to pay it.

Don Det, where we decided to stay is one of the Si Phan Don, or 14 Thousand Islands, that lie blissfully in the middle of the Mekong. We opted to take a room each that overlooked the Mekong for the ridiculous price of a dollar and a half each. Over the next 3 days we met up and befriended countless people, including 3 guys bizarrely from Staines, one of whom who went to school at Matthew Arnold, the other two at Magna Carta with some friends of mine back home.

The highlight of our time on this island, where we could have easily kicked back, as others we had met had, and spent more time, was hiring out bicycles and riding around both Don Det and Don Khon, which are linked together by an old French railway bridge. Other the bridge and a few kilometers to the west lies the absolutely amazing sight of Somphamit Waterfall, where the water from the Mekong is squeezed down between a cluster of rocky outcrops producing the torrent of water that brazenly and aggressively flows through.  Not just content with the great sight itself, I set off flip-flopless down the side of the rocks, across some sort of dilapidated bamboo bridge and in to the middle of the waterfalls themselves, closely followed by Dave. The views from here were even more spectacular, and there was some great climbing too. 

It was actually a shame that my bike felt like I was sitting just on the uncushioned, solid steel pole as we would have probably explored the island a little more, but with my perineum in severe need of a cold shower and some soft upholstery, we headed back to enjoy a luxurious, refreshing, cold Beer Lao.


On top of this we took a trip out to the largest waterfalls in South East Asia, Khon Phapheng Falls, which weren't actually as impressive as Somphamit Falls, maybe adding to the fact that we were still hungover, or more than likely because they were wider therefore the torrent of water didn't look as striking. We followed this visit up to another glance at the dolphins in the Mekong, although there weren't as many as we'd seen in Cambodia.