Where in the world is 4000 Islands, and why in the world is it called that?
It’s around 4:30 in the afternoon and I’m floating down the Mekong River in 4000 Islands, Laos. Behind me is a group of backpackers, occasionally sticking their arms in the water to swim against the current and laughing as we struggle to remain one big mass of inner tubes, hand in hand, passing a bottle of Beer Lao around. A dazzling double rainbow lights up the sky before me. Unobstructed, we can see the entire arc in her full glory, lighting our way back to Don Det (the one island out of the 4000 I’m staying on).
We just came from a beach BBQ on a tiny island where local monks plant and harvest vegetables. When they’re not around, two tiny kittens guard it. They happily shared their space with us today in exchange for a few bites of fresh river fish.
It’s a Tuesday afternoon and I think back to what I was doing a year ago today, slumped in my cubicle and wishing for days like this.
4000 Islands sits just north of the border in Cambodia. A bus ride then a quick boat jaunt from the mainland gets you to the hippie haven of Don Det, which attracts a chill crowd of travelers who spend most of our time lazily reading books and swapping travel stories on decks over the mighty Mekong river.
The otherwise rural stretch of islands is dotted with modest bungalows on stilts that cater to the backpacker crowd. Ranging anywhere from $3-$6, depending on whether the bathroom is ensuite or not, one can easily stay a week here without needing to spend much at all.
Some people complain that there’s not much to do here on Don Det, but they simply haven’t looked around. kayaking tours take off daily in the early AM for the sporty travelers who feel like baking in the sun and getting an epic arm work out (read: not me).
But I DID cycle around Don Det and crossed the bridge to neighboring Don Khong to view the waterfalls.
The roads, as always in Southeast Asia, were simple dirt filled with potholes. Only adds to the fun (and sore bum thereafter) if you ask me.
Besides, where else could I have found this very special and important service offering?
Or, if you want to do nothing at all but laze around on hammock and watch the river, this is a perfectly good locale.
I know, I spent 2 full days here doing nothing but bumming around with the Longest Way Home in tow before actually deciding to be active in some capacity.
Yes, 4000 Islands is the life. The sun is setting and we’ve lost count as we try to see if there really are, indeed 4000 tiny islands. We pull up to the shore of Don Det as some locals call out “sai ba dee” (hello) to us.
Tonight, we’ll probably do what we do every night: lay around and talk about how we spent our Tuesday, trying to connect to the weak Wi-Fi to upload our Instagram photos, pressing ‘retry’ a few times, and finally giving up to accept the present moment. It’s the right thing to do, anyways.
After all, who needs the interwebs when you have the river below your feet, good company all around, and another day of laziness (or biking, tubing, kayaking, etc.) ahead of you? Not this girl. Certainly not this girl.
Have you been to Don Det or a similar hippie metropolis? Am I capable of wearing anything other than my Chang beer shirt? These are both good questions. Comment below!
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