Leaving Cambodia behind, we headed north and crossed the border into Laos. My posts for the next week or so will be devoted to this small, land-locked country that completely captivated and enthralled me. I realize that Laos is quickly becoming more popular on the Southeast Asian travel circuit, but it is definitely not as high-profile or (thankfully) flooded with tourists as its more popular neighbors: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and China.
The landscape of the low-lying Mekong wetlands in southern Laos is not much different from that of it’s northern Cambodian counterpart. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, these areas were not necessarily our favorites from the two-week G Adventures tour, as far as scenery goes. However, upon reflection, I realize how serene, relaxing, and special our stay here was. We had the chance to slow down and absorb the local lifestyle.
Our G Adventures mini-bus boarded a small ferry, and we rode out to a large island in the Mekong River called Don Khong. We fondly referred to it as Donkey Kong, as it made the name a bit easier to remember.
Local fishermen were out in full force. And let me just tell you, some of the best fish I’ve ever tasted was on this island, from this river!
Don Khong is very picturesque, with its small villages, ancient wats, rice fields, and scenic river views. Many people come here and spend a half or full day touring the island on bicycle (bike rentals are about 15,000 kip per day- a few bucks). Some of us just took our time walking around, checking out wats, villages, and people going about their daily lives.
This monk was washing his robe in front of a temple complex.
On our stroll, we came across a group of children frolicking about in the river. They were so utterly happy and entertained that we just stood, entranced by their joy, and quietly watched and pondered about what play time was like for children without all of the distractions of modern technology. No Playstation, Nintendo, computer games…just good, old-fashioned play time in nature- with other kids! It’s amazing how we’ve strayed so far from that in the West (especially in the U.S.).
These kids were having a blast. It was so sweet. I’m not sure what the rules are about the Internet and kids not wearing clothes, so I airbrushed this little boy’s bum, just in case!
Have you ever seen a monk smoke a cigarette? I had not, until this day. Interesting…
The children all seemed so photogenic and loved posing for photos. They especially loved seeing their photos on the LCD screen afterwards.
I thought this little girl was so pretty.
There were lots of little children and large families. Some of southern Laos was affected by the Khmer Rouge’s death march as well. There is a noticeable absence of an older generation.
The island had a tropical feel, even though it was nestled in a fresh water river with mud shores instead of beaches. I attribute this to the laid-back nature of the people and the tropical (mostly palm) trees- oh, and the water. It is an island, after all.
This little lady decided to do a mini-photo shoot for me. She was hamming it up for the camera, big time!
A father and son played some ball outside of their home, amidst banana fronds. Life was noticeably simple here. Simple and joyous.
There was a lot of love in the air; families and friends spending time with one another, enjoying each other’s company.
High speed: The great thing about Don Khong for travelers is that the island offers both ultimate remoteness and high-speed Internet connectivity. In fact, I found the wifi in Laos to be widely accessible, fast, and free, much more so than Thailand and Cambodia. It’s so nice to take a step back in time and feel that you are in the middle of nowhere, yet still have the ability to connect to the rest of the world.
Food, as always, is one of my favorite things about traveling. I love Southeast Asian food. Spring rolls in any country are on my top-5 order list. The Laos version, here, were thicker, more akin to Chinese egg rolls than some of the thinner, crispier versions I’ve had in Vietnam and Thailand. The hot and sour dipping sauce is what puts this dish over the top, though.
Thanks for stopping by!