I wrote this two days ago, when the WiFi and power were down….
I sit on a deck gazing across the water at another island, so close I can hear the conversations of people in their homes and watch the women wash clothes in the river. Children shriek and laugh as they dive among the jumping fish and swim across to my island in two minutes with their long, expert strokes. The constant stream of long tail traffic doesn’t bother me; I swing in my hammock, waving to the fishermen in their conical hats and the women holding the motorbike in the long canoe-sized wood boat.
I’ve reached Si Phan Don, or Four Thousand Islands. Here, far in the southern tropical reaches of Laos, the Mekong River unbraids her hair into hundreds of flowing, twisting strands that caress islands – some mere tufts of greenery, others large enough to host quiet villages of fishermen. Water buffalo wade into the shallows to cool off in the heat. Fish flip in the morning light to feast on water-skimming insects, and somewhere the fabled naga swims among the depths, a feared fabled creation that haunts the nightmares of local fishermen.
My island for the week is Don Khon. The village along the northern shore has grown into a tourist destination, but this is still a small village. The bamboo houses and gardens include the numerous guesthouses and restaurants in their daily rhythms. At 4:30 pm a sudden onslaught of school children flood the only street as they celebrate their freedom to play and swim in the Mekong. I woke up this morning to the rooster underneath my stilted bungalow and opened the front door to a clucking hen who gave my outfit a nod of approval. It’s an odd mix of tourist hub and slow village life. I hope the growing tourist trade does not fundamentally alter the island, but I know it will and I feel conflicted about my tiny role in that change, just by being here.
Tomorrow I will explore the island, and neighboring Don Det, connected by a former railroad bridge. For now I sit on my balcony above the water, read and write and nap, and listen to the purr of the boat traffic.