Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Going to Nowhere - The Road to Muang Saen & West Don Khong

Don Khong, Siphandon, South Laos - It was always part of the plan - to see Muang Saen. Officially, the island of Don Khong has 19 villages spread out across its 18 by 8 kilometer landmass. Unofficially, the most important are two towns that the locals call Muang Khong (located east of the island, and has the "ferry") and Muang Saen (located west). Most of the islands 15,000 population gather between these two towns: the tourist lodges and restaurants in Muang Khong; the bustle of local residence in Muang Saen. In fact, while Muang Khong mostly drowses even at sun up, Muang Saen is a little more enervated by its conglomeration of houses, markets, a bigger gas station, temple in every village, etc.

This post tries to document that ride from my hotel in Muang Khong to the road that heads west to Muang Saen. Kham, my motorcycle driver, suggested that we leave at 3 PM to avoid the harsh rays of the sun, but even as we drove into Laos' netherworlds, he was awkwardly covering himself from the sun, I somehow had to offer my sunglasses (he refused).

At a petrol station somewhere in Ban Hinxiao, we stopped to load up and Kham pointed to a huge, beautiful hive of bees. Further on, the landscape alternated from dried rice paddies to lush mini-forests, with a smattering of typical Lao wooden houses that rise on stilts. I knew where we were because every "ban"  (village) were properly identified by signs. We'd occasionally find Caucasian bikers huffing away in exhaustion and the very rare local transport. Somewhere between Ban Sentai and Ban Houasen, I finally found the island's most populous area - Muang Saen! It's a market town.

And this is the Eye in the Sky!


Each ban is identified by signs like this.

Ooops there is me on a running motorbike. :)

Market in Muang Saen

Market in Muang Saen

A shop for motorbike parts and accessories.

Wild commerce

Construction Supplies

High rise construction

Tractor punctuates the rural scenery.

Kham stops by for a barbecue... and offers a stick for me!

Barbecue anyone?

Delicious, actually!

Who'd have known there were sausages here as well.

Full passenger capacity

Wat Ban Houasen

Rattanasing Hotel is located in Ban Na, the village just north of Ban Houay, the most southern village of the island. Price of rooms range from $18 to $25. But this hotel feels too isolated from Muang Khong. It's one of the biggest I have seen in Don Khong though.

Wat Ban Kangkhong

Another bridge in Ban Kangkhong

Map of Don Khong and its villages. The solid line represents our track from my hotel in Ban Xiengwang going south, west then northwest. The broken line represents the supposed track mentioned in LP. X marks the village  where we stopped to visit the toddy palm sugar makers.

Back in Muang Khong, I went straight to Pon's River Restaurant.

Dinner at Pon's River Restaurant.

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