Saturday, October 13, 2007

Don Khone Sloth Rocket

To say that I am a slow traveler is a gross understatement.  I think the term sloth-like is more accurate.  I like to take my time, get lost, distracted, involved in my travels.  I don’t care much for ‘tomorrow’ pressing on my backside.  There are times, however, when I must suspend my preference and rocket through a place.

My tour of Sii Pan Don, Four Thousand Islands, has long been on my list of places in Laos to visit.  It is a shame that I only have 24 hours to spend here.  Located at the southernmost tip of Laos on the Cambodian border, this cluster of islands in the Mekong River is a tranquil paradise.  I skipped the two largest and most popular islands, Don Khong and Don Det, and headed straight for Don Khone – the more serene of the three islands.  As I expected, the island of Don Khone is friendly, laid back and incredibly quiet.

I chose to stay at Pan’s guest house partly because of the owner’s low pressure sales tactic (“I have a guesthouse.  Would you like to take a look?” about as blaze) and partly because I was too tired to look at anything else.  The guesthouse is a series of seven wooden bungalows running perpendicular to the river.  I chose room #7 closest to the river – an end unit offering two sets of windows for ultimate cross ventilation.  Outside, there is a sign which reads “In our rooms the fans work from 6pm to 2am”.  It’s early October, so 2am came around 9 o’clock – plenty cool enough to skip the fan and shut down the generator.  Blissful silence in perfect, cool sleeping weather.

At 3:27am, the roosters do a village check.  Someone close by started it, ‘Is everyone ok?’, he asks the starless night.  Around the village, cockerels sound off their agreement and assurance that all is well in Don Khone.  I lie awake in bed and listen to them settle.

‘Today I arrived. Tomorrow I will leave. Not enough time. Not enough at all’.

I feel like I am a sloth riding on a rocket.

I get out of bed and go outside to look at the night, the silhouettes of the palms in the waning full moon – to squeeze another twenty minutes of observation into a timeline which does my location no justice.  ‘I should have planned for a week here, maybe two,’ I think to myself, sigh, and return to bed.

In the morning I sit and write and drink coffee and talk with a few other travelers.  I don’t want to leave but I arrange for a boat to take me to the mainland around 1 or 2 pm.  I have some more coffee and some rice soup with lots of roasted garlic.  The boat captain arrives.  He laughs at me.  He can take me to the mainland, but there are no buses to take me to Pakse until tomorrow. 

Plans change.  Life is a series of changes and unexpected events.  I ask the guesthouse keeper if room #7 is available.  She smiles.  I tell the boat captain to meet me the next morning around 7 am.  Agreed, I put my bag back in the room, and head off to look at the waterfalls.



"There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened."

Douglas Adams
English humorist & science fiction novelist (1952 - 2001)


No comments: