What a great day I had yesterday. It was the perfect mixture of beauty, adventure and a long term memory made.
Waking up on Don Det island you instantly get the sense that you are somewhere unique. With its cool, chilled out vibe, the island seems to work at a slightly slower pace than the rest of the world. Most visitors to the island tend to stay along the main, albeit small, strip, which is adjacent to the docking bay, and which is fringed and prettily lit up with guesthouses, restaurants, bars and shops, taking less than a minute to walk up and down the main section.
Being a fairly small island there isn’t a whole lot to see or do, which can be quite nice as it means you can pretty much see everything there is to see within a couple of days, and do it at a nice, calm pace. As well as Don Det island to explore there is also its neighbouring island, connected by a short bridge, Don Kone to throw into the mix. Don Kone offers waterfalls and a small beach with beach bar and hammocks, and also the opportunity to see some river dolphins by taking a local boat out onto the Mekong.
The best way to get around is to rent a bicycle for the day – which can be done for the grand sum of 10,000 kip (less than US$1.5) – or to pay for a local tour to take you around by bike and kayak. The latter still reasonably cheap, but being cheaper, and probably a bit more fun, to do it independently, that’s what we opted for.
So this was our plan for the day – hire out a bike and see what we could find.
Fortunately we had met a couple of French men who seemed to have their navigational instincts slightly more in tune than ours, and they would be joining us for our bike ride. Looking back this really was a saving grace as I have no doubt that myself and Lisa would most likely still be cycling around completely lost and with no hope for ever finding our way back, had we been left to our own devices! At one point we were skimming through jungle and bumbling through narrow little dirt paths, vines and plants whipping our faces and legs as we did so. And at other times it was a peaceful, leisurely ride along the rivers edge.
Across our path we would meet young children who would come and ride by our side on their bicycles, shouting, playing and giggling with us. Cattle, cats and dogs would occasionally look up from their sunbathing slumber as we neared, as if to say “don’t think I’m moving buddy – you’ll have to go around me!” -which we always did, even if it meant nearly crashing into the bushes, or worse, over the edge and into the Mekong! Which, I’m not going to lie, did nearly happen a couple of times!
Oh, it’s all part of the fun eh!
After a few kilometres of cycling we crossed over the bridge, and then shortly after we parked up our bikes and walked our way towards the waterfalls and the beach. Not overly tall, but quite long and wide, the waterfalls were fairly impressive. They weren’t Victoria Falls by any stretch of the imagination, but still, they are certainly worth a nice bike ride out to see them.
By this time I was well and truly ready for a lay down in a hammock for a mid-afternoon nap, and if time was on our side, this is what I would have been doing on the beach just around the corner. But, we had a beautiful sunset we were chasing, and not long to get there. So back to our bikes we went, and off we set again.
A few kilometres more of riding and pretty scenery later we reached the other side of Don Kone, where we boarded a little local farmers boat and were taken out onto the water to spot some dolphins. We did see some, although,of course, from quite a distance away. We could just see a fin pop out of the water as more of a silhouette next to the sun, and then splash back into the water again. Asides seeing the dolphins, this really is a nice thing to do anyway. We sat there on the boat in the middle of the milky water, which was completely still, and watched the setting sun disappear behind the hills. In the distance we could see the odd local fishermen in their boat, wearing their triangle hats, throwing out their nets, with the hazy sky as their backdrop, which to me, is just the perfect image of the Far East.
With dusk set in and night time around the corner, we set off on our bikes back to Don Det.
Now, cycling in the day, is slightly different to cycling in the night. Please bear this in mind if you ever find yourselves here – especially if you’re flying solo! It gets completely pitch black, and potentially a little scary.
An hour or so later, completely sodden through in sweat and dirt, we arrived back at our guest house and we disembarked our bikes for the day. Our bums, for want of a better phrase, had well and truly taken a pounding by this point, and so we walked back to our rooms with a notable strut, much like that of John Wayne!
The whole day was great fun. Even with the sore bums and the long ride home in the dark, I would recommend anyone who visits here to do this. It’s up to you whether you do it as part of a tour – but to me, there ‘s something just a little more exciting when doing it for yourself.
Today we have arrived onto another of the islands, Don Khong. There are a lot less tourists here, and is more of a local island. Tomorrow we will be hiring out a moped to take a look around the island. Its the first time either of us have driven one – so wish us luck!