The 4,000 Islands are a group of islands dotting the Mekong River in the very south of Laos near the Cambodian border. I’d heard there was pretty much nothing to do there but sit in a hammock. After four days of motorbiking the Bolaven Plateau, hammock-sitting sounded like a darn good idea.
Although there are supposedly 4,000 of them, foreigners only seem to visit three of them. We chose Don Khon, because we’d heard it was laid-back, and didn’t have a big party scene like Don Dhet. (And this was true, right up until a super chatty Aussie girl and pot smoking Canadian boy moved in next door, but I digress).
The hammock sitting on Don Khon turned out to be a bit of a bust. We only could find riverside accommodations for our second night, and the hammock to floor ratio was not quite right once you actually sat in the hammock. Plus the addition of millions of river gnats feasting on my skin made it less than pleasant to sit outside. But despite the hammock fail, three things in particular made our short time on Don Dhon worthwhile:
Amazing Sunsets. Watching the sunset over the Mekong never gets old.
The Little Waitress. We randomly picked one of the many restaurants lining the riverfront for dinner and were met by a pint-sized waitress. She had to have been no more than ten years old and her English was impeccable. She accessorized her t-shirt and traditional Lao skirt with a glittery purse and a beaded necklace, and she carried herself with poise and grace. In between taking our order, she peppered us with questions about where we were from, telling us her mother and sister were in America. She returned to her desk, where she sat dutifully doing her homework until our order was up. I wondered what her dreams were like. Would she stay on this tiny island in the middle of Laos, serving in her family’s restaurant? Would she join her mother and sister in the United States when she got older? Would she go somewhere else? We’ve seen plenty of children working in their family business or alongside their parents elsewhere – child labor laws do not exist over here – but the maturity of this little girl stood out to me.
The Chicken Boy. Right before sunset on our first night, Sean and I walked the path away from the strip of restaurants, towards the place where the islanders lived. The river, the palm trees, the fields – they were all bathed in the magical light of the Golden Hour. Out of nowhere, a little boy appeared further on down the path, barrelling towards us. We had seen him earlier, clutching a chick in his hand by the neck. We weren’t sure if the chick was real or stuffed, dead or alive, but the way the chick was flopping its head around listlessly told us its fate. I saw that the boy was till clutching the chick as if it was a stuffed animal as he passed me, making a beeline straight for Sean. The boy slammed into Sean’s legs, hugging him tight around the knees. When the hug was over, he looked up at Sean, grinning. We had no idea why he decided to give this tall foreigner a sudden hug, but it was one of the cutest things I have ever seen.