Monday, January 7, 2013

Of bicycles, kayaks, & hammocks

Here I sit in the open-air restaurant attached to the bungalows in which I'm staying. I'm on Don Dhet, one of the many islands in the Mekong, near the Laos/Cambodia border. We (still traveling with Nevine) left Pakse this morning by minibus. It took 2.5 hours to get to Nakasang, where we climbed on a small boat for the 10-minute ride across the Mekong to Don Dhet.
 Out minibus (below)...

Only three of the many islands are "developed" ... with guesthouses, restaurants, tours, etc. They are: Don Khong (the biggest), Don Dhet, and Don Khon (yes, I know the first and 3rd sound the same, but they're not:). As recently as last year, these islands only had electricity (by generator) in the evenings (6-9pm), there was no internet access, there was no way to get more money or to change money, and there weren't many (if any) flush toilets. Now, all of that has changed. Many places have power 24/7, there's internet access, and there are several ATMs and place to exchange money. The bungalows where Nevine and I are staying have en suite bathrooms (well, they're the ever popular "shoilets" -- see my last post) with flush toilets and are situated right on the river. The per night rate is 60,000 kip ($7.50) -- that we're splitting! But, despite these developments in creature comforts, these islands are RUSTIC. Bungalows are very simple, all the roads are dirt, there's not a lot of hot water (not necessary, as it's pretty hot here).... basically, this is very (very!) simple living. It's great!

Don Dhet is definitely a hippie-mecca. As Nevine and I rode our rented bikes all around the island (7km diameter), we would occasionally ride through "reefer clouds." Hilarious. There's lots of tye-dye (sp?) and patchouli (a scent I rather detest, to be honest), and it's all very charming in its own way. It's definitely a party place, but as soon as you're out of the main "hub" (at the north end of DD), it can be serene and delightful. That said, as I sit here, people are beginning to fill this restaurant (which is outside of the hub), there's some cool music playing, and I have a feeling it'll be a bit of a small party soon.

We've booked a full-day kayaking trip for tomorrow -- which includes breakfast, lunch, about 4 hours of kayaking (in total), a visit to two different waterfalls (including hikes to them), and a bus ride for part of it (riding back upstream). This trip will cost us a hefty $22ea. Love it.

The rest of our time there was filled with a lot of hanging out in funky "restaurants", walking around looking at the local creatures (both animal and human), and watching sunsets. (I'm pretty sure that's why they call the north end of this island "Sunset Strip")....

Now then, my friends, this is going to be my second post without pics.... so sorry! The main reason for this is that my camera suddenly went kaput today (SUCH a bummer). I can turn it off & on and can takes pics in one (a wide angle) focal length. But the camera will not do anything else, including download to my computer. Aaaack! I've been online for the last hour trying to troubleshoot this, but have come up with nothin'. I'll keep working on it, but, in the meantime, I'll keep posting stories and you'll just have to picture them in your mind. (Update: as you now must know, my camera is working again! Hope you enjoy the pics)

Will be in touch after kayaking (then hammock-lying, then reading, then eating dinner, then relaxing some more, then sleeping). Yea, some time after that I'll be in touch....