It is funny the turns that life can take. I was not expecting to find myself so relaxed and comfortable in the four thousand islands. Here the Mekong opens up to a myriad of islands near the border with Cambodia, some no larger than a few square metres and others several kilometres long. I had avoided Vang Vien in the North as I had been told it was like a young backpackers' playground, twenty somethings high on mushrooms tubing down the Mekong. The Islands may go that way but, as of yet, they are still a very relaxed place - not the height of Lao culture, but still a great place to chill.Having said that, what made it for me were the people I went with. Catherine, Halrond, Cristine, Sara and Marcus were just great, each so interesting in their own right. Catherine and Halrond had been travelling for a while, almost a year, and I think the pressure of travelling had put a strain on their relationship. I really liked Cris especially when, in her mix of Spanish and French, she told me to shut up as it was too early for my verbal diarrhoea. But at fifty something she didn't mean it in a malicious way, she just wanted to have her coffee in peace. She was not a morning person whereas I am hyper as soon as I get up. I really liked Marcus, my room mate for four or five nights, it had been a while since I had got on so well with a complete stranger...... Spanish cab driver Sara worked at her father's cab company in Menorca during the summer season and then went travelling for the rest of the year. We had all agreed that I could talk but she was a non stop talking machine. I also met a half Finnish/Thai girl who spoke Spanish with the strongest Mexican accent. She was so funny.....taking a long boat under her little Chinese brollie she shouted.......'there is still glamour left in Laos'.
We have spent the last few days cycling around the different islands visiting, once again, different waterfalls and getting completely drunk on lao whiskey, which I'm certain you could run a bike on.
I was wondering what is he smoking?
Initially I was against the idea of swimming in the Mekong as I assumed it would be too filthy, and it probably it is, but the water for our showers was taken straight from it so eventually I gave up and jumped in.
I am now travelling to the one of the least visited areas of the country, but also where the environment is supposed to be at its most pristine, Attapeu Province. My guide describes it as the Wild East of Laos; frontier territory, it shares borders with Cambodia and Vietnam. The area, being so close to Vietnam, was heavily bombed during the Secret War which probably made logging there that bit more difficult.....