Posts Tagged ‘Pakse’

After Khao Lak

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Singapore night

I had planned to complete the season in Khao Lak and from Christmas onwards I dived pretty much every day. While doing so I applied for instructor jobs anywhere in the world with sunny weather and warm water. One of the multitude of  applications finally paid off and I was offered a full-time permanent position at a 5-star resort in Indonesia, starting early in March. It was too good to turn down so I set off from Khao Lak a few days before the end of February.

First stop was Pulau Tioman in Malaysia to sample the diving there. I flew from Phuket to Kuala Lumpur and took a bus to Mersing. Mersing is rather like Pakse in Laos; there is no good reason to go there except to go somewhere else. Bus and ferry timetables meant staying the night. While out and about I got a lot of hard, unfriendly stares from the locals, especially the men. The town did nothing to redeem itself  on the culinary front, offering some of the worst food I’ve encountered while travelling. At least it wasn’t bugs on sticks and didn’t result in a day spent sitting on the toilet. Riverside Hotel was cleanish and functional but not particularly cheap.

The diving season in Tioman was just getting started when I arrived and only some hotels and dive centres were actually open and operating. I stayed at Babura Seaview in Tekek and dived with Tioman Dive Centre which was right next door. The hotel was cleaner and cheaper than that in Mersing and the room was more comfortable but with garish green walls. I didn’t have an ocean front room but could hear the sea from it anyway. Visibility on the dives wasn’t great, mostly around 8m, but the corals were pretty and there were plenty of fish. The staff were friendly and knowledgeable and I enjoyed the six dives I did with them. The food in Tioman still wasn’t great but it was better than in Mersing.

A ferry and bus got me from Tioman to Singapore in a little under nine hours. While there I got a visa for Indonesia, visited a friend from my round the world trip, went to a dentist, and did some sightseeing and shopping. I left with a new camera and underwater housing, that Christmas present I kind of promised myself last November. It wasn’t the one I had planned to get; I got bamboozled by the salesman, but it will do for starters. There are some fishy pics which I have taken since over at Flickr.

From Singapore to Bali was a short flight. The planned one night in Kuta (kind of like Koh Tao but in Indonesia) turned into three since I got bumped from the floatplane which covered the final leg of the journey to Moyo.

Goodbye Laos

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Pakse had one redeeming feature: a Vietnamese embassy which turned out visas in about fifteen minutes. The official even let Hannah off the passport photo requirement for her visa. There was nothing else to recommend the town so we left after one night for a couple of days of downtime in 4000 islands.
We bought bus tickets from our hotel for Pakse to Don Dhet and Don Dhet to Siem Reap. For the Laos to Cambodia leg we were expecting to have to change bus at Kompong Cham but the hotel manager claimed we would change at the border and have one bus all the way through from there to Siem Reap.
We’d read and heard mixed reports about Don Dhet and Don Khong in 4000 islands. We found Don Dhet offered basic accommodation, simple day trips, unexciting food, mind-numbingly slow service (and always with a scowl). There wasn’t much to do except drink and laze around. We notched up quite a lot of hammock time. I hired a bicycle for 10,000 kip (about 80 pence)  for a day and took an hour to cycle all round the island. They wanted 20,000 kip to cross the bridge to Don Khong which is just more of the same plus a waterfall (pay extra to see it) and maybe some dolphins (pay extra to see them). Laos has more scams than anywhere else I’ve been and 4000 islands has the greatest concentration of all. Hiring a kayak and paddling round the island (50,000 kip per kayak per day) seemed too much like hard work, but it was nice to have a swim in the Mekong.
Peaceful it wasn’t. We stayed at Mr. B’s sunset guest house, right next door to a small collection of locals’ houses. They were having a funeral the day we arrived and their PA system started delivering rather loud monk-type chanting and bloody awful music soon after we arrived. It got louder as the day went on and continued until 05:00 the next morning. It resumed at 07:00 and continued until about 15:00. If we hadn’t paid for three nights upfront we would have moved as there were plenty of other places with empty rooms. We met up with Mark and Stacy again on the second day when they arrived from Vientiane and stayed at our guest house.
After 3 nights it was time to move on; another day of sitting around waiting for buses and sitting on buses. For added excitement we had the border crossing into Cambodia. Being a Sunday the visa cost US$29 instead of US$23 – more bribes and “overtime” payments than on a weekday. Transport for the day started with the 08:00 boat from the island (extra 15,000 kip please) and an oversized tuk-tuk to the main road and the waiting “VIP” bus. The “VIP” bus had a temperamental engine and mostly non-functional air conditioning. We went off-road in it several times where the road or bridges were being upgraded. We had the same one all the way to Kompong Cham where we did indeed have to change bus. Those going to Phnom Penh stayed onboard. It broke down or the driver just pulled over and tinkered with the engine four times. At Kompong Cham those of us bound for Siem Reap transferred to a minibus for the last four hours of  the journey. We arrived at the bus station at 22:15 where there was a tuk-tuk sent by the guesthouse waiting for us.
So that’s Laos done. The northen part of the country, the slow boat down the Mekong, and Luang Prabang were really nice. The rest of it didn’t leave such a good impression. The people were generally miserable, unfriendly and unhelpful and always ready to scam you any way they could. However the countryside was really beautiful and I think if you were touring on a motorbike you could have a fabulous time.

The people (actually the adults) were generally miserable, unfriendly and unhelpful and always ready to scam you any way they could.