Short, very short was my time in Si Phan Don (literally 4000 islands) named after the numerous islands in that part of the Mekhong, the last one belonging to Laos. Just a couple of weeks ago I was looking forward to leaving the country and now, despite a bad experience in the first island we slept, I feel sorry for not staying more time here enjoying the relax.
Although we left Thakhek hitchhiking, the last kilometers we had to take a local bus since it was already dark and we preferred to reach Pakse that day. There we’d perform a similar motorbike loop to the one in Thakhek but only for 2 days and, in my opinion, more interesting. The Pakse loop goes around the Bolaven Plateau, a plateau formed millions of years ago after the eruption of an ancient volcano. This region is famous for its waterfalls and for its coffee (mainly Arabica and Robusta, planted during the French colonial times) which is worldwide exported and it’s an important income for Laotian families. It was mid January and the coffee plants had flowers so driving through the fields we could smell its delicious aroma which reminded me to the sweet jasmine at first. Besides the good moments with my friends in Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, this would be with no doubts the best part of my trip around Laos.
Three long journeys under rain and cold from Nong Khiaw but finally Belén and I arrived to Thakhek, the first big town in the South of Laos. The town itself was not very interesting, just a town at the Mekhong riverside, but in the surroundings there were several caves to visit and beautiful karst landscape. Once we properly rested in a hostel at the town’s outskirts we rented a motorbike to do part of a recommended 3-days-loop.
Some years ago there was a TV advertisement in Spain that says “Marina d’Or, holiday city” to promote a holiday resort at the Spanish east coast. And that’s Luang Prabang, a holiday city for families and retired people. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m glad families and retirees have a place for holidays but honestly, despite its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang is pathetic. Laos is one of the least developed countries in the world, however Luang Prabang (the center) looks like any other western summer city. An island of opulence which badly contrast with the local poverty. Only some few Laotians benefit from that, the rest still scrape by in the outskirts while westerns multiply business focused on westerns maintaining a community not integrated at all with the social and cultural reality of the country.
And that was my situation my last day in Thailand, having only 50 bahts (1,25€).
I had already spent my last 500 bahts in Chiang Khan (a town in the Mekhong riverside, which is a holidays destination for Thai people so I couldn’t find anything cheaper than 300 bahts for sleeping) and having dinner with Tamara, the German CouchSurfer who was hosting me in Nong Khai.