Paradise May not Include a Sink - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

December 15, 2023

Paradise May not Include a Sink

Near Khone Pha Pheng waterfall to Don Det (Island)

Paradise May Not include a Sink

Right after sunrise we went around to the back of the guest house, said good morning to the deer and unlocked our bikes.  When we had arrived at this guest house the owner thought his place was so immaculate that he didn't allow our bikes inside.  He didn't even allow us to wear our shoes inside the front door of the guest house.  I must admit, it was pretty spanking clean.  I'd rather it be a bit dirtier and less mosquitoey though. 

We were headed to view the big waterfall, Khone Pha Pheng, biggest waterfall on the entire length of the Mekong River and the reason we hadn't ridden all the way to the Four Thousand Islands area the night before.  We had always wondered about the big waterfall and finally we were going to see it under our own steam and not part of a tour.  The waterfall isn't near anything which means that to get there a tourist is usually going to have to rent something or other.  So, we were excited, ours was a good plan despite the fight with mosquitoes in the evening.  We had won that fight and the waterfall wasn't very far.  

We took the back way to the waterfall.
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The back way featured some nice looking cows.
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Since we were so early, the ticket booth didn't have a motorbike near it which meant no one was inside and we were free to breeze past.  I don't know what it is (besides being cheap, thrifty, son of parents living the Great Depression, etc.) why it feels so good to avoid the fee.  I think waterfalls should be free.  Sure, the country of Laos owns it but as most fees go in this totalitarian, corrupt country, some of those fees are going to go into the wrong pockets.  That's what I object to.

To make the obvious point of what bul#*&^t goes on in Laos, we immediately came to a sign pointing to the entrance for normal people and another entrance for the "VIP"s.  We tried the normal people entrance and it led nowhere!  Seriously.  So we took the VIP entrance and it turned out to be the only possible entrance to the waterfall which made me even more confused (mad) about the signs.  

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We were the first people of the day on the wooden viewing platform besides the red ants that were climbing the tree I leaned my bike against.  Red ants are not to be messed with, even worse than guys in uniforms at the border who still have your passport in their dirty little hands demanding an extra $2 for their Beer Lao fund.  

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The waterfalls were wonderful, impressive and made all the better by us being the only ones there.  That didn't last long however when a small group of Hmong on tour joined us.  There is a high priced restaurant very near to the viewing platform, it, appropriately, is called, The View.  I fully expected Whoopie Goldberg to show but they weren't open yet.  We lingered and marveled at the falls, quite beautiful in the early morning.  The Lao government was dead set on making a dam nearby, (probably urged by the Chinese and also probably built by the Chinese), but fortunately they built it downstream; reservoir and dam well out of sight. 

What has emerged on our trip so far is that we are checking off things we always wanted to see that for some reason we hadn't seen on previous trips.  Seeing the biggest waterfall on the Mekong was like the prize for finally linking the three or four missing links in our association with traveling on or near the Mekong River.  We're sewing things up, but I think that's the way each of our trips have been.  There is always too much to see and we always try to see mostly new things even though in between we ground ourselves with old familiar things.  

Khone Pha Pheng waterfalls
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Rachael AndersonGreat waterfalls!
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2 months ago
Jen RahnWow!

So glad you got to see this in the early morning.
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2 months ago
Looking downstream from the waterfall. The scoured out area of open rock indicates the water level during the rainy season.
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On the other side of the viewing platform.
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Jen RahnThose legs need rest after standing for so long in high heels!

I think the feet might be stuck in tippy-toe position. Poor feet!

I'm assuming these legs were torso -less, and therefore, headless. ¿No?
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2 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Jen RahnYes, head and torso were somewhere else on the platform.
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2 months ago

When we had had our fill of the waterfall we went the short distance back to our guesthouse with the tied-up deer in the backyard.  There is something incongruous with a guesthouse owner who makes us take off our shoes at the door but doesn't give us a room with a sink and keeps a deer tied up in the back.  He took our money and we never saw him again.  Maybe he didn't want to deal with our discontent about the sink....or the deer.  All evening I threatened to let the deer go.  Andrea didn't care so it was hardly a threat.  I guess I was threatening myself because I'd definitely have to deal with Mr. Clean in the end.

We rode the short distance to Nakasong, the ferry point/town, jumping off place to Don Det - Hippie Island.  The road is the main highway through Laos, south to north, but it was nearly empty way down here.

