Siân Roberts, Asia Veteran ; ) travel blog

Chaos at Paske bus station

Dazed and Confused after Pii Mai Lao!

Evening view from my hammock

View from my bungalow

Good fortune blessings for Pii Mai

The main road on Don Det

Water buffalo cooling in the river

The nightbus arrived in Pakse at 6.30 in the morning and we were all greeted by a barrage of tuktuk drivers competing for our business. Not really what you need at that time of the morning! I managed to find a few people who were heading the same way as me and we bundled our stuff into the back of the tuktuk and headed to the 'bus station' (FYI a tuktuk is like a motorbike-come-minivan) The bus station was crazy! A bit more like a market really and complete chaos. When we got there the 7am 'bus' was full so we got into a songthaew instead (like a truck for transporting people?!) There was 40 people on our songthaew - you need to see the attached photo to begin to understand!! I can only say that I know really understand what sheep feel like on those farm trucks you see with theirs heads poking out of the gaps....

I dont know how long the journey took coz I don't have a watch, but it was painful. After about 20 mins the van broke down and the driver just hitched a lift from the next car going the other way! After an hour he came back with oil for the engine and off we went! At the end of this nightmare we arrived at a riverside marketplace and got on a boat to the island of Don Det. Don Det is one of the smaller occupied islands in the Si Phan Don area in southern Laos, also know as 4000 islands. Here the Mekong river splits around many small islands. Someone said it is a bit more like 4000 bushes though which I think is a bit more accurate - some of them can't really be classed as islands.

Finally arriving at Don Det after a 15 minute boat ride we stumbled up the beach and found refuge at a guest house called 'Sunset Bungalows'. Don Det is a simple place. Bungalows are made of bamboo and face right onto the water, where you can chill in your hammock all day :) There's not much to do and the pace of life is eeeasy. However, the day after I arrived was the start of Pii Mai Lao, the Laos new year, so things liven up a bit! Pii Mai lasts for 3 days officially but about 5 really and involves drinking lots of Beer Lao and Lao Lao (home brewed rice spirit) and throwing water over everone. Unfortunately it also meant that the few services available on the island - public transport, pricey phone and dodgy internet - were shut down for this time so I was truely stranded on the island!

There were quite a few parties for Pii Mai Lao so on one day me and a few other falang (foreigners) got a ride with some of the Lao people to the mainland for a big celebration. It was really crazy!! There must have been 5000 people there and it was like a bit music festival. There were 2 stages of live music, a parade and lots of food and beer stalls. The Laos' were getting really drunk and painting everyone's face with lipstick and talcum powder! Very pretty. The funniest thing was when the band played a song everyone ran onto the dancefloor so it was totally packed, then when it finished they would all run off! Every time there was always a groups of confused falang left standing in the middle all covered in beer and talc with big pink lines all over their faces. Then 1 minute later the music would start again and the all rushed back again! Unfortunately I don't have any photos of the party coz I didn't dare take my camera but hopefully I might have some sent to me that I can put up...

I stayed on Don Det for one week due to the new year but I met up with a couple who I had met in Pai in Thailand who were heading to Cambodia, which was also my plan. We decided to go together to the Cambodian border as it isn't really an offical border crossing so it can be a bit tricky and people often get ripped off by the "offials" there...

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