International Women’s Day sometimes goes almost unnoticed in Germany or Western Europe. Here in Laos it marks a public holiday, which gave us the opportunity to plan a trip to the south of Laos, since we had Monday and Tuesday off. The far south of Laos offers unique landscapes, as well as remarkable cultural and historic landmarks.
Our journey started in Ban Sikeud on Friday evening at 8 o’clock. For the 10-hour overnight ride to Pakse, covering nearly 700km, we booked a „bed“ in the sleeper bus – which was quite the experience. The beds are about 90cm–160cm. I thought that sleeping in this bed by myself would already feel very cramped but you actually have to share it with another person. Soon I figured that a good night’s sleep was something I could only dream of.
After changing the bus in Pakse and another 3-hour bus ride, we finally arrived at our destination Si Phan Don, the Four Thousand Islands. We took a boat to Don Det, the island we were staying on. As we were about to find out, this magnificent area lives up to its name.
There were small islands, or rather big tufts of grass, everywhere. We rented some bicycles and took some time to explore the idyllic island, which took us about 40 minutes. Afterwards, we had delicious and exorbitant cheap food and went straight to bed to catch up on the sleep we missed during the bus ride.
Four Thousand Island is located in the Mekong river, near the Cambodian border.
Mr. Toe, our very authentic and relaxed host during our stay, told us that a Kayak tour would be the best way to see as much as possible from the surrounding area. So the first thing we did the next morning was to book an 8-hour-tour (including breakfast and lunch) for only 18€.
During our kayaking tour around the islands we stopped to watch the widest waterfall in Southeast Asia, which is a tremendous 1 km in width.
However, the most impressive part of our tour was spotting dolphins at the Cambodian boarder. The local Irrawaddy dolphins live in this area, and we had the opportunity to watch them from our kayaks. Sitting there, enjoying the silence and watching these rare creatures was truly recreative. Traditionally, the endangered “Mekong dolphins” are considered reincarnated humans and there are many stories of dolphins having saved the lives of fishermen. In awe of the marvellous wonders of nature, we continued our trip with an appeasing attitude.
We continued our trip to Champasak, where we arrived in the afternoon – just in time to go to the UNESCO world heritage site of Vat Phou.
The ruins of this more than 1.000-years -old Khmer Hindu temple are a must see if you ever come to Southern Laos. Its peaceful atmosphere is just what you need after the steep climb.
The journey back home to Sikeud was an extraordinary experience itself. After getting up at 5.30 to catch the bus at 7 we found out (some hours later) that we were not sitting on the booked VIP bus (as all the people told us) but in the local bus which stopped in every village. Therefore it took us 16 hours (6 hours more) to get back to Vientiane, where we arrived late at night.
All in all, the trip felt like a short and very relaxing holiday, although this feeling unfortunately was somewhat blown by the long and hot bus ride back home.
Text and photos by: J. Reissig