16 March 2008

4000 islands

I took an epic kayak trip to the 4000 islands where the Mekong river splits into many streams leaving many islands. There are a few that are really big that people live on.

The trip on the minivan there was interesting. There were a group of foreigners that were irate that they had been waiting 2 hours this minivan to leave. I think this is the first time in my stay in Laos where I felt like saying to someone 'you shouldn't have come to Laos!'. Most upsetting that there was a group of eight of them, each rudely giving a different command to the Lao guy they wanted to help them. It looked quite intimidating all these huge foreigners standing over this much smaller Lao guy. Seriously, if you can't stand waiting or need your coffee to come out of an espresso machine either you shouldn't come to Laos or you should join a packaged tour! I guess I'm lucky I had some cross cultural training before I left so I can deal with these kinds of situations. Laos just isn't quite there with this kind of stuff yet, that's why it's cheap!

I paddled for 6 hours and didn't leave the river- I even ate lunch on the kayak. We paddled 25 kms that day. It's quite scenic there on the water where there are few people and nice plants. Don Khon island where we stayed has the only rail in Laos. It hasn't been used for decades though. The Mekong River was once used for transport between Vietnam and the Yunnan province of China. The boats couldn't get through this section of the Mekong because the channels it splits into are too narrow.

Whilst paddling on the river the next day I could see Cambodia just 50metres away. We stopped to see the Irrawady dolphins, which are some rare freshwater dolphins. I did manage to see one even though I wasn't bothered if I didn't see any.

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