The boat trip from Don Khong to Don Khon – this is not a joke, the “g” makes for a difference of 16 kilometers further south on the Mekong – was fantastic. Cruising past small islands that had almost disappeared in the Mekong’s high waters, we saw many small boats carrying just anything, tables, motorbikes, etc…
Once we stopped on a very small island where children were busy doing what all children living on the Mekong love to do: they climb up a tree almost engulfed by the flooded river, crawl out on a branch and plunge like ripe fruits into the river. They pop back up, their faces having the same color as the river, smiling again, climbing up the river bank and do the whole thing over and over again.
We asked the boatman to drop us off on Don Khon, the bigger of the two islands connected by a robust bridge built by the French back in colonial days. Pan’s Guesthouse offered the kind of rooms we were looking for to enjoy a few more relaxing days. Nay, soon the hammering began for putting up a bike shed, right in front of our room. After a while it became nerve-racking, especially since we did not want to leave our somehow cooler room during the heat of the day. Anyway, only after dark did a generator provide energy for the little fan for a couple of hours, so our room was extremely hot as well.
As soon as the temperature dropped a bit, we started a little excursion through both islands on a rented scooter. The waterfall was quiet impressive, equally spectacular was the part where the small swing bridge crosses to a tiny island. The water beneath was violently gushing through that small riverbed at a speed we had never seen before. The locals captivated us by their genuine friendliness, especially the children who smile, wave & call “Sabaidee” whenever they see a foreigner. It as only then that we understood the many stories of travelers going north who found the attitude of the villagers in the Luang Nam Tha area rather strange or even unfriendly!
We found Don Khon even more scenic than Don Det, with its palms trees shadowing the small dirt roads around the island, but Don Det certainly has a better developed tourist infrastructure and more tourists. It was completely silly of us to stay on Don Khon in the off-off season. We saw three other tourists and ate dinner in a large restaurant being the only customers, so much for the fun factor!
Once electricity was cut again close to midnight, the temperatures in the room became unpleasant, around 03:00 am the rosters started crowing relentlessly and once day broke a monotonous hammering drove us from our bed. This place may seem laid-back, but we definitely could not find peace and quietness there!
To leave the islands and continue travel south into Cambodia is all organized by the guesthouses: due to the lack of public transport, everything is in the hands to ultra-entrepreneurial businessmen, as we found out soon…