20.07.2008 - 27.07.2008
I must say that this past week we have slowed our drinking back down to normal. I blame the Irish couple that we had been hanging out with But in all seriousness we spent this past week doing less drinking and more sightseeing. We started last week before leaving the city of Vientiane. We spent an afternoon seeing the sights of the laidback capital of Laos. One of the sights was Patuxai which resembles the Arch de Triumph in France. The arch was actually built in the 60's with U.S. funded cement that the U.S. government had given the Lao government to build a new airport. But apparently the Lao government felt that they needed an arch landmark more than an airport
Another sight that we saw that day was Pha That Luang, which in Lao is more than just your average wat/temple. It is actually the country's most important national monument. In fact they have a photo of the wat on the back of all of their currency. We were rather impressed with the golden wat ourselves. As with most of Lao it was so nice not to have to deal with crowds. There were only a couple other tourist there with us and a few smiling monks. It was nice to get to enjoy the peacefulness of the wat.
After seeing the major sites that the city had to offer we boarded a night sleeper bus to southern Laos about 12 hours away. This was our first experience with a sleeper bus and I must say I enjoyed it. I however, can fall asleep most anywhere and growing up taking family road trips and sleeping in the back of a van while we were travelling was like old times for me. Breezy on the other hand didn't sleep as sound as I did. But we both agreed that it was a nice way to travel. Especially waking up the next morning to the most incredible sunrise with the green landscape in the foreground. What a great way to start the day. We ended up staying a day in Pakse which would be considered a city in Lao terms. But it seemed like a strange city......there were actually more monks on the streets than vehicles.....only in Lao.
The next day we headed further south to Si Phan Don or the 4000 Islands. This is the point in the Mekong's 4300 km journey where it is at it's widest. In the rainy season the river can fill out to a 14km breadth. As we learned there are only 3 islands in the 4000 Islands that tourist can stay. We opted for one of the two islands that still does not have electricity, Don Det Island. We caught a small wooden boat from the mainland and rode about 15 minutes to Don Det. By chance, our boat driver, Mr Phao, rented his own bungalows right on the river. One look at his garden, the simple but clean bungalows with 2 hammocks on the pourch overlooking the Mekong and we knew we found our little piece of Lao heaven.
The best part was that we only paid abut $2.50USD a night for the bungalow. Grantid, we had to use the shared squat toilets (my gosh they were clean though) and there was no power on the island (except for the generators that they used to cook and keep lights going for a couple hours each night). But for those of you that know how much we love to camp, this was just what we were needing.
We basically spent 4 days on Don Det enjoying some of the first truely blue sky days that we have had in months. We rented bikes a couple of the days to better access the island and it's sister island Don Khon. Just to give you an idea of size, it would take us about 40 minutes to ride our bikes around the island. We also rode over to the Tai Somphamit Waterfalls on Don Khon. I wouldn't really say they were waterfalls as much as just massive rapids. We also had Mr Phao take us out on a sunset boat tour which was great. We got to see some of the other islands which ranged in size from trees sticking out of the water (since we were there in rainy season it is more like 1000 islands) to islands with local villages on them. In fact one island that he took us to had its own montestary. We walked around and were followed by the kids who weren't used to seeing westerners and were even given a blessing by the elder monk, very cool. We were able to catch a few beautiful sunsets. With the river as massive as it was there were times we forgot we were on a river beach not an ocean beach. The rest of our time was spent relaxing (yes, yet another vacation from the vacation for the Breses) in the hammocks. We definately found paradise in Lao.
Having a snack and a drink during sunset with a thunderstorm to the side
Sunset Cruise with Mr. Phaos awesome tour boat.....it was his everything boat...
Doing my best to conserve.....oxygen... I guess....
View out our bungalow window.
The day sadly came that we had to say goodbye to Mr Phao and his family and head further south into the country of Cambodia. The boarder crossing that I had been dreading due to the corrupt boarder guards that I had heard so much about.....went rather smooth. We were with a group of 15 other travellers and rode in nice minivans to the boarder. We made it out of Lao and into Cambodia and only had to pay about $6 extra to pay for overtime processing since it was Saturday and all. We then boarded different minivans.....not as nice but still not bad......and rode for about an hour to the first big town. Here we had lunch and ended up waiting 3 hours for a few more passengers. We then boarded Cambodia's version of a VIP bus. Which was more like an old school bus which they had taken a few seats out of to store the luggage and then for some reason they filled most of the bus with planks of wood.....about two feet high in the aisle and filling up the leg room for most of the seats. Needless to say we were all packed in for the remaining 9 hours of the journey. We eventually rolled in to Phnom Penh at about 12am (about 3 hours late and making it a 16 hour journey). But it just felt good to be off of that bus and to know that the day was behind us.
The "FUN" bus!!
So here we are in Cambodia. We were informed that today is the election day here....yep, on a Sunday. So many things are closed....we took this as a good time to update the blog with our whereabouts. Hope you are all doing well!!
Breezy and Toni