The incredible Mekong river has more miles of its remarkable route in Laos than in any other country. As it meanders through this beautiful country it splits in many rivulets and streams. Whilst passing through the Chmpasak region of the country it forms many islands, these are known as the 4000 islands and it was here that I decided to spend a few days of exploration and discovery.
The islands are known locally as Si Phan Don. This really is an amazingly scenic area. I was blown away by the tranquility of it and the friendliness of the local people. I had travelled from the capital, Vientiane. Laos shares a long border with Thailand. Vientiane is on the border close to the northwestern town of Udon Thani, Paske is close to the border with Ubon Ratchathani in the east of Thailand. The islands are about 50 miles to the South of Pakse.
Pakse itself is a delightful town, sitting on the Bank of the Mekong and enjoying its reputation as a friendly and laid back base from which holiday makers explore the locale. The nearby Boliven Plateau provides an impressive backdrop to the town. The area is full of temples, traditional villages, waterfalls and other interesting places to see. But on this trip I had come exclusively to visit the 4000 islands.
I took a boat trip from Pakse and we were soon slipping gently along the Mekong passing rice paddies and wonderful countryside. Farmers worked in the fields and children ran along the riverbank shouting excitedly and waving as we passed. We went to the largest island Don Khong, a lush green peaceful place. There are more than 50,000 people living on the island, many still in the traditional stilted houses on the banks of the river. I booked into a local guest house and hire a motorbike.
Riding round the island on the motorbike, was fabulous. There is little traffic and it really is scenically beautiful. The restaurants here are excellent, some are no more than a group of tables scattered outside a small hut. The food though is a treat. Fresh salads and spring rolls together with mild curries and aromatic rice.
Over the next couple of days I used Don Khong as a base and took a couple of trips to some of the other islands. This is about as restful and pleasant a time as you will get anywhere. I really enjoyed it. Laos is a fabulous country, I keep coming back every year. The 4000 islands are superb and I would recommend this type of trip to anyone.