Rise day 53: Don Det to Pakse
1 September 2016
Waking up on our last morning in 4,000 Islands, and we head down to grab a bite of breakfast in the guesthouse before packing up. It’s just a short ride through the very narrow streets to get us back to the ferry. Boarding this time is substantially easier, and after a quick bit of haggling with the ferry driver on the price, we set off. It takes us about 30 minutes to reach the other side, where a decidedly rickety and slippery looking disembarkation awaits us. It’s a bit of a mission to ride the two fully laden bikes off the narrow plank and up the steep slope.
We head out of the small village on the Mekong riverside and back to join the highway 13 heading north. Along the roadside we encounter a large number of small stalls selling what appear to be deseeded poppies, and a few small local games of football on dirt pitches in the heat of the day. The road itself is good Tarmac and fast riding with minimal traffic. We stop at a little roadside hut for lunch, and watch a group of locals on their modified scooters race up and down the road.
After lunch we head up the potholed narrow road down towards the Mekong. We were expecting a bridge, but it seems that’s not the case. Instead there is a “ferry” which is made up of 3 large metal barges held together with wooden planks with large gaps between them. The way on to the ferry is up steep ramp, but first involves riding across a 30cm wide 2 metre long wet muddy plank over the water. Not looking fun! After a minor plank shift when I rode my bike on, it was a lot more settled for riding Traceys bike on to the ferry.
We settle down for the long slow and very hot Mekong crossing. No shade except for the driver, and some of the dodgiest steering all linked up with welded chain links – it’s a miracle the boat went anywhere. Then, as we get to the other side, I realise the ride on was a breeze compared to what’s to come. This time is down a ramp, on to a narrow plank, that is itself balanced on another narrow plank. Then, as if the challenge was not enough, the ferry captain covers both planks in water and steps away, leaving me the stage to attempt the ride. I have to admit I was absolutely shitting myself on the ride towards the plank. As my front wheel makes contact, the plank slips, but I’m committed, so knock the bike in to second gear and gun the throttle. Somehow I make it across to dry land safely and ride up the slope to park the bike. It’s then I realise that I need to do it again on Tracey’s bike, which I’m not as used to. What happened next was mainly just ride bike to the work edge, close eyes and accelerate….. And, we’re over! Woohoo!
Safely on the West Bank of the Mekong, we head south to the mountainside temple of Vat Phu. A stunning temple in the foothills alongside the Thai border. On the way there we notice an unusually large number of kids and teenagers around. We found out later that it was actually a holiday to celebrate the dead, where locals visit temples en masse and light incense and release lanterns in to the air at sunset. A beautiful sight which we managed to catch glimpses of from our Pakse hotel.
On the ride back north from Wat Phu there is a very obvious French influence in the riverside architecture. It’s a beautiful ride up the side of the Mekong all the way to Pakse.
On the way in to Pakse we crossed the new Japanese friendship bridge, with great views of the city, and the “chateau” being built along the riverside. We take a ride around town and find a place to stop for a coffee and check on areas to stay in. After coffee we ride past a beautiful looking French style boutique hotel. Sadly it turned out to be significantly out of our price range. But at that point we spot a roof terrace bar in the distance. As we ride to try and find it for later on, we find out that it’s connected to a very nice looking hotel (The Pakse Hotel), and on enquiring we find it to be in our price range. Result!
After checking in and showering up, we head up to the amazing 360 degree roof terrace for an awesome dinner and drinks at sunset. What a place!
Full days route here: