Viantiane to 4,000 islands…in 24 hours

13 Feb

The next day was spent chilling out, walking along the banks of the Mekong. As it’s the dry season, you have to walk a lonnnnng way out to actually get to it

but it was great when we got there because when we got there the sand shimmered like gold

Craig finally got his tonic water

and we met two lovely new people – Elina from Finland and Edward from Oz – and booked the night bus to our next stop, Savannahkhet for that night.

Before we had even got out of the bus station we had already got a flat tyre…and the driver didn’t want to use the spare wheel that he was likely to use during the journey so he had to take the old tyre off and put a new one on, snapping a wheel nut off in the process. So we left about an hour after we were meant to. The actual journey was ok – fitful sleep but the nine hours went fairly quickly. We got dropped off at Savannahkhet at 5.30am. This was a little earlier than we thought so we decided to walk the 5km to the town centre and the Mekong banks as nothing opens in Laos before 8-10am. We wandered round, looking at all the temples and quickly realised that temples aside, there was nothing in Savannahkhet for us to do. We waited outside the tourist information centre until they opened, got the bus timetables and went straight back to the bus station to get another bus to Pakse.

Pakse is the last big town before the 4,000 islands so we decided just to keep going and get all the travelling done in as few days as possible. We got there and found there were two bus stations, and we were at the wrong one for the 4,000 islands. It was also 40 degrees and sweltering. There was only one tuktuk around and 10 bright red westerners. The tuktuk driver saw his chance and told us it would be 20,000 kip to take us to the centre (usually tuktuks charge 10,000). We all argued for a bit and eventually he decided no, he couldn’t go to 10,000. So we all had a chat amongst ourselves and called his bluff by all beginning to walk to the town centre (suicidal – the centre is 7km away and we would have been shrivelled and weak within about 5 minutes in that heat) but luckily he changed his mind and picked us up about 3 seconds later for 10,000. Yay.

Got to the town centre, saw we weren’t missing anything at all and leapt on the next tuktuk to the other bus station as it was 2.30pm and the last bus to the islands went at 4. This was all going rather well, we thought. Until a part on the tuktuk exploded when he went round a roundabout and he couldn’t make it go anymore (stop me if I am getting too technical). So we were stranded on the side of the road until another driver stopped. Which was good news except he had a table with a saw in the middle of it and another table in the back…one of the tables went on the roof, I went in the front with the driver and Craig and the other guy we met went in the back.

Not too much time lost. Except that the driver decided to deliver his tables to wherever he was going in the first place first. Off we went to a little village with gravel roads to deliver these, where he got stuck in the gravel. We were beginning to think we’d never make it but Craig managed to push us out and did eventually get to the bus station, where the “bus” was just about to depart.

What our actual mode of transport was was a giant tuktuk with 20 people and their bags inside. Our hearts sank when we heard it was going to take 3 hours, but on the plus side it would get us to the islands today and then we could finally relax and chill out. So we got on and as we were the last, we had to sit on the bench down the middle. Comfortable. On the way we stopped for a monk to get in the front seat, two other westerners and a little old lady with 15 sacks of turnips. All of these were piled up at the back to make way for her. So with the new additions and the drivers, we had 27 people on one vehicle built for about 5 Lao. But it did get us to the port just in time for the sunset

As we were knackered and the boat that most people were getting on was going to Don Det, we just went with them, thinking we’d be able to move the next day if we didn’t like it. It is a beautiful island but a little backpacker-y. It was also very full – the people next to our bungalow said they were walking around for three hours trying to sort out accommodation so we were quite lucky to get one within about 20 minutes. It was expensive for what it is (a bed in a hut with a fan and net) but the views are lovely and best of all, it had two hammocks outside. Which is excellent as the bed had jumping things on it :/ So I slept outside all night in a hammock, curled up in my sleep sheet and only woke up to watch the sunrise.

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2 Responses to “Viantiane to 4,000 islands…in 24 hours”

  1. Hilary Hall 13 February 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    I love reading your blog – this one had me cackling as your descriptions of travelling in the Far East are so funny. Glad the hammock was bug-free! Love Mum x

    • toaustraliathelongway 14 February 2012 at 12:34 am #

      It was the worst journey but also the best journey – we couldn’t stop laughing all the way because it was so surreal and there really isn’t anything you can do about it! We’re going trekking in the jungle for 3 days today and sleeping in hammocks so hopefully they will be bug/tiger free xx

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