Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nothing to write home about

Just north of Laos’s border with Cambodia are the so-called 4,000 islands of the Mekong River, which is where I am at the moment. Of course there aren’t really 4,000 islands. There’s a big one, Don Khong, several smaller ones and thousands of islets, rocks and sandbars. Well, those are the words my guidebook uses. I don‘t really know what a sandbar looks like.

I’m on Don Khong, which is a very sleepy indeed but a crazy, happening place compared to the smaller islands, so I believe. There are a couple of places providing expensive internet connections, if I’m lucky and the wind is blowing the right way, and more importantly a bank, as I was running out of Lao kip when I got here. When it comes to buildings generally, it’s a bit like Australia - they’ve only done round the edges - although in this instance the interior is given over to agriculture.

Yesterday I went cycling around the island. It was OK. I quite enjoyed it. I mustn’t have put enough sunscreen on my arms because now they’re burnt and I’m having a day indoors, reading and having my laundry done. All in all, I think I’m going to look back on Laos as a laidback, charming little country that gave me a pleasant four weeks but didn’t fire me up very much.

I might do a day trip to some of the other islands tomorrow, then maybe have another day of dossing around so I can use up my kip (which can’t be exchanged outside Laos), then take a bus to Cambodia. Yeah, that sounds good.

There are numerous people whose journey is paralleling mine and I keep seeing them wherever I go. Since I arrived on Don Khong I’ve struck up an acquaintance with a couple of women who’ve been travelling together (Caroline, who’s 61 and English and Vanessa, a Brazilian in her 20s) and they did the day trip yesterday. Trouble is, their boat sprang a leak and ran aground on an islet - or maybe a sandbar, I wouldn’t know - and they were shipwrecked for an hour till local fishermen came to rescue them.

I’m sure I’d freak out if that happened to me. I’d be a total wuss. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. But at least I’d have a story to dine out on.

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