4,000 Islands ~ Water Fights, Water Falls and Whatta Beach

The shared New Year’s Celebration of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos in mid-April is water fueled mayhem and renewed spirituality. It signifies the washing away of the past, and being clean for the next year. It’s a time to clean your Buddha and ignore the trash outside. A time to burn incense and drink BeerLao. A time to sing and dance…at 6:00am. My guesthouse Mama, took us to the first day of the water festival to partake of Buddha washing. I found some of their faces (esp. kids) stern and kind in a simulacrum of a young, suspicious Buddha.

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The Mekong, “mother of rivers,” emerald in dry, murkish brown in wet season, slow and surely winding from the high steppes of Tibet down through the green mountains of Indochina before spreading in the fertile¬†alluvial plains of Vietnam felt mystical. It holds a place of honor among rivers as being the scene of a famous movie, Apocalypse Now, much better than the Amazon’s with Anaconda. At the border of Laos and Vietnam, the Mekong, stretches into a 14 km wide mass. Along the fault lines of this throbbing aquatic expansion lie some amazing waterfalls. I visited one on the nearby island of Don Khon, where we could safely swim in the circular current of a random bay.

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At the tip of Don Det, the loading area for passengers and motorbikes being transported to other islands, sits the small sandy area, well-polluted with bottlecaps, cig butts, and plastic bottles, generously called a beach. On this particular Tuesday, there was a funny, curious puppy who liked to steal one poor Canadian girl’s sandals and run. We all watched our free canine entertainment, soaked in sun, treaded water against the current and enjoyed the sunset among new acquaintances.

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Animals on Don Det

It’s like a floating farmyard on Don Dhet. I’ve heard it said you are never more than three feet from a cockroach; here, you are never more than three feet from a chicken. The boys cluck you awake, the babies peep beside your flip-flopped feet, the mamas stand on heavy chicken legs, watching. They walk onto balconies, into stores, and their sounds dominate. Buffaloes, bunnies, bugs, geckos, spiders, a wonderfully spiritual amount of butterflies and moths, pigs, cats, dogs, ducks, geese and the innumerable fish of the Mekong inhabit this 10 sq. km. island.

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Laziness runs rampant among the mutts.

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They ate some of my Pringles.

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An old lady starting calling for the birds, “PeepPeepPeepPeepPeep.” They cautiously walked past me.

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They seemed so happy in their dirt pool.

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If you look in the middle, you can see a fat heart; maybe it’s just a love fight.

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They were chasing each other. Dog looks to be having fun, cat is pissed.

Ants are also very present. The big black ones who mind their own business, the small red or black ones that try to eat anything sitting on a table, and then the big, red fire ants. I put my back down by the river for a few seconds and they were already up my leg and on my hands, on my backpack and water bottle.