February 3, 2021
Unfortunately, our adventure with the Bolaven plateau is coming to an end. We move on, and the next destination is "the land of 4000 islands". It is a place where the Mekong River, which flows as far as from Tibet, slows down, and widens. A multitude of islands and islets have arisen here, the number of which is said to be 4,000. This is where we decide to "charge the batteries" before our next adventures, by enjoying laziness. It will be our main activity for the next few days.
First, we get to the village of Ban Nakasang, where we take a boat, which takes us to the island of Don Det. We find accommodation in a bamboo house right on the river’s banks. We lay down on hammocks hanging in front of our door, and while relaxing, we watch the local fishermen and the view of the Cambodia stretching on the other side of the river. The day said goodbye to us with a wonderful sunset.
As one day of lazing around is enough for us, we decide to spend today’s day actively. We rent bikes and go to explore the island of Don Khon, lying right next to Don Det. We get there by crossing the concrete bridge that connects the two islands. We visit three waterfalls lying close to each other. At this point, the Mekong again turns into a rushing and dangerous river. The scenery is amazing. Lots of huge rocks between which the water flows, creating loud and impressive waterfalls. We observe how the locals catch fish. They hold two crossed bamboo sticks in their hands with a net on the end. It looks like a very large landing net, which they dip in the water every now and then to pull fish the size of sardines. It looks like a hard and dangerous job, as you have to repeat it many times, standing on the edge of a rock by a rushing river. After catching a certain amount of fish, they spread them on the rocks heated by the sun, probably waiting for the sun to dry them. There is a beach nearby where we decide to relax and cool off in the waters of the river. This is where the rocks shield against a strong current, creating something like a swimming pool. However, we must be careful, because a few meters further the water rushes at great speed.
After cooling off, we continue our trip, stopping from time to time to replenish the liquid, a meal or another relaxation in the waters of the Mekong. This way, we reach the place where we hope to see one of the greatest attractions of the island. These are the river dolphins found in these waters. It is an endangered species, and the number inhabiting these areas is only 20 individuals. These are not dolphinarium type shows. Most often you can spot them in the early morning or just before sunset. As they are wild animals that live in the wild, it is also possible that we will not see them at all. Nevertheless, we decide to try. If we are not able to see them, at least we will be able to admire the sunset from the boat.
We get into the boat and sail to the middle of the wide river at this point, where the water is calm like on a lake. Our steersman turns off the engine, there is silence, we are drifting, waiting in peace. We are surrounded by green islands. You can hear the voices of children playing on the Cambodian side, where the setting sun will hide in a few minutes. Suddenly there is a whistle in the distance. A whistle of blowing air. It is there! We can see them! One of the dolphins emerged to get air. Second one after a while! Awesome! Even though we can see them only in the distance, and only for a fraction of a second, it is an amazing experience. It is so different from watching captive animals in a zoo or dolphinarium. A wild, free creature in its natural habitat, behaving in its natural way, is a priceless sight. The sun is slowly hiding behind the islands, coloring the sky in various shades of red. In total, we manage to spot these beautiful mammals several times. One even emerged relatively close.
Full of delight, we return to our bamboo house. We cover most of the route in the dark. Headlamps illuminating our path, also help to avoid buffaloes, cows, and frogs.
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson