Sunday, 13 March 2016

321 ADVENTURE THRU THAILAND, LAOS AND CAMBODIA (4-16 January 2016), Day 7 - Been there, Don Det!

Historical railway bridge
Don Khon that never was!
Don "Con"
Throwing away Komplete Horse Shit???
Dirt roads surrounding Don Det
Village homes
Buffaloes by the river
River scene
Idyllic life
Boats are the main mode of transport
Sunset kayaking
Gas station!
Boy finds the rat
Dad cleans the rat
Dad skins the rat
Dad throws the skin away
Dad guts the rat

Dad continues gutting
Dad add herbs
Dad skewers the rat
Little Eden
The grounds
View from the restaurant
The love nest
The room
The room
The bathroom

It was nice to sleep in once in awhile and that was exactly what we did! There was no rush to pack, gear up and roll!

When we did roll out of bed and met for breakfast, Frank was a different person. He did not curse as much as he did the day before. Frank was happy.

Frank swore he was sleeping in rat doo doo at Sabaychay. We supposed that's the reason he was popping pills. He needed to escape the miserable place.

KC came for breakfast late. He had gone for a little sightseeing in the village and came back with proof that rats don't thrive in Laos!!!! This may just quash Frank's conviction of rats in Sabaychay.

With KC was a step by step method to prepare rats for dinner, all captured on camera!!!
Step 1 : Catch the rat
Step 2 : Clean the rat
Step 3 : Skin the rat
Step 4 : Add herbs to rat
Step 5 : Skewer the rat
Step 6 : Barbecue the rat and serve hot???

In Little Eden, baguettes were served hot with butter. We also got our choice of egg omelette, a platter of seasonal fruit, tea or coffee and cordial orange drink.

After breakfast, some members in our group trooped back to the local spa for another round of massage. The other sensible few, lubed and checked their bikes, then lazed around till the next program, a round island ride!

We began our ride on a beautiful sunny mid-morning. While the rest were seen plastering sunblock till they were ghostly white, Alvin and Claudine shared a conspiratorial look. They have decided to stay non sticky for the day!

However, unlike Claudine who was in mini shorts and tank top, Alvin had on his sensible Da Brim and arm sleeves. There was no time for regrets and so, Claudine had to brave the ride.

Out from Little Eden, we turned right and rode through the spa, shops and eateries of the village. Alvin missed a right turn and had to lead everyone back. Eleven riders on the narrow street making a U-turn was quite a spectacle but we managed the maneuver!

Not trusting the whole team was with him, Alvin slowed down the ride to do a count.

"One, two, three..." All riders starting from Alvin shouted their numbers out loud to him.

Papa Mike boomed, "Nine!"

VT followed with a "Ten!"


Meanwhile, Claudine was hypnotized by the magic of Don Det. She was smiling from ear to ear unaware of the game. VT turned and shot a WTF look at her. She stopped to Claudine!!!!

"EEEEeee-Le-Ven!!!!" she shouted at the top of her voice.

Happy he got the right number count, Alvin picked up speed again. 

Claudine was having second thoughts. The ride through the narrow village dirt road was super bumpy. Without padded shorts it can be quite uncomfortable.

KC was not wearing one too but the bumps does not crush his eggs. It's no Qi Gong mastery but seasoned riding. He often rides around Singapore's PCN donning the skimpiest underwear and shorts!

It was difficult to enjoy the passing scenery as most of the time, our eyes were peeled on the uneven road! But it was a beautiful ride usually under the canopy of trees that grew alongside the road. It was also easy as the terrain was flat throughout. We crossed many narrow wooden bridges, most of which were merely planks thrown across a dry ditch.

We passed the village homes and homestays. It was easy to spot the homestays as most were brightly painted.

Before long we came to an open field. Coming towards us were 3 Chinese riders on their rented bikes. They told us in Mandarin the road ahead leads to the river and ends there.

Heeding our Chinese friends' advice, we turned left at the fields. Here we met a single Korean rider that speaks good English. He pointed out the way to the historical railway bridge that connects Don Det to Don Khon. We bid him, "Annyeonghaseyo!" and from there we found our little French bridge in no time. 

The railway line was abandoned many years ago. The railway tracks were no longer there. In place is a concrete surface.

Our crossing felt a little surreal of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. One by one, we reached the end of the bridge only to be greeted by a "Troll". In our own version, the troll demanded a payment of 20,000 kips per crossing. Since none of us had strong horns, we left Don Khon alone. After all, none of us wanted to eat grass!
We rode further. This time, we were greeted by the sight of a man bathing by the river. Claudine made an abrupt stop to take a photo of him. The sudden jerk added by a roll over a bump made her chains fall! During the commotion, the semi naked man clad only in underwear turned around and with that, Claudine's hands fell to the sides. No photos today!

After fixing her chain, VT and Claudine raced ahead to catch up with the group. They found the team treading quietly by the river banks.


It felt so serene watching these living tractors of the east soak in the river. Some were even very close to us munching by the banks. Sadly, their idyllic time will soon be over. With the rain, marks the start of the planting season. They will be made to plough the fields.

We were all soaking in sweat when we finally rode into Mama Leuah for a munch. Lutz, the German proprietor was so easy going and laid back, he fits into Don Det easily. Or could it be that the slow village life has rubbed into him?

Lutz takes the order slowly and patiently. The food then, takes an even longer time to arrive. We almost forgot we ordered coffee when we asked for the bill and found him brewing them one cup by one cup!

The menu at Mama Leuah was a fusion of east meets west and totally worth the wait. The masaman curry was superb. The schnitzel done crispy. Some of us had cordon bleu, fried noodles, sticky rice served in a basket all of which were yummy. 

