Samstag, 19. Mai 2012

Laos, Mekong and a great divide

Si Phan Don and Mekong, Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine
With a length of almost four and a half thousand kilometers, the Mekong is earth's 12th-longest river. If you are in Cambodia and travel north along its shore on the national road seven, you'll inevitably hit Laos. The border between both country's follows a major natural divide: the Khone Falls. Don't imagine it as a single waterfall. It is an almost 10 kilometer wide succession of rapids that are devided by "Si Phan Don" – "The 4,000 islands". This collection of tiny, smaller and bigger inhabited islands is part of Laos.

But to get to that natural border, you'll first have to cross a man made border. And this is how it had worked for me, Instead of the official 32 dollars for the visa to Laos our bus driver wanted 40 dollar to prepare all the formalities. After some bargaining we arrived at 34 dollar for fixing the visa. Because a dollar or two for tea money on the Cambodian side and for "overtime" on the Lao side is inevitable, we believed that to be a fair deal and agreed. We couldn't have made it cheaper ourselves.

On both sides big and shiny new border stations were under construction, but for now the old shelters and huts still served its purpose. While we waited, smoked and drank beer I was puzzled that not a single lorry waited on either side of the border. Laos and especially Cambodia are poor countries, yes. But compare it with the endless procession of trucks between Germany and Poland and you'll get an idea of the differences of the economies. 

Don Det is one of the inhabited islands in the Mekong, and nowadays it is a backpackers club, with guest houses, bars and restaurants serving the needs of the low budget traveller. You can cycle to some great white and completely empty beaches, swim in the Mekong, watch some of the last river dolphins and the enormous waterfalls. You can also see the remains of a railroad, with which French colonialism wanted to make the upper Mekong easier accessible and Laos economically profitable. 

Further north Laos offers great landscapes, relaxed cities and stunningly friendly people. Great baguettes and good coffee are the most obvious remains of the French rule here. I put the camera away for most of the time and simply enjoyed traveling.

Si Phan Don and Mekong, Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine
Si Phan Don and Mekong, Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine
Khone Falls, Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine
Taking the ferry over the Mekong
© Eike-Christian Heine
Vientiane, Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine
Vientiane, Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine
Mekong' s shore, Vientiane,  Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine
Mekong' s shore, Vientiane,  Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine
Mekong' s shore, Vientiane,  Laos
© Eike-Christian Heine

Keine Kommentare:

Kommentar veröffentlichen