More than 4000 Islands

It was sad to say goodbye to the many people we love in Siem Reap but it’s wonderful to be on our way. My feet feel light, my heart is singing and I keep bursting into song ‘I’m on the road again tada dada dada dadeda’.

It was supposed to be five hours by minibus to the border town of Stung Treng. An hour or so into the journey the suspension snapped. The driver shaped a piece of wood (that JH found on the side of the road) with a machete and jammed it in the broken bit. It was a bit of a bumpy ride but it held all the way and we got there almost on time.

Stung Treng is a sleepy sprawling country town in northern Cambodia, where the Srekong River meets the Mekong, and is home of the ‘big fish’.

The big fish fountain, Stung Treng The big fish fountain, Stung Treng

It’s great to get away from the tourist hotspots. The food’s always shit though, especially if you’re vegetarian. No exception here but our hotel room is pretty cool. A corner room with a balcony, overlooking the junction of the beautiful rivers. It feels like we’re staying inside the Asian version of a 1950s seaside holiday postcard.

Our balcony at the Four Rivers Hotel Our balcony at the Four Rivers Hotel

It’s ridiculously hot and hard to get motivated during the day. We made the effort to go just out of town to ‘Mekong Blue’ where we had a tour of this wonderful grass roots organisation that trains women from the surrounding villages in the entire traditional silk production process – spinning, dying (with natural plant dyes), weaving and sewing. They told us they used to have silk worms but can no longer afford to keep them. They provide childcare and a school for the children and accommodation for any women who need it. They sell the beautiful silk items they make to raise money to continue this work and also offer free English and computer classes to anyone at all. We felt so humbled by how much they manage to achieve.

Women weaving silk Women weaving silk

We had planned to go and see the critically endangered freshwater dolphins in this region of the Mekong but nobody seemed to have any interest in renting us kayaks and chasing them (the dolphins, not the kayak people) around in a motor boat didn’t seem very fair. We decided not to go.

Instead, the uncle of a bloke we met on the street took us out cruising on the Mekong and through the magical ‘flooded forest’ in his little wooden boat. Cruising along a river in this fashion is one of our very favourite things to do and we can’t stop smiling the whole time.

Morning on the Mekong River Morning on the Mekong River
Flooded forest Flooded forest
Two trees hugging in the flooded forest Two trees hugging in the flooded forest

After our little holiday in the country we were ready to head up into Laos. I wasn’t impressed when our minivan was two hours late and full of mangoes – right up to the ceiling! After squeezing us in with a shoehorn, I was even less impressed when we stopped just down the road to pick up three European backpackers and their luggage. I did some rhetorical shouting but by the time everyone was squashed in, and then the door fell off, the journey had descended into pure comedy.

At the border we had to climb in and out over boxes of mangoes and the front seat of the van at both the Cambodian and Laos checkpoints. Our European passengers were most indignant that they were being charged an unofficial $2 extra on each side of the border. They refused to pay at first and were determined to take an anti-corruption stand. A combination of youth, naivety and white privelege seemed to make them think it was a good idea to argue with border security personnel with guns, on a dodgy border, over $2. The height of stupidity I reckon. Luckily, they realised the error of their ways and we were on our way.

Out of the sardine can van and a quick boat trip and we arrived hot and dusty (but laughing) in Don Det, the most populated of the 4000 Islands on the Laos side of the Mekong. It’s very beautiful with lovely sunsets over the water.

Don Det Don Det

Don Det is like one big backpacker hostel with dorms, cabins and bars all opening into each other. It’s populated by lovely smiling locals and many young, mostly French, European backpackers. The whole vibe is a lot more relaxed and civilised than it sounds.

Huts on the river Huts on the river
Rows of cabins Rows of cabins

The weather is stinky hot and our cabin is so basic that the electrical sockets don’t work, the bed is dirty and lumpy, the bathroom is a toilet with a bucket of water, there are no chairs or furniture and the wifi is intermittent. I’m on a work contract deadline and the reality of working on the road begins to sink in. Maybe this digital nomad business is harder than I thought?

So, despite the best Indian restaurant ever (Dantte) – mmm masala dosa – after just a couple of nights we decide to pack up and head further north where, fingers crossed, it might be cooler.

7 thoughts on “More than 4000 Islands

  1. Hoping you hit some cooler weather (someone’s gotta do the work, after all) – rain for you today, I hear 😀

    Laughed out loud at the thought of the sardine can van door falling off…. x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for taking us all adventuring with you, via your blog!
    I can imagine the door-less, mango-filled sardine-can at the border, while your travel-companions discussed the niceties of the $2 donation with the gun-toting keepers of border security – hilarious!
    *still giggling.
    Can hardly wait to see where we get to next! x

    Like

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