We arrived at the Cambodia-Laos border around 6pm which was officially overtime for the border patrol (which is allegedly why they charged us an extra $1USD). We arrived at the small town on the mainland next to the region known as 4000 Islands, the region of the Mekong River that depending on how wet or dry it is has somewhere around 4000 Islands around which boats need to navigate. There are only a few large inhabitable islands, and our first night was spent on Don Det in a not so savory bungalow.
We rented bikes and explored the island and the island across the bridge from us, Don Khon. There was an absolutely gorgeous waterfall that we climbed around on until we decided to go downriver from the falls to find a swimming spot and a "beach," which was a portion of sand after the woods before the giant rocks that bordered the actual water itself.
We took a boat back to the mainland and hopped on a mini-bus up to Pakse where we rented a motorbike and rode out about 60 km northeast to the Bolaven Plateau and a little village and waterfall both called Tad Lo. On the way, we passed loads of Laotian villages and saw a snippet of village life there. Once we arrived we met Mama Pap, this amazingly sweet woman with a restaurant. Her slogan was Big Eat, Small Kips (Laotian currency), and it was definitely accurate. My banana pancake was not finishable, and it cost $1.10. The food took almost an hour, but it was always delicious.
We found the tall waterfall site but it was dry season, so it was only a trickle. However, we were at the top so it overlooked the whole plateau and provided an amazing still moment overlooking beautiful land (see video below).
We followed that beautiful still moment with a crazy noontime dip in the river with the local kids. They had never even seen us before, but they all just grabbed our hands and showed us where to jump in to the river. It was only about 5 feet deep, so you had to jump feet first and your feet always hit bottom but never very hard. Our jumping spot was taken over by an elephant and the boy cleaning him with his flip-flop. Quite a sight!
Sadly we had to leave Tad Lo, but Vang Vieng (our next destination) was equally beautiful. It's right on the Mekong River, and there is gorgeous scenery (and hence loads of tourists), so it was unfortunately made into a party town. The most common thing to do in Vang Vieng is to tube down the river, stopping at every makeshift bar along the river to get free shots of whiskey and use their rope swings. As you can imagine, quite a few stupid people die here (alcohol and rope swings not the best combo). It was fun to do for a half-day (mainly just the rope swings), and I met some really nice guys from Australia (Sam and Marcelo). We hung out again that night before Snack and I took our bikes up the beautiful mountain terrain just west of the river. We saw loads of caves on the way, biking past cows and ending up in a gorgeous Blue Lagoon (with more rope swings and perfect diving branches).
Laos was a beautiful country, and I am definitely going back! :)