Si Phan Don - 4000 Islands

Right: Happy local, Don Khong

From Pakse I headed straight down to Don Khong, an island in the middle of the Mekong River. I'd done a fair bit of travelling in the previous week and so was content to rest up in this amazingly serene and scenic area before crossing into Cambodia.

I toured the island by motorcycle and was overwhelmed by the warmth extended to me by locals along the river banks.

Tat Kuang Si

It's in these rural settings that you find the heart and soul of the Lao people, simple folk who seem to want for little. They seem possessed of an otherworldly contentment which no amount of money can buy. I got the impression that for many, if there's fish in the river and rice in the fields they don't have much to complain about. In a country which is nominally the poorest in the region you seldom see anyone with their hand out. Any beggars you may encounter are often amputees who have been unlucky enough to have trodden on a landmine. You certainly don't see the kind of crushing poverty I would later come across in Cambodia.

Below Left: Solar Power in the jungle   Right: Lotus plantation

solar power in the junglelotus plantation

You also aren't harrangued mercilessly by touts and taxi drivers as you are in Vietnam. It seems that the pervasive Yankee dollar hasn't made too many inroads into people's thinking and one would hope this situation might prevail, though that's possibly being overly optimistic.

Driving along the river banks the kids all wave enthusiatically and shout "hello" in their own language ("Sabaai Dii!"). There is none of the mawkish, sometimes mocking "Good morning"s and "How are you?"s you get in other parts. It's simply a spontaneous celebration of being and it's easy to get swept along by it.

Below Left: Petrol Station on Don Khong   Right: Even the frogs are content!

petrol stationfrog