The Mekong River form Cambodia to Laos

Our boat left early in the  morning, and we grabbed breakfast at the Riverside cafe, and got them to pack us sandwiches for lunch. Our driver was waiting for us on the bank. There is not a lot of docks here, most boats just pull up to the shore. It is a long narrow boat with a little covered canopy for Greg and I to sit under.

Sunrise on the Mekong

Trees and plants grow right in the water,

On our lovely little Mekong boat
As we pulled away, we watched the sun rise above the trees. The scenery was amazing. We drove for several hours past forests of trees that grow in the water, and through rapids. He had to navigate carefully through the rapids and more than once I thought we would be washed up on rocks, but our driver knew the river, and knew where he had to take us to be safe. 

He stopped at a beautiful sandy beach for a pee break and we ran around taking some pictures of the giant fallen trees and sand formations for about five minutes. The sand was soft and warm.

A giant fallen tree on the beach at our rest stop - just in case you needed to find a tree to pee behind...
At one point during some rapids, our engine cut out. It had been choking a little here and there, and had cut out, but this was in rapids. I watched his concerned expression and frantic movements as he worked on the engine while steering us a little and finally getting it started. He wasn't happy with that. He took us upriver a little to a beautiful calm sandy cove and pointed at the engine. We took the opportunity and explored the area while he fixed the engine. We played on the beach climbing under fallen trees and stepping across rocks in the little rivers and splashing through shallow streams like two small children. We had a glorious time. Finally our captain pointed at our sandwiches. “Sure” we motioned, I would be glad to give you them. It wasn't the sandwiches he wanted, but elastic bands around them. He was very excited as he took the elastics off the sandwich, and three minutes later we were on our way! No more problems with the engine. 

Our little sandy cove to stop to fix the engine was probably the highlight of the day!
Forest to explore
Little rivers to cross
Our boat across the little inlets

The whole day took about eight hours, but it never got boring in that tiny boat with the scenery constantly changing. We shared our bacon lettuce and tomato baguettes with the driver. 

He came into a small bay and there was a few other boats there. He pointed at something far away in the water, and we realized that this was the river dolphin area. We drove close and then cut the engine and drifted towards them. They do not jump like ocean dolphins, but come up more like tiny whales, their backs arcing out of the water. We saw a few of them, and one came fairly close. The drivers were pretty respectful of the dolphins and didn't try to get right in their faces, just close enough that we could see them. We stopped at the shore and went up and had a coke in the village and paid the $2 fee to the villagers for looking at their dolphins, and then headed out again.

The little black dots in the water are the pink river dolphins. It is almost impossible to get good photos of sea animals unless you have a really good camera and lots of experience photographing sea animals - and even then, I still think you need to spend time in Photoshop to get a good picture.

Our trip up the Mekong had taken a long time, but it was well worth it. We finally pulled into shore by a long set of concrete stairs. We took our packs and went up to the top. In about five minutes a little van came and drove us ten minutes to the border. He showed us the tuk tuk that was waiting on the other side and watched to make sure we got across. We walked across the border, going to the window to check out of Cambodia and pay a $3 stamping fee and then to another window to have them take our exit papers out of our passport and pay a $3 stamping fee, and then on to another person to to get our visa for Laos and pay $50, plus a $3 stamping fee, and then to another window to have them put the visa in our passport and pay a $3 stamping fee.

Cambodia Laos border. This is the new building that is not open yet. We had to go a little further to the old buildings.
The tuk tuk  took drove us for about 20 minutes to the little town where you get the boat across to our destination, Don Dhet, which is a little town on an island in the 4000 Islands. We found out that the bus to Pakse leaves around 2pm every day. Many of the trips we could do from Don Dhet involved boat trips on the Mekong doing all the things that we had just spent the day doing, so we decided that we would only spend one night on the island and leave the next day. We went across in a very old long narrow boat that sat about 16 people in two rows and we didn't sink on the way across.

Crossing to Don Dhet
On the island, we walked around to the various guesthouses near the beach (sorry, can’t call this one a port), and struggle with choosing whether to pay $7 for river view, or save a dollar and go with a garden view. We did decide not to go with the $30 option, and not because we were being cheap, I mean a Scot and a Jew what else would you expect, but the room smelled very mildewy and we were worried about Greg’s Asthma. In the end, we decided on a $13 cabin that had AC. It supposedly had wifi in the room too… bwahahaha. But there was wifi in the outdoor lobby and restaurant.

This boy was very proud to show off his catch of fish
We had some lunch and then rented bicycles from them for a couple of dollars and rode to the other end of the other island to see the waterfall. The ride took about an hour. We rode through the little village on the island and over bamboo bridges and past grazing water buffalo and rice fields. It was like being in a Miyazaki film. We would not have been surprised if the Totoro bus had passed us.

Riding through the village

The waterfall park was beautiful with bamboo roped together to make a forest that you could walk through. The waterfall was stunning and there was big waterwheels and boys bathing in the stream above the waterfall. Everything was completely picturesque. Greg wanted to walk down through the woods to the bottom of the stream, but I had to head back to the front gate because I needed to find a washroom after that last couple of questionable meals… 

Apparently Greg’s trip was worth it, because there were more waterfalls. What we saw was only the top part of the waterfall. It went on down and more little rivers joined in and more and more waterfalls became visible. It was apparently gorgeous. But for me, the view of a clean bathroom was the most beautiful thing I had seen after ten minutes of fairly quick trotting. It was too late for me to go back and see the rest of the waterfall, but Greg took lots of pictures.

The bamboo all roped together to make it look like a forest of trees
The beautiful waterfall on Don Dhet - well worth the trip
It was starting to get dark out, and we had been up since 5am to get the boat, so we were kind of tired and not looking forward to our hour bike ride. Greg saw an open air bus filled with Chinese tourists. He asked them if it was possible to tag along. The driver would have none of it, and was waving us away like pesky flies, but the tourists said no, and asked him to let us on. They drove us back to the bridge to our island and would not even let us give them a tip. They said they would tip the driver and wished us a happy journey. More and more as I travel around the world, I realize just how nice and helpful most people really are.

Sunset over the river between the two islands
Add caption
We had supper at the hotel restaurant, but probably should have stopped on the way home at a nicer restaurant - there are plenty here. The food was reasonable and the bed was not too uncomfortable and the AC in the 35C night was a godsend and well worth the extra $7. 

In retrospect, I think I would have liked to spend another day or even another week if I had time, on this island. It is lovely and very inexpensive and just has a warm friendly feeling. This is definitely a place I would come back to.