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Si Phon Don – A Vacation From Vacation, or More Hammocks and Waterfalls

31 Oct

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My final stop in Laos was on its southernmost border at Si Phon Don (meaning 4000 islands) where by some mystery (at least to me) of hydrodynamics, the Mekong stretches in width to allow for the presence of hundreds, if not thousands, of islands of various sizes. Many are inhabited and several offer accommodations. I choose to visit Don Khon which was billed as being a little less backpacker-centric than a certain neighboring island as there are still quite a few farmers and fishermen living on the island. It seemed like the right call as soon as I arrived in the late afternoon as this is the sunset that greeted me as I motored down and across the Mekong from Nakasang to the island in a rickety little wooden boat…

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Don Khon is small and quiet. It has palm trees and rice fields and water buffaloes and winding dirt trails.

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It also has a few decaying remnants of French colonialism such as an old railway bridge which hasn’t hosted a working train since the dying days of Indochine and this sadly neglected chateau…

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There are tons of seemingly happy go lucky kids running around gloriously unsupervised as tends to be the case throughout Laos which has a very young population (median age of 21.4 as compared to 37.1 in the States). And the people seem to be quite content to take things easy leaving the aggressive pursuit of wealth to others. This too would seem to be the common approach in Laos which is part of what it makes it such a thoroughly agreeable place to travel.

There isn’t a whole lot to do on Don Khon other than soak up the atmosphere and I guess that’s the point.

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I did manage to take a break from such soaking and tool around on a rickety undersized bicycle on the little dirt trails running around and through the island which was all the more enjoyable given that there aren’t any cars on the island… just tractors and a few mini-trucks as far as I could tell.

I also visited the fairly impressive Khon Phapheng waterfalls near the southern end of the island.

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And while I was visiting them, these fishermen were hard at work pulling fish from them…

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And I spent some quality time in the hammock on the front porch of my $6 per night riverfront hut which is the reddish brown (Crayola’s burnt siena?) structure that can be seen here from the old railway bridge…

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I also polished off quite a few fresh coconuts in the afternoons and a handful of relatively cold Beerlaos in the evenings at my preferred riverside dining establishment while talking Premier League football with a 15 year old waiter who was far more knowledgeable than I was on the subject and even invited me to hang around after closing time to watch a bit of the Merseyside Derby with him and his dad. I should note that, in keeping with the situation, I paired a few of those Beerlaos with a plate of fried Mekong River seaweed (riverweed?) which is undoubtedly one of the tastier bar snacks I’ve sampled in Southeast Asia. They sprinkle sesame seeds on it and serve it with a dollop of spicy chili paste as seen here…

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All in all it was a perfect place to just take ‘er easy after a couple of challenging travel days on either side of Vientiane which I visited just before Don Khon. And that’s a good thing because I had another such challenging travel day in store for me en route to Phnom Penh.

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