We left Luang Prabang Tuesday evening and were about to catch a flight to Vientiane when the power went out at the airport. Now, call me petty, but I think but I like to have my airports all wired 24/7. While I was entertaining all the possible catastrophes of this little episode, all of the airport staff, vendors and tuk tuk drivers were leaving for the day. It was, after all, past 8pm already! After a small delay, we finally took off to Vientiane where we spent a short night in a deserted strange looking hotel. Very early the next morning, we caught a flight to Pakse, the main getaway to the south of Laos. This time there was no power failure at the airport but rather a HUGE airplane size roach walking around the â€œsecurity checkâ€ area.
Coming out of the airport, we asked the tuk tuk driver to take us to the southern bus terminal so we can catch the next bus going to Ban Nakasang. This started a whole chain of events we can refer to a â€œmisunderstandingâ€.
The tuk tuk driver took us to the bus â€˜terminalâ€™ (an open market with 2 buses and many chickens) and to our surprise, there was a bus leaving right there and then going to our destination. After we paid double the normal price (tuk tuk driver was â€˜kind â€˜enough to get us tickets quicker than we were able to open our mouths) we boarded a local bus heading to Ban Nakasang, or so we thought.
The bus was definitely the authentic experience we were looking for-no doors, hardly any windows, loud Lao pop music and as Kevin likes to joke, â€œweâ€™re the only 2 white people on the bus!â€ The driver stopped every 30 minutes in villages along the way and within seconds, we were surrounded by villagers peddling food through the windows such as meat on skewers, coconut and candy.
After 2.5 hours, we reached a car ferry and people started yelling something about Don Khong (not to be confused with Don Khon-our final destination). Once we got to the other side of the river, things started happening very fast. Within a matter of minutes the bus drove off and we were left on the side of the road with our backpacks while a minivan driver and an old woman with no teeth explained to us that we are nowhere near Don Khon. Thinking about this now seems funny but there was nothing comical about being stuck in the middle of nowhere in the heat after getting only 4 hrs of sleep the night before.
It turns out we were now on Don Khong which is the main island in Si Phan Don. It is said to be the most convenient one in terms of services for tourists but lacks the charm of its southern brothers-Don Det and Don Khon where we wanted to go.
Now tired, dirty and hungry, what else could we do? We went to eat. We needed to cool off, get a drink and strategize. We considered staying in Don Khong for the night and just taking a boat the next day to Don Khon but a quick look around revealed that there was absolutely nothing to do there and we were already too excited about getting to Don Khon. By God, we were gonna get there one way or another!
Luckily, we ran into 2 nice Israeli guys at the restaurant who had just arrived on the island 20 minutes earlier and were also ready to leave already. These guys were on 6 month journey through Asia eating only Western food, if you can believe that.
Anyway, we all chartered a boat together and after another 1.5 hr in the sun going down the Mekong we were finally in Don Khon! Hurray!!!
After such an ordeal, we thought we deserved some kind of compensation (ok, I thought we did) and we marched right into the fanciest place on the island according to the lonely planet guidebook. We were going to splurge and pay $20 a night! Thatâ€™s right, we thought we were living large! Turns out a lot of other people on the island are living large and the hotel was fully booked which meant weâ€™d need to continue carrying our 12kg backpacks in search of another option. That option ended up being a simple guesthouse for only $2/night, the price of 2 fruit shakes in Laos.
We took a very modest room in a familyâ€™s house (on stilts) where the bathroom was outside right near the chickens. Being able to speak French proved to be very useful as the family didnâ€™t speak a word of English but their French was great! The mother, Sissamon, told us about her family and showed us pictures of her oldest son currently studying painting in Bangkok.
We went for a short walk and saw a magnificent sunset over the river, got dinner and stared at the starry sky for a while. Back at the guesthouse we chatted with the family for a bit but we were exhausted by 9pm and were sleeping, under the mosquito net, covered in Deet by 9:02pm.
The next morning we upgraded to a $5 bungalow with private shower and a fan!
Let us all pray to the God of Malaria that the mosquitoes also took the wrong bus and are still stuck in Don Khong!