Raging rapids and bumpy rides on Don Khon

This morning, after only one bottle of beer Lao last night, my motivation returned. I hired a bicycle (8000KIP for the day) to cycle over to Don Khon and Tat Somphamit, where i was meeting Martin at 3pm. We would continue the journey down to the very southern tip of Don Khon and charter a boat out to (hopefully) catch a glipse of the rare Irrawaddy dolphins who inhabit the area.

The “no worries” slogan evidently extends to the activity of hiring a bicycle, as not only was i not given a lock for the bike (so any opportunist could hop on the saddle and cycle off with my vehicle) but I wasn’t asked for any personal information, identification or the name of the guesthouse i’m staying at (so I could, in effect, walk away with the bike, if i could find a way to smuggle it off the island!)

The large stone bridge that separates Don Det from Don Khon affords some fantastic views along the Mekong and of life around the little wooden houses along its banks. After having crossed the bridge I actually missed the turning off to the waterfall and ended up cycling along the old railbed towards the south of Don Khon. This was an incredibly grueling ride : the terrain made it difficult for me to keep my feet on the peddles, hands on the handlebars, and the bike on a straight course!
When i did actually find the waterfall, it was a lot more spectacular than i’d anticipated : huge volumes of water gushing through chisled, imposing rocks and set against a perfect blue sky. I climbed down a collection of rocks to sit at the bottom and watch the water spilling powerfully over into the pool below; it looked like hundreds of soapy bubbles rushing over the rocks. A British guy climbed down to join me and to appreciate the view. Spliff in hand, he obviously had the idea of letting the water do all the work, while he sat there calmly toking on his reefer, melting in the heat of the sun and floating away into his marajuana-filled thoughts . . .
The weather is so hot here and the humidity levels so high that even by sitting in the sun for a couple of minutes, you can feel the sweat quickly escaping from every pore in your body. I decided to re-hydrate myself and slow down the release of sweat by sitting in the shade at one of the small cafes up at the falls, drinking fresh coconut juice and then munching on the crisp juicy white flesh.
Before meeting Martin, I spent an hour or so down at the beach : mounds of thick white sand leading down to a calm section of water where you can swim around the rocks and little fish nip at your toes. Martin and I grabbed some water (half of which he fed to a very thirsty little dog who lapped it up from the palm of his hand) before cycling down to the southern tip of Don Khon. After reading in the Lonely Planet guide that it costs $2.50 to charter a boat out 3km to the dolphin’s territory and estimating that this price would probably now be $3.50 a year after the book’s publication, we were a bit shocked to discover the price was actually $7. The boatman would not accept anything les, no matter how much we joked and bartered. We decided this was a little expensive considering that for $5 each we could sign up to a day tour from Don Det to take in the big waterfall AND the dolphins.
Instead we stopped off at a little restaurant beneath the Don Det – Don Khon bridge. We sipped some beer Lao, shared some nice food and conversation, and watched the sun go down. Pleasant as it was, it then meant that we had to cycle home in the dark with no lights on our bikes and no lights along the route to guide our way. Fortunately our eyes adapted quickly to the dark so this wasn’t too much of a problem until we arrived back at Don Det and i needed to find the place I’d rented my bike from!
After enjoying a lovely cold shower by flashlight, I met Martin at Mama’s Kitchen for some final rounds of cards and good conversation. We discussed the whole concept of travelling and the fleeeting but memorable meetings with other travellers. I still find it quite strange the way people enter your life, you just start to get to know them and enjoy the time you spend together and then they walk out of your life just as quickly as thyey walked in. However, I do enjoy the concept of meeting people from all walks of life and of various nationalities; people you would not otherwise have the chance to meet. I enjoy the whole process of bonding with someone new, learning about their passions and motivations, and how you relate to them. It’s fun and fresh and exciting.
Photo to follow.
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