Thursday, March 30, 2023

Been there Don Det

Last stop for us in Laos was Don Det in the Si Phan Don (4000 islands) archipelago. We crossed over on one of the small ferries, taking our motorbike with us.
Even tough we ended up not using them but exploring the island by push bike 🥵

The captain didn’t show up so we took another one 😂

The island is in the middle of the Mekong and nowadays famous for it’s laid back atmosphere. 

We had some sunset drinks, sat in the Mekong drinking beer and looked at the waterfall. 

Our hotel manager was wearing one of the famous luxury pajamas (every day a different one) and was excited when we showed up in ours 🤣

The French back in the days built a railroad over it to cross the waterfalls around it. To further their gun boat diplomacy up river they needed gunboats 😉 So they built a rail road across the islands (even adding a bridge from Don Khon to Don Det, yes Don means island 😬), cut the boats into pieces and drove them up river of the waterfalls. The rail road (tracks) are long gone but the bridge is still in use. Also somewhere in the jungle they found one of the locomotives used for the task. 

Other then that we played a lot of (shitty) pool, looked for a massage (found none), had a pumpkin burger (was delicious), talked to one of the British (stuck on the island since 9 years), did not go fishing (no fish), did not see the river dolphins (all dead ☹️), skipped the kayaking (too much sun) and the tubing (not enough current) but relaxed in the hammock 😎 

So many sunsets

Some restaurants had a lot of options… 

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Vat Phou

From Thakhek we drove further south to Pakse. A rather large city with nothing worth seeing we hit the mall but missed out on the only English speaking movie for the night and didn’t feel like watching a Thai/Lao version 😂
There was a large “I ❤️ PAKSE” sign and we asked the security guard to take a picture of the two of us… 😆

Great composition, Aaron somewhere on the left 😁

We invested in some scarves against the dust and to get better protection from the sun Aaron bought some sleeves like the locals wear. Labeled Speed! they also made his bike faster 😉

Having driven already over 700km since the last oil change we did again some maintenance. This time in a nail & hair saloon selling grilled chicken besides doing moto maintenance 🤣

The next day we visited our first Wat ☺️ We didn’t feel like visiting one of the hundreds on our way before as they all more or less look alike and aren’t even historic but just some concrete Buddha with gold paint. 
Not so with Vat Phou, an old Khmer Hindu temple complex going back to the pre-Angkor age. 
Laying at the foot of a hill the whole complex was enlarged over the years with the main buildings built in the 11th century but the first carvings dating back to the second century AD.

Over the years Buddhism took over and there is now a Buddhist shrine at the top inside the old Hindu temple.

There are ongoing excavation and restoration going on which was interesting to see.

Drawings done by hand

India is financing the restoration of the Hindu complex 😬

Then on we drove, crossing back over the Mekong. By ferry this time.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Thakhek Loop

By chance we read about the Thakhek loop while looking into the Kong Lor cave. Popular with tourist who rent a motorbike and do the journey visiting all the sights and ending up again in Thakhek. As we were looking for any excuse to get off the main road (nice stretches but ever so often big construction going on + trucks = dust!) we decided to do half the loop on our way south. 

Yes it was dusty 😷

As we missed out on doing the regular moto maintenance in the capital meant we had to do this at one of the many little roadside mechanics. They did a good job, I think 🤔😂 

Staying at a nice little „resort“ where we had a little cabin with shared bathroom we realized to get any laundry done we will have to stay two nights 😅

So this gave us enough time to explore the area. Obviously we visited the Kong Lor cave, a big cave with subterranean river which you can cross by motorboat. From where we stayed we took a motorboat taxi up river and saw the seasonal gardens on the river beds. During rain season all of this gets swept away and they start fresh again.

Once through Kong Lor is a little village with not much to do so we turned around. You can take the motorbike with you and continue on some unpaved road which will lead back to the main road. Our host discouraged us to do that, but later talking to other travelers we realized we should have done that 😔

Also in the area is the Tham Nam Non cave which hasn’t been fully mapped but what has been seen so far is enormous. Hard to describe and even harder to capture with pictures but the cave was huge! We entered it until we couldn’t see any light from the entrance 👻

Besides that we went bathing in the river, kayaking up a side arm (wasn’t worth it imho) and chilled at the evening bonfire.
Until we realized that we still need the Cambodia visa 😆 In hind sight people told us that we could get it on arrival at the border but we filled in the eVisa application and got it beforehand. So we were up to date with our tasks 😅
From Kong Lor it was 250km to Thakhek with multiple sights but we skipped all the caves and only stopped for the bomb boats and the dead trees.
The bomb boats aren’t made from bombs but actually from auxiliary fuel canisters which were jettisoned during the war. The locals realized these would offer great boats and being made out of aluminum are still in service today.

The other sight is the huge flooded area as a result of a hydro power dam. Millions of trees weren’t cut down first and now stand dead in the water, eerie sight even tough the water level was low.

The area is huge with lots of these entwined channels, check out google maps.

In Thakhek itself we strolled through the local marked, tried to haggle but the locals weren’t budging on the Versace chain I wanted 🤣 Also the day after was a festival or more of a remembrance day of when the French massacred the women and children and threw them down the well 😲

So there was some dancing, marching and flag waving. Besides the flag of Laos 🇱🇦 there is always as well the Soviet communist flag. Also in front of buildings, schools, etc.

As always we asked for a boat going down south, but still no boat 🙃

Monday, March 20, 2023


From Vang Vieng to Vientiane it is only a 120 km stretch of highway, or so we thought. But motorbikes aren’t allowed on it 😣 So we took the long way round, did a little detour to the Ngum hydro dam and then finally arrived in Vientiane 200km later.

The capital on the Mekong river doesn’t have much to offer. There is the usual night market where we went shopping. As it caters mainly for the locals there where loads of stalls selling fake luxury brands. These are quite famous and you can see people in Gucci, Versace or Dior everywhere 😂 Even better are the pyjamas of these brands, some people wear them for the day 😆
Of course we had to buy one of those, each got one with matching sunglasses. Aaron in Chanel and me in Versace 😎

They also had the weirdest combos ever, looking for a batik slayer shirts? 

We also looked for a ship going south, but again „no boat“ 😆

Besides this we also drove out to the Buddha park. A kind of theme park with Buddhas in all kind of forms and shapes. All done in concrete and some already quite worn down, together with the heaps of Chinese tourists flying their drones it was quite entertaining 😄

Posing with the other tourists

More serious was the stop at the COPE visitor center. Informing about the aftermath the long years of bombing had and still has on the country. How people adapted, using the bomb scraps for every day items, how to manufacture simple prosthetics, etc. Today COPE and their mobile clinic visit remote villages to provide customized and fitted modern artificial limbs.

Art installation depicting the release of cluster bombs


Lamp made out of a mortar

Simple spoon made of scrap

Outgrown and old handmade prosthetics

We also lounged a bit at our hotel pool and didn’t do the three things we planned to do in Vientiane: Moto maintenance, laundry and check for Cambodia 🇰🇭 visa. So a bit of foreshadowing here 😅

Did I mention the smog?