First glimpse of Laos — 4000 Islands
Before arriving to 4000 islands we had some issues crossing from Cambodia to Laos, this, mainly because of the corruption on both sides. Migration officers charge you some imaginary ‘’fees’’ that they invent to go out of the country, another one to pay for the cost of the ink to stamp your passport, they said. We discussed with them for a while and after, we realized they would not move until we paid them. We got into their little dirty game and negotiated the price for our stamp out of Cambodia (2 dollars each approx.). Very frustrated after this event we walked the 200 meters that separate the two countries border buildings to have our passports stamped with the Lao visa. Apart from the official cost of $35 dollars (varies a little depending on nationality) the first ‘’officer’’ we dealt with, just a guy dressed like a normal person, asked again for a ‘’fee’’ because he was working on a sunday. And same as Cambodia, the second migration officer asked us a one dollar ‘’fee’’ each to put the stamp on our already approved visa. What was very funny is that this two guys were just sitted one besides another.
Very angry, when we finished all this circus, we walked a few meters to the van that was waiting and would drive us to the nearby jetty. Once there we took a boat that floated us to the middle of the Mekong River where 4000 islands is located. A group of island in the middle of the river where several communities can be found living. It’s mainly a place to chill and rest after long travels.
We disembarked on the island in the afternoon, we arrived in Don Det, but we had to move to Don Khon, where we had booked our bungalow. The two islands are connected by the Historic bridge, which was 4 km walking from the jetty. We spent a good amount of time to find someone to give us a ride to the bridge as we didn’t felt like walking the long distance under the sun and at 38 celsius. Finally we stopped a guy in a scooter who agreed to take us, one by one to the bridge, the amount he charged us was fair for the 2 rounds he had to make.
We arrived at our hotel and apparently there wasn’t a lot of people in the island as we had an instant upgrade to the waterfront rooms. The place was very humble with just the basics, good bed, mosquito net and a clean private bathroom. The bungalow had very unique charm that we were really happy to spend there a few nights.
The next day we woke up early to take some photos during the blue hour in the morning. Later, after a good breakfast, we rented bikes for the day, to go and explore the island and its surroundings. We crossed biking to the other side, where a guy had told us we could spot the rare and endangered Irrawaddy dolphin, that lives in the waters of the Mekong river. Standing at the shore, trying to look for the famous animal in the distance, a fisherman approached us and asked us if we wanted to go in his boat to look closer. We agreed on the money and we went to his raft, we jumped in and navigated up the flow of the river to an area where the dolphins were supposed to appear. After waiting a long hour without spotting no animal, the fisherman told us we had to go back. We were very disappointed and sad to hear this. Suddenly, on our way back, a big group of dolphins appeared on the left side. We stopped there to admire them and the animals hanged around our boat for about 15 minutes, we had finally seen it! The Irrawaddy dolphin! We went back to shore happy like little kids, including the fisherman.
The rest of the afternoon we took it slow as we were tired by the sun and the warm weather, we had a nice indian meal and chilled out in a terrace in front of the river while we drank a banana coffee shake. The time passed quickly and soon the light started to be good, so we decided to explore around our little town to take photos during the sunset. That same night we booked our boat and bus to keep going on our adventure to cross Laos, we were going north, destination Champasak.