Southern Laos – 4000 Islands (Si Phan Don)

My first field trip brings me to Si Phan Don (aka 4000 Islands), the southernmost spot of Laos. It is a fascinating area – the name reveals – thousands of islands. Some are inhabited all year round, others only exist in the dry season and disappear in the floods of the rainy season. Quite a few are simply too small to live on while others serve as fertile gardens. In Ban Nakasang, I hop on a tourist boat and glide over the Mekong river to Don Khon Island. The engine is loud but the water buffaloes on the way do not show any signs of disturbance and continue their bath to cool down from the warm temperature.

I get off on “my” island and slow down. The pace is different, it is peaceful. Everything has it’s time. Including the siesta during the warmest hours of the day 😉 The late afternoon hours are perfect for a bicycle tour to explore parts of the island and to catch the evening light and the sunset reflecting on the water and colouring the heaven. One evening, by chance, I make it to a dolphin watching boat ride into the sunset – magical!

The more I explore, the more I can only guess how big the area actually is. More water, more islands. I also appreciate the river life; man fishing or fixing their fishing net, women preparing food or making rice baskets. Children going to school by boat. Monks forming a sculpture to decorate a headstone. The traditional way of life is complemented by the more tourist-oriented life. Along the river side – over a stretch of about one kilometre – hotels, bungalows, guest houses and restaurants are next to each other. It still seems to be on an acceptable scale. May it remain balanced.

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