On the main highway, which was deserted, we came across a golf course. We didn't go in and now I wish I had. I just wonder what that golf course looks like this time of year with next to no one playing there. It's bone dry already in these parts.
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This is the main highway that goes right through the length of Laos.
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Spider lily, hymenocallis
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Scott AndersonBeautiful. It looks so delicate!
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2 months ago
Andrea BrownTo Scott AndersonI bought some bulbs of these at Fred Meyer’s just to try them out. The plants were healthy but no blooms the first year.
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2 months ago

It was still fairly early in the morning and there were loads of backpackers in Nakasong packed into two coffee shops with their large backpacks waiting for transport, (mini vans seem to be the norm nowadays), away to other parts of SE Asia after probably several days of relaxation on Don Det.  We rode right past those two groups and quickly found a restaurant backpackers no doubt rarely go to, a noodle soup restaurant full of Lao.  After a really great bowl of pho, (they called it pho there), we found the ferry dock/boat to Don Det.  The mass exodus had taken place and we were too early to be in the mass new group of travelers arriving to pack boats going to Don Det.  Don, by the way, means island in Lao.

We got a great noodle soup at a place overlooking the boat landing.
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This was our view from our noodle soup place, the boat landing at Nakasong. Don Det is over there somewhere not visible actually.
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We see stacks of Beer Lao cases everywhere even in front of a casket shop.
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The boat landing at Nakasong.
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At the boat landing we had to have Lao coffee from this woman.
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This is the real thing with the 'sock' where the coffee is placed.
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The ferry landing at Nakasong.
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This guy is towing a boat alongside his.
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About to land at Don Det.
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Only one other person was on our boat and coincidentally a cyclist.  He was in full lycra garb and had two tiny panniers.  I happened to lift his bike on the other side and it weighed nothing. He happened to lift one of our bikes, groaned, and I thought he might have a heart attack. He was older, maybe even older than I, Swiss (the French part), and surprisingly had ridden from Chiang Rai in the north of Thailand.  That's a long way over lots of steep hills.  He certainly didn't look the part to be entering Don Det where "Happy Shakes" abound.  You may say that we don't fit the part either but at least I look the part.  He asked if the trail down the island was dirt because he said he doesn't ride in dirt!  He was in luck because we had heard that they had just paved the trail on the east side of Don Det with cement.  He said he was heading to Stung Treng which I then had to crush his dreams of never taking public transportation, if those were in fact his dreams.  He looked like he had those dreams for sure.   I told him the road from the border to Stung Treng was one of the worst dirt roads I've seen and that he absolutely had to take a minivan.  I was looking at his microscopically narrow tires as I told him the news knowing those tires wouldn't make it on that road..  He didn't know it yet but he would be thanking us for the suggestion.  

At the same time we were giving the Swiss guy advice, a young German guy entered our scene asking some completely different questions.  We had seen a bike when we got off the little boat ferry, a bike with huge fat tires, a mountain bikepacking setup, big, heavy bike that was so dirty it looked like he preferred to ride only on dirt.  We were giving advice to each of these guys simultaneously.  It was pretty interesting because these two people could not be more different from each other.  I wish I had taken a photo of them together but we were too busy fielding questions as opposite as could be.  It kept us on our toes but was really fun to meet each of them and to actually have relevant advice for each.   We had only seen a Swiss couple of cyclists so far on our trip so it was quite odd to be talking to two very different cyclists at the same time.  It was such random timing!

The German guy was done visiting Don Det and was heading across to Nakasong and then getting on the main highway north, which upon hearing that and taking one look at him, we knew he didn't want to do that.  We didn't want him to do that.  He then told us he had followed the Mekong the whole way from Kratie where we had bailed and gotten a minivan.  He said it was mostly sand and we believe it.  We had considered doing the same route but there were no guesthouses.  He was buff and tough and probably had a tent to boot.  

We saved his ass!  Two saved people at the same time.  That never happens.  Usually we save people one at a time!  We told the young German guy to get on a little ferry to the next island just a hundred meters away.  Then ride across that island, Don Som, and then another little ferry and ride across that island, Don Khong, and then a ferry to the west side of the Mekong and there the road along the Mekong couldn't be more lovely.  We told him we had done it 9 years earlier and because we were so enthusiastic about it, his face lit up.  He believed us and knew it was the adventure he was looking for.  We were talking the same language even though our bikes were not.  Our bikes didn't want to have anything to do with his bike - intimidated I guess.  He went off and in three minutes he yelled to us that he had a ferry to that island, Don Som, and he was off.  The Swiss guy was off too and we were left proud of ourselves for saving people right and left.  

We rode leisurely down the path, now cement, to a really funky bungalow that I was flabbergasted that Andrea actually wanted to stay in.  Not only was there no sink there was no toilet seat, no hot water, no air conditioning, a holey mosquito net and other discomforts.  It was back to the old days.  But you know what?  The view can't be beat.  Our porch looks out onto a gorgeous part of the Mekong five meters away.  Paradise doesn't always have to include a sink.

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Our humble bungalow = Paradise.
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lovebruce

Today's ride: 13 miles (21 km)
Total: 351 miles (565 km)

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