When Lucy and I arrived on the island of Don Khone in Si Pan Don we were completely blown away with how peaceful and quiet it was. Don Khone is one of the “Four Thousand Islands” that just look like they’re floating in the Mekong river at the southern tip of Laos.
Don Khone was inhabited by a handful of hostels and guesthouses, about 5 restaurants, and a smattering of locals.
We spent our days enjoying Beer Lao, watching sunsets with as many colours as there were islands, and swimming in the river. We also went fishing, where I was basically the only person not to catch a fish, and generally not doing very much at all. It was like a little mini-holiday to refresh ourselves and recharge our batteries.
Despite how peaceful it was, there was one particular item that annoyed us beyond anything else. Foreigners were charged to use the roads. Specifically, they were charged to use the bridge, or any of the roads south of the bridge. Naturally, we argued that surely we shouldn’t be charged just because we were white. Lucy and I have spoken about this before, and it continues to really irritate me when people try to rip us off because we’re foreign.
I genuinely think that both of us would have given more in tips, or to beggars, or just donated our stuff if we didn’t know that as soon as we turn the next corner, someone else is going to try to rip us off. Sadly though, it is a part of travelling, and one that we just had to either accept, or change what we did.
In this instance, we didn’t go south of the bridge, and when we did cross over to Don Det (the neighbouring island that the bridge connects to), we offered money to locals to drive us across the 50metres or so of water. We actually offered the same amount of money as we would have paid to use the bridge, but wanted to make sure the money went to locals, rather than to the government or company which employed the rather rude staff at the bridge.
As a result of not crossing the bridge one day with our bikes, we found a beautiful waterfall hidden in the centre of the island, where we could sit out on the decking in the sun, watch the waterfall and have a couple of beers in complete isolation. It was a real f-you to the bridge bastards!
Anyway, despite Bridge-gate, we had a lovely time on Don Khone, and were really sad to leave. It was a great end to our Laos trip, which started in boring Luang Prabang, but then gave us tubing, the biggest cave ever, and this extra holiday!