When she was done stuffing her face, Claudine walked the short distance across the lawn to the common toilets with wash basins outside. Washing her hands, she observed how the waste water goes down the waste hole, heard the water gurgled down the pipe and saw it trickling out to the ground at the other end of the pipe!

It seems that's where all the waste water will go for the whole the GROUND! Not a very earth friendly place but then again, we are not even sure if there's a sewerage plant in Don Det!!!

Some of us returned to the rooms for an afternoon siesta while some went on for a second round of kneading! We met again for a sunset kayak expedition down the river.

There's always a romantic connotation to sunset and sitting on a boat but that's as good as it gets....

When we arrived at the operator's office, we were all given life vests. Then we were ushered into a small fishing boat and cruised upstream. Midway through our journey, our boat docked by a floating raft for a few minutes to refuel. 

A few children can be seen playing, up by the riverbank. At the small wave of a hand, a little girl stopped playing with her 2 mates and came down to the raft. She scurried into the wooden hut where she manually pumped gasoline from a huge metal barrel into our boat.

The boat ride took 25 minutes and throughout this journey, we were facing the hot evening sun. Our initial excitement was soon overtaken by boredom. Celia shut her eyes from the glaring sun and soon took a short doze!

Even Frank and KC eventually stopped taking photos. There's just so much river scene that you can take. After a while, it's just water, plants, water, plants!

When "forever" finally ended, we were left on a small patch of sand the size of a Giant Ibis bus! Here, watermelon is being cultivated. We wondered if the grower will ever get to see his crop at all as there were no signs of any flowers let alone fruit. When the raining season comes, this islet will surely be submerged, underwater, as the Mekong rises!

To the south of our watermelon patch is Cambodia. We were all getting "pings" from Smart and Metfone to subscribe to their services. But Cambodia can wait till tomorrow.
It seems like the tour company conveniently overlooked our bookings of 11 persons. They took in an additional Russian to join us in our expedition. 3 persons were made to share a kayak meant for 2! While the Howards, Meadows and Lee's shared a love boat each, KC was made to share a kayak with the Choong's. Frank and Papa Mike shared it with the kayak's staff while our Russian friend and another staff took the single kayaks.

We were not in any position to argue as the boatman has left us and that was the only mode of transport back.....unless we fancy a swim, of course!

Anyway, we were just too excited to get on our kayaks. But little did some of us realized it meant rowing all the way back to Point A!!!

Claudine thought she was doing a 10 minute kayak. She was just too happy to crash into the Lee's. Then.....everyone started to move down river and the fun was gone!

Row, row and row!

The gap between The Choong's and the other LTF team members grew wider and wider! Their boat kept cruising to the left. They wasted a lot of energy recharting the route.

They crashed twice into patches of overgrown grass, one of which has a fishing line! One by one they grabbed the bamboo line and ducked!

At one point, the staff on the single kayak asked them if they can go any faster. At one point, KC asked him if he can tow them back!!! KC it seems was experiencing pelvic pain!!!! Pins and needles too!!!!

Papa Mike of course, was enjoying the boat ride minus the singing by the gondolier. Frank who has no kayaking experience, also helped in transporting Papa back to base!

Alvin, still with back injury, was not allowed to row. Instead, his multi talented wife took over the oars and rowed him down the river. Her former Outward Bound instructor would have given her a thumbs up!

Kayaking was second nature to the Meadows and Howards. In fact, the Howards were known to have kayaks at home! It was easy sport for them.

When the Choongs ..... and KC finally caught up with the rest, they were made to wait for the Russian who had slowed down considerably. Losing a tourist will cost the operator USD35,000! Wait, though they did, they did not sweep him. Instead, they left him a good distance behind!!!

KC was extremely grateful to get back to shore. So was Claudine. It had been hardwork getting the boats back to base and not being paid for the hard labour!! She wondered if in the overall scheme of things, they had been duped to row the boats left behind by the sunrise kayakers!!!!

After our hard labour, we decided to take a dip in the hotel's pool to cool down. Two 2.0 liters bottles of Sprite and Fanta strawberry that tasted so much like cough syrup were purchased to celebrate our safe passage back to land! No champagne and wine glasses but carbonated drinks and cheap plastic cups, the LTF way!

While everyone pre-washed over the pool, Claudine went back to her room straight! The Mekong though is flowing and clear in most parts, also carries floating algaes that seems to be thriving on patches of faeces!!!! No, thanks! She'd rather have a good scrub in her own private bathroom.

Now, back at the pool, there was a tug of war competition. Papa Mike won on a fight against VT. However, our Sumo lost when VT teamed up with Frank.

The rope??? Alvin was the rope!!!!

Well actually, it was hydrotherapy, prescribed by Dr Celia. The traction was supposedly good for Alvin's back!

Dinner came quickly. While the Howards and Meadows opted for Indian fare at Jasmine, Papa, KC, the Lees and Choongs tried Burger Kong that boasts real meat! The owner, a Liverpudlian did not lie about his meat but neither did he swear they were fantastic. Priced at 35,000 kips for a burger without fries, it is something you will still pay to eat because 6 days of Pho and Asian is just getting to you!

Frank, our non-conformist, opted for Chinese instead. He hung out with us after dinner and had a hard time contemplating on a massage. It seems the spa only employs Ladyman masseurs!

Having swallowed his fish burger in 6 large bites, Papa Mike wanted more! After all they were not King Kong sized! We finished dinner on a second seating at Jasmine where Papa ordered Nasi Briyani and skinny KC had naan with dhall.

While Celia, Papa and some others further contribute to the honest living of She-men, the rest went back to their rooms to wind down. VT though, had a tough night. The mango lassi at Jasmine were waking up the Bulls in him!!!!

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