Saturday, December 19, 2009

Four Thousand Islands, Laos

To get from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Four Thousand Islands, Laos, I had to travel by bus, during the day, for 12 hours. It was a grueling ride through the flat expanse of Cambodia. Arriving at this “unofficial” border crossing, everyone had to pay a US$1 admin fee to the Cambodian officials and a US$2 admin fee to the Laotian officials. These admin fees are akin to bribes.

I immediately fell in love with the Four Thousand Islands, an inland archipelago near the Laos-Cambodia border. I arrived during sunset, with its stunning display of colors and reflections. The place was very tranquil, with villagers fishing or picking fruit. In fact, the islands did not have electricity until last year!

I stayed on an island called Don Det and rented a bungalow with a hammock on the porch for only US$2.50 per night! This was a very relaxing way to vacation and I can understand why this place has become touristy these past 10 years.

On my only full day there, I spent some time walking along the water on Don Det. I spotted some water buffaloes “swimming”. There were plenty of stilt homes where the locals live. At a certain point, I crossed the French-built bridge to the neighboring island of Don Khon. This island is famous for its waterfalls and dolphins. I only saw the former, an amazing bunch of cascading water. I savored the view while sipping a coconut.

For food, I ate fried noodles, fried rice and laap, a Laotian salad with meat (either fish, chicken, beef or pork) with basil leaves, bean sprouts, and nuts. I drank lots of fruit shakes; these proved to be refreshing on a sweltering “winter” day.

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