Thursday, 8 January 2009

Don Khon and Don Det

Don Khon and Don Dhet are located at the southern end of the Four Thousand Islands, just across from Cambodia. The two islands are linked by a French-built bridge, the remnants of a sizeable civil engineering project. This project enabled cargo to be taken off boats, moved by railway across the two islands and then winched back onto boats at the southern end of Don Khon. The reason for all this – the impressive Tat Somphamit waterfall, which makes the Mekong unnavigable at this point.

Today we chartered a boat from the southern tip of Don Khon to try and catch a glimpse of the famous Irrawaddy dolphins. There's only 150 on this stretch of the Mekong and are critically endangered. We must've got incredibly lucky, as less than two minutes after landing on a rock barely the size of one square meter, we heard and saw the first dolphin surface behind us. Another came up within 30 seconds, and then more and more started breaking trough the surface of the Mekong. It was very exciting, and we had to be careful not to fall off the postage stamp size rock that we were standing on. Our “boatman” was no more than 12 years old, but he was very good with the boat and spotting the dolphins.

On a day trip to Don Det yesterday, we chose the worst restaurant in Southeast Asia. Any atmosphere in the place was decimated by Pink Floyd at full volume. We were surrounded by dope smoking westerners and people trying to sleep off hangovers. The owner was a real (read unpleasant) character stuck in the 1980's. In between seedy laughs, he refused to turn the volume down as 'this song about Margaret Thatcher' couldn't be played quietly'. His entourage thought they were the epitome of cool and that everyone wanted to join the latter years of their 20-year drink and drugs binge. On paying the bill, the owner inspected our 20 dollar note like a professional counterfeiter, and then proceeded to insist that he would only exchange it for 7,000 Kip per dollar (the rest of the island happily exchanges for 8,000 Kip). We couldn't get away quick enough.

Don Khon is very relaxed. We've spent two days cycling around the island on slow, rattling, heavy rental bikes branded as 'turbos'. Lunchtime is spent eating at a beach shack whilst the rest of the afternoon is filled with reading in our hammocks, waiting for the sun to set. At sunset, a procession of people, young to old, makes it way to the river to bathe. The day usually ends with a couple of Beerlaos. Its very pleasant just to watch the world go by.

P.S. We couldn't send this posting yesterday, but have now arrived safe and well in Kratie. The border crossing was straight forward and only cost us 20 dollars (plus three dollars in 'administrative fees').


Anonymous said...

Hey guys!
It was very nice to meet you as well! We've now safely arrived in Siam Reap, looks like a very exciting city so far. How is Phnom Phen? Here is my email:

Take care, Jacob