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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

The Mekong river is at its widest in southern Laos in an area known as 4,000 Islands. The three major islands are Don Kong, Don Det, and Don Khon. In recent years Don Det has become a backpacker mecca, so I opted for the more laid back Don Khon. I got to spend my first couple days on island with the wonderful Colombian couple I had been traveling through Laos with. It was really sad parting ways with Carlos and Carolina and I hope to see them again at some point. We stayed at Souksan Guesthouse, which is just under 1 km from the bridge. A private riverfront bungalow with a hammock and bathroom was $5/night. The owner is a real character. He has two wives and countless children that run the guesthouse. He drinks Lao whiskey all day, has permanent hammock lines imprinted on his back, and laughs at everything you or he says. He takes guests on a 3 hour waterfall tour by boat for $8.50. The tour and the waterfalls were cool, but he stole the show. He brought a bottle of lao lao and we all took shots throughout the tour. When we were swimming in the river he slipped from a rope bridge and fell, but didn’t stop laughing. He used branches from a bush as q-tips and cleaned out his ears and used his finger as a toothbrush. The man is incredible and is officially my idol.
Like Kong Lo, all of the restaurants have identical menus. Mains range from $2-4 and big Beer Laos are $1.25. We randomly went to Done Khong restaurant the first night we were there and I ended up going back for at least one meal a day. It is a small place on the river and they are in the process of building a guesthouse. The chef/owner/hostess/etc was a really nice lady who can really cook. She makes the best spring rolls I’ve ever had. The food at my guesthouse was good too. There seemed to be a pork shortage on island. At least one restaurant I went to a day had run out of pork. On my first day alone, I rented a bicycle and drove to Don Det. It takes about 30 minutes and is a scenic ride on a wet and bumpy road. Lonely Planet said to go to Mr. P’s Guesthouse and have the pumpkin burger. Thin slices of pumpkin and onions are covered in batter and deep fried, then served on a bed of french fries; it was a monstrosity. Don Det wasn’t as crazy as I thought it would be, but it was definitely more backpackerish and touristy than Don Khon.
I went to see the rare Irrawaddy dolphins ($6.50 for boat and permission from Cambodian government) and it was so awesome that I went back again. They are supposed to be hard to see and July is not considered the season, but I saw lots of dolphins on both trips and it was amazing. I’m a huge hammock enthusiast and spent several hours each day relaxing on a hammock that faced the river, sipping ice cold Beer Lao and was very content. So far, I only have two regrets on this trip: not getting the 8 Hands Massage in Siem Reap and not staying longer in Don Khon.

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