4000 reasons to love a hammock, the 4000 Islands, Laos.

Sometimes it’s the scenery. Sometimes it is the local people or the food. It may even be the tourists or the mosquito population that determines how charming a place is.
I recently touched upon a new way to measure a destination’s performance. On Don Det, one of the stunning 4000 Islands that dot the Mekong in southern Laos, my tolerance for late-arriving food affirmed my love of the place.
Here, I would sit in the restaurants with my companions, hunger eating away at my sanity, but barely caring. We would casually playing cards and take bets on how much longer our food could possibly take to whip up.
“How far do you think it is from the top of that tree to the water,” one of my companions asked one morning during our patient wait.
It’s a ridiculous question, unanswerable and largely pointless, but we’d sit there, pushing away thoughts of an omlette and focusing on life’s minor trivialities.
Other questions, sush as “what’s your favourite hammock position” and ranking our favourite fruits, helped the time pass very pleasantly.
In Laos, nothing much happens in a hurry. Sometimes, especially in the midday heat, nothing at all happens and buying a packet of Pringles becomes a cloak and dagger mission.
On Don Det, this laid-back approach refreshed me on the half-way point of my travels. It is easy to assume that with no work, just play, play and more play, that traveling is a leisure pursuit. I prefer to think of it as an endurance mission, fitting in temple visits around dysentry and a rampant party scene, with sleeping only happening as an afterthought. It’s exhilirating.
But, after a hectic few days in the party mecca of south east Asia, Vang Vieng, where a simple activity such as floating down a slow-flowing river in a rubber tube becomes a tarzan-infused, booze-fuelled, best-day-of-your-life fiesta; I was ready to switch my dancing shoes for a bikini.
We arrived on Don Det, scouring the bungalows for the best hammocks. Mrs Daeng, our charming hostess, who had a glint in her eye that’d rival the hungriest of foxes, welcomed us into her pad. We were the only guests for the majority of the five-day bliss-fest and she lavished attention upon us as if we were deities, returning from the dead, fixing everything we broke and taking trips to the mainland for essential supplies, such as baguettes and BeerLao.
Most days would begin with a journey from the bed to the hammock, a few steps that could feel like a marathon at times. Breakfast would be ordered as we gazed out over the Mekong, oriental dreams afoot. In the interminable wait between ordering and receiving our food we’d play cards, constantly fantasising about food. Occasionally breakfast would not finish until well past midday and the daily activities would not start until the early evening. Quickly, we discovered island time.
Another favourite acivity was watching the local kids swim in the river. From our hammocks, or the restaurant terrace, we’d watch them climbing along a precariously-placed palm tree and jumping off the top into the river. Their wrestling matches easily replaced the desire to read a book.
Occasionally we’d join them, pushing them into the water and battling against the ferocious current.
Of course, there were the daily activities that self-respecting tourists should not miss. It’s essential not to be seen as a lazy backpacker. To relieve the hammock-guilt we would ride around the island on bikes, finding new restaurants and trying different flavours of fruit shake. One day, we rented tyre tubes and floated down the river in the monsoon rains. In a fit of exuberance, we even dedicated one day to a lengthy stroll to visit a spectacular waterfall.
Once these pursuits were tied up, the hammock-therapy continued.
My good-luck fairy paid me a wee visit, timing my stay with the rocket festival. At 6 in the morning the drums would start humming as processions of locals drinking Lao Lao made music and danced in the streets. Rockets shot across the sky as a gesture to the Gods, praying for a good harvest.
That’s my kinda religion, I thought one day as I sat in an internet cafe with firecrackers being thrown around as if they were candy at a circus.
I intended to stay just three or four nights on Don Det, but in another sign of a place’s charm, I overstayed, dragging myself off after five nights, reluctantly.
As we sat in the dugout canoe, heading back to the mainland and back to the temple-party merry-go-round I felt like a different person. The hammocks were an instant balm to my slight travel fatigue.
Most importantly, however, I have been charmed by the Laos islands, and it’s always nice to find a new place to love.

4 thoughts on “4000 reasons to love a hammock, the 4000 Islands, Laos.

  1. THANK MY HELLO KITTY SOCKS: you’re alive! You know I was wondering why I hadn’t read about Penny’s cheeky adventures in a while. I even checked the blog to see if I’d simply missed a post. But no, I hadn’t. And yet you answer my thoughts with a cheery post the very next day! We’re connected I tell you.

    x

  2. Lovely to hear you are doing so well at charging the batteries, it certainly sounds like you have found the spot to enjoy some excellent scenery. Just remember the repellant!

  3. I’m glad Laos is living up to your expectations and you are with friends again. I’ve been away in the Flinders ranges for 10 days out of contact with the world. You must put them on your bucket list.

  4. Wow that place sounds wicked sista,, just add rafts and shirtless exotic men and hello pokora… Haha livin lavida loca’ xo